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Campaigning On The Cheap, Prop 19 Still Builds Buzz

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Campaigning On The Cheap, Prop 19 Still Builds Buzz

Campaigning On The Cheap, Prop 19 Still Builds Buzz

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Prop 19 is one of the hottest issues on the California ballot, but you would never know it from the lack of commercials. Here's NPR's Richard Gonzales.

RICHARD GONZALES: In the headquarters for the Yes on 19 Campaign in downtown Oakland...

Mr. GREGORY LYON (Volunteer): Hello, Mrs. Lupe.

GONZALES: Volunteers are logging about 6,000 phone calls a day to likely voters.

Mr. LYON: Lupe, my name is Gregory Lyon and I'm a volunteer with the Yes on Proposition 19 Campaign. Have you heard about Proposition 19?

GONZALES: Polls show the measure has plenty of name recognition. Nearly nine out of ten California voters know what Prop 19 is all about. It would allow adults to grow up to 25 square feet of marijuana and possess up to an ounce. It also would authorize cities and counties to tax and regulate commercial cultivation and retail sales of pot.

Usually a California ballot initiative needs several million dollars for expensive TV and radio ads to reach the state's 17 million voters. Prop 19 appears to be the exception.

Mr. SASHA HORWITZ (New Media Coordinator for Prop 19): Basically it's a grass-roots campaign, no pun intended.

GONZALES: Sasha Horwitz is the new media coordinator for Prop 19.

Mr. HORWITZ: We're utilizing all the excitement on college campuses; on the Internet, we've got a Facebook group with over 200,000 fans. We're almost at 210,000. We're partnering with blogs that also have their own virtual phone banking tools.

GONZALES: Horowitz calls it a high-tech, low-capital campaign. The pro-marijuana side has raised less than $3 million, much of it spent on the petition drive that got Prop 19 on the ballot. But that's still 10 times more than the anti-Prop 19 forces have raised.

Mr. ROGER SALAZAR (Spokesman, Public Safety First): It is a low-dollar campaign. I think a lot of what we're trying to do right now is do it on the cheap, I guess.

GONZALES: Roger Salazar is a spokesman for a group called Public Safety First. It's backed primarily by law enforcement organizations and the California Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. SALAZAR: Money aside, it's a very sort of sexy issue for a lot of the media, so the interviews that we've been doing on radio, television and the print media, you know, have been nonstop for the last couple of months.

GONZALES: Salazar and other election experts say most campaign dollars are getting soaked up in the high-profile races for governor and the Senate, not to mention a half-dozen controversial ballot initiatives on taxes and climate change.

Ms. KIM ALEXANDER (Director, California Voter Foundation): All the other propositions on the ballot have some big money, big financial interests behind them.

GONZALES: Kim Alexander directs the California Voter Foundation.

Ms. ALEXANDER: That's not the case with Prop 19, you know, we don't have a well-established marijuana industry in California.

GONZALES: At least not yet. Prop 19 supporters say it wouldn't take long for legal pot to become a multi-billion-dollar business. But there are still lots of unknowns across California and with federal employees who oppose the measure. And there are the latest polls, which show Prop 19 losing ground in these final days before the election.

Even if the measure flames out next Tuesday, the pro-marijuana forces say they'll keep the fire burning and take another crack at the ballot in the not-too-distant future.

Richard Gonzalez, NPR News, San Francisco.

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