10/12/2010 11:17 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Prop 19 May Get the Whole Joint Jumping

So much has been written of late in California about the race between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman, not to mention the Senate contest pitting Barbara Boxer against Carly Fiorina, that it is hard to believe that the real headline come Election Day -- and the story with the greatest cultural impact -- may well be whether voters say yes or no to Prop 19 which, if passed, legalizes the use of marijuana under state law. But several political scientists and other observers of the political scene I have spoken with in recent weeks believe that may very well be the case.

As a practical matter, of course, while not yet legal in California, the possession of small amounts of marijuana has been decriminalized here. And, god knows, many who have a card claiming they need the weed for medical purposes are not telling the truth.

That said, should Prop 19 actually pass, it would represent a sea change in establishment thinking about the drug. Not to mention, though I will, that Prop 19 would also allow cash hungry local governments in the state to tax and regulate the drug.

But all good stories need conflict of some type, and this one has a whopper built in: the federal government.

As most of you probably know, even if California voters legalize marijuana, it would still be considered an illegal drug under federal law.

The feds have backed away from going after medical marijuana users, but the political experts I have discussed this with say should Prop 19 pass, it will be such a huge headache for the Obama administration, they may need to light one up just to relieve the tension. (Of course, they'd have to then come to California before inhaling, just to keep it all legal!)

So, let the media outlets focus on who gets to govern or represent California. Ten years from now, how voters decide Prop 19 may be the cultural break that will make the most difference.

Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-Hour News Cycle." He has covered politics and police in Los Angeles since 1995 and is a regular contributor of investigative stories to KNX1070 Newsradio.