Prop 19, the controversial proposition to legalize the sale and distribution of marijuana, went up in smoke as voters said no.
"The fact that millions of Californians voted to legalize marijuana is a tremendous victory,'' Proposition 19's proponent Richard Lee said. "We have broken the glass ceiling. Prop. 19 has changed the terms of the debate and that was a major strategic goal."
Lee said he would attempt to qualify another initiative in 2012 to legalize marijuana.
"With limited resources this time around we were able to build an enormously powerful coalition of cops and moms, law professors and civil rights leaders, liberals and libertarians, conservatives and unions, all for change," Lee said. "This coalition will only continue to grow in size and strength as we prepare for 2012."
Known as the Control & Tax Cannabis Act, 19 would have legalized the sale and cultivation of marijuana for people 21 and over as well as allow the state to generate revenue by taxing it.
Polls earlier in the week cast doubt on 19's ability to pass, but even if it did, the future of legalized marijuana remained in doubt.
Despite 19, marijuana would remain illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department would defend it.
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"We will vigorously enforce the CSA against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law," Holder wrote.
The attorney general also said that legalizing recreational marijuana in California would be a "significant impediment" to the government's joint efforts with state and local law enforcement to target drug traffickers, who often distribute marijuana alongside cocaine and other drugs.
Proponents of Prop 19 argue it could have added as much as $1.5 billion to the state budget through its taxation and they claimed it would have reduced funding for violent drug cartels. In addition, law enforcement resources could be redirected to more dangerous crimes.
Opponents, including a variety of public safety agencies and even competing state attorney general candidates Steve Cooley and Kamala Harris, claimed the measure would only lead to unsafe roads and workplaces, with no standards for drivers who are under the influence of the drugs.
Opponents also said school districts would have been unable to restrict marijuana use by bus drivers before they come to work.