It's the Economy, Stoners: Howard Jarvis, Depressions, and Purple-Urkle

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Key drug law reform donors like George Soros have so far been stingy on Proposition 19, the Los Angeles Times reports. "I'm going to let Californians stew in their own juice," said one rich reformer. In contrast, Soros and crew had raised $3.4 million by June 2008 for Prop. 5, the failed 'rehab not jail' ballot measure. Prisons and cops also spent millions of dollars fighting Prop. 5, while today even drug warriors have gotten tight, donating just $60,000 to No on 19 campaign. So, why?

The Times quotes sources saying Prop. 19 is too close to call and that's sidelining the big money. Richard Lee jumped the gun, because the drug law reform "establishment" was planning a push in 2012. We've written that before.

But there's an even bigger reason out there: the worst recession since the Great Depression has everyone feeling a bit broke.

That can work to Prop. 19's advantage. Daniel Okrent author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition noted a similar, historical trend from alcohol prohibition. During the Great Depression, the government went broke, and brought back booze to tax it.

Drug law reformers have told Legalization Nation that Prop. 5 got trounced because it would have added more costs to California at a time when we couldn't afford it. Now, as our walking wounded economy limps into the fall of 2010, and more and more jobs get cut, taxing and regulating $13 billion worth of state produce (as well as drinks, smokes, and gambling) is all starting to look downright moral.

In the ultimate irony: the conservative Prop. 13 “taxpayer revolt” — which has eviscerated the state's tax base since 1978 — might have helped create the conditions for a huge liberal drug reform victory in 2010. If so, in a werid way, hippies will owe Republican Prop. 13 starter Howard Jarvis some purple-urkle.

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