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Where Do Your Representatives Stand On Pot?

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Elected officials in San Diego are either opposed to Proposition 19 or don’t want to make their position public, according to the results of a KPBS survey. KPBS News survey 146 elected and appointed officials in the county - among them mayors, council members, city attorneys and police chiefs – on whether they support the ballot initiative that would regulate and tax marijuana just like alcohol. Find out where they stand.

— Elected officials in San Diego are either opposed to Proposition 19 or don’t want to make their position public, according to the results of a KPBS survey.

KPBS News surveyed 146 elected and appointed officials in the county - among them mayors, council members, city attorneys and police chiefs – on whether they support the ballot initiative that would regulate and tax marijuana just like alcohol.

Of the 146 people polled, 41 were opposed to Prop 19, three declined to state, and two had no opinion. The remainder did not respond to our survey.

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Proposition 19 not only legalizes growing and possessing small amounts of recreational marijuana, it allows cities and counties to regulate and tax the commercial production and sale of marijuana. That means if the proposition passes, the same officials KPBS surveyed will decide whether their respective cities will allow pot sales and collect tax revenue from those sales.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders did not respond to the survey. Sherry Lightner was the only city of San Diego councilmember who did respond with a “neither.”

All five county supervisors responded with a “no” on Proposition 19. Their opposition is not surprising after that board unanimously passed a resolution last month opposing the initiative.

San Marcos City Council also passed a similar resolution in opposition.

Santee Mayor Randy Voepel was the only representative from his city to respond. In an email Voepel said Proposition 19 “is just another avenue for druggies to get their easiest drug of choice legalized.”

“I have been disgusted by all the dopers I have had to endure in high school, Vietnam, business, government and our whole society,” Voepel said.

When a person dopes themselves up, they are depriving themselves and society of their full ability to work and function. Drug use in the USA has, is, will, destroy millions of productive lives and finances the international drug cartels. We have dumb downed and doped up our society beyond the recovery point in my opinion. We have all been placed on this earth by God for many reasons.... being stoned most of the day is not one of them. The use of Marijuana for health reasons does not make sense to me because you can get THC pills that would do the same thing, this is just another avenue for druggies to get their easiest drug of choice legalized. California is completely dysfunctional on almost every level, this just adds to the misery of many people too dumb or doped up to know/care the difference.

-Randy Voepel, mayor of Santee

Nearly 70 percent of the officials we contacted chose not to answer the survey at all. According to Thad Kousser, professor of Political Science at UCSD, this high non-response rate is an important factor.

“On one hand you have very strong results. However, as local elected officials they might be worried about taking an affirmative stand on Proposition 19,” Kousser said.

An affirmative stance might be an unpopular position to take, Kousser said.

It is safer for officials to wait and see what their voters want at election time rather than to risk taking an unpopular standpoint beforehand, he said.

“There are electoral problems with stating your support of marijuana legalization. That might come back to bite you if you are an elected official, especially if you’re one up for election this November,” Kousser said.

“Since the poll was a simple ‘yes or no’ option, many officials may be hesitant to respond without being given context to explain their position.”

Despite the majority of officials declining to respond to the KPBS survey, the results are significant, Kousser said.

“San Diego is a conservative law and order city where many of our state laws are enforced more tightly,” said Kousser. “I think that this poll accurately states that most San Diego officials are opposed to marijuana legalization, but it might slightly overstate the case because this wasn’t an anonymous poll.”

KPBS also asked its web audience the same question officials were asked. More than 3,000 people responded to the KPBS online poll. About 94 percent were in favor of legalizing and taxing marijuana, compared to five percent opposed.

Kousser’s explanation may clarify the gap between public opinion and official opinion. Voters do not have to worry about approval ratings or re-election.

Most of the respondents to the KPBS poll found their way there “virally.” In other words, our poll was circulated on Facebook and Twitter, with Facebook generating the largest response.

How do these results stack up to state-wide scientific polls? The latest Field Poll reports the state being more evenly divided in their opinion on legal pot.

The Field Research Corporation found 49 percent in favor, 42 percent against Proposition 19. More than 80 percent of those asked were aware of the ballot initiative. Kousser said that most propositions need at least a 55 percent favor rating for it to similarly carry over to the election.

What do you think? If you would still like to weigh in on this issue you can comment below or take our Prop.19 poll.

We also invite all San Diego government officials who received our survey and did not respond, to post their comments below.

Google spreadsheet identifying those surveyed along with individual responses or lack or response.

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