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Interesting times in CA

Our CA voter booklet arrived this week and I decided to give it a perusal over breakfast this morning while the kids watch Cars for the Nth time (where N >> 1). Front and center is Prop 19:


  • Allows people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use.
  • Permits local governments to regulate and tax commercial production, distribution, and sale of marijuana to people 21 years old or older.
  • Prohibits people from possessing marijuana on school grounds, using in public, or smoking it while minors are present.
  • Maintains prohibitions against driving while impaired.
  • Limits employers’ ability to address marijuana use to situations where job performance is actually impaired.
Um, whoa! This proposition would basically treat marijuana like alcohol under state law. Just like with booze, adults would be able to purchase and use weed for recreational purposes. Counties could allow pot bars to sell joints to people while they unwind after work and take in the Monday Night Football game. Just like BevMo, which is a warehouse-sized establishment that sells nothing but a powerful drug (alcohol), we could within the year see the construction of WeedMo, with aisle after aisle of a different type of drug. Amazing.

The PRO arguments in favor of Prop. 19 basically state that marijuana enforcement is a failed policy, legalization opens up a new stream of tax revenue for local governments (mainly through sales taxes, but leaves the door open for weed licensing), and cuts off a huge revenue stream for drug cartels south of the border (but also in Canada, BTW, not mentioned).

The rebuttal is pretty interesting. People opposed generally fall under the heading of anti-drug, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the state attorney general, CA sheriff's association, etc. Since we're talking about legalizing a previously prohibited drug (i.e. dangerous substance), you would think the arguments-against section would list all of the dangers of marijuana to its potential users. Tell us about how people will start raving through the streets breaking windows an assaulting helpless young mothers. Tell us about how it leads to addiction, which leads to further crime. Tell us about all the potential for overdoses. Com'on anti-drug folks, warn us of the imminent danger!

The first thing under CON is: "Opposed by MADD because it allows drivers to smoke marijuana until the moment the climb behind the wheel." Um, what? They oppose the legalization of pot first and foremost because drivers could potentially smoke it...up until the get behind the wheel? Lemme try something: "CON: Opposed by MADD because it allows drivers to drink alcohol until the moment they climb behind the wheel." Hmmm, not very compelling.

Their next concern: "Endangers public safety." Why? How? Because people aren't smoking pot now? Because people who use marijuana now are a huge danger to society? Under the more detailed argument against, here is how marijuana would endanger public safety: "School districts currently require school bus drivers to be drug-free, but if Prop 19 passes, their hands will be tied--until after tragedy strikes. A school bus driver would be forbidden to smoke marijuana on schools grounds or while actually behind the wheel, but could arrive for work with marijuana in his or her system." Again, just replace "marijuana" with "alcohol" and see if the logic holds up. And why the focus on school bus drivers? Oh, right, "WILL SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!"

This is your kid's bus. This is your kid's bus on drugs. Any questions?

To my mind, the reason the opposition's safety-based arguments are either vague or invoke innocent children riding school buses is because there is no evidence that marijuana is a dangerous drug. Any argument against pot should be directed to alcohol first, because it is proven that alcohol causes people to be violent, addicted, and can cause death through overdose. None of this applies to weed. Yet MADD isn't pushing a ballot initiative to outlaw alcohol. Why, because we tried that and it kinda failed.

As for the dangers of driving under the influence, it is first of all dubious that weed causes the same number of accidents that alcohol does. The Prop 19 opponents subtly and cleverly assert the equivalence of driving drunk and driving under the influence of marijuana, but don't point to any study that proves this. But even if pot-impairment is as bad as drunk driving, Prop 19 sets a legal age (>=21), leaves DUI enforcement policies unchanged, and doesn't revoke the rights of schools to insist that their school bus drivers show up to work sober (OMG, our hands are tied! We have to let our bus drivers drink--er...smoke out before they go to work!!! We can't do anything until after tragedy strikes your child!)

Clearly, I'm voting yes on Prop 19. Even so, I think there are potentially good arguments against pot legalization. But none of these arguments are made in my voter guide. The only people who will find the "CON" section compelling are the people who already think weed turns people into raving murders. Fortunately, according to recent polls those people only make up about 40% of the voters. 52% in California favor legalization (4% points margin of error).

So who are some of the other opponents of Prop 19? The California Beer & Beverage Distributors lobby. BevMo doesn't want the competition.


Amy P said…
Perhaps we may have found a solution to the state of California's budget crisis?
blissful_e said…
Current US drug policy has failed, and CA is the go-to state for trying something different. I'll be interested to see what if anything changes, apart from the number of roof gardens springing up!
JohnJohn said…
Amy: Yup, this is one potential solution. I'd say that recreational drugs are pretty recession-proof.

E: Couldn't agree more. But I bet tax revenue will suffer if everyone starts a roof garden :)
Code name: 1% said…
I'm more or less guessing here, but I think that growing isn't supposed to be that easy, and considering most people can't keep a pathos alive, I doubt the explosion of rooftop gardens.

I shared this in Reader, and my roommate Don likes your writing style.

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