California's move to legalize marijuana was rejected Tuesday night with 53.7 percent of voters statewide opposed to Proposition 19, a ballot measure that sanctioned personal possession and cultivation of pot and allowed local governments to approve commercial production.
In Sonoma County, the statewide results were almost reversed, with 54 percent of voters favoring the measure with 70 percent of precincts reporting.
Shayne Khajehnoori of Santa Rosa, who calls himself a "California cannabis refugee," was among the local majority.
"It's good to be part of it," said Khajehnoori, who moved here from Georgia in February. "Everybody's watching California. What changes here changes all around."
Valerie Brown, chairwoman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, said she was not surprised by the local outcome.
"There's a different perspective here than in most of the counties," Brown said, noting that Sonoma County has been sympathetic to medical marijuana.
In six other counties — Marin, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Alameda, Monterey and Lake — the measure also got better than 50 percent support.
Jill Ravitch, Sonoma County district attorney-elect, said she opposed Proposition 19 because it is "poorly drafted" and would be tied up in litigation if approved by voters.
Ravitch, who currently is Mendocino County's chief deputy district attorney, said she doubted that legalization would affect the large-scale pot gardens on public and private land, nor would it curb pot-related crime.
"There will always be a black market," Ravitch said, noting that interstate transport of pot would remain both illegal and profitable.
Sonoma County Sheriff Bill Cogbill said he thought voters recognized the problems the measure would cause, including driving under the influence, confusion over workplace rules and competing local regulations.
In marijuana-rich Mendocino County, voters defeated the measure on a 53 percent "no" vote with 91 percent of precincts reporting.
Mendocino Supervisor John Pinches, a legalization advocate, said the results were disappointing.
"That just means more of the same," he said. "Spending money on the criminal justice system to keep up the price of pot."
"This is breaking the county," Pinches said, by taking away money from schools, roads and other services.
Pinches speculated that pot growers were split on the measure. "The guys who enjoy the illegal prices probably don't want it," he said.
Californians consume 500 tons — or 1 billion joints, typically less than half a gram each — of marijuana a year, according to a RAND Corp. think tank report on Proposition 19.
Legalization would cut the price of pot by as much as 80 percent and could increase consumption by 50 percent to 100 percent or more, the report said.
David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist, said the issue will be back on a California ballot, likely in 2012 or 2014. The measure's 45 percent "yes" vote this year will give it significant momentum, McCuan said.
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