In addition to picking a new governor, Californians next month will also decide if their state will be the first to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Even if Proposition 19 passes, the federal government almost certainly will challenge it.
Oakland’s Oaksterdam University is all about one thing: marijuana. For students learning the finer points of pot production and cultivation, the timing couldn’t be better.
“I have high aspirations for this industry and where it’s going to go,” says student Pete Dimopoulos.
Proposition 19 would allow adults 21 and older to grow marijuana at home and possess up to an ounce for personal use. Individual cities would be free to regulate and tax sales.
“We have a whole new economy that can flourish here in California around cannabis,” says Dale Sky Jones, executive chancellor of Oaksterdam University.
That’s a major reason why one of the state’s largest unions has endorsed legalization. The California chapter of the NAACP is behind it too, along with at least two former big city police chiefs.
Former San Jose police chief Joseph McNamara says, “It diverts the police from their primary duties to protect life and property. People are not terrified about pot smoking in their neighborhood.”
California has long been on the cutting edge when it comes to pot. Fourteen years ago, voters approved the use of medical marijuana and recently, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger relaxed penalties for pot possession.
Even though he famously inhaled as a body builder, Schwarzenegger says Proposition 19 would turn the state into a laughingstock.
Believe it or not, the measure has sparked high anxiety at some medical marijuana shops.
“We are not sure what our business will look like post-Prop 19,” says Daniel Bornstein from Medithrive Medical Marijuana Provider.
For employers, the law could create a giant headache. Employees couldn’t be fired for smoking pot unless employers prove that the drug impaired job performance.
“So it does open the door for the ability of employees to smoke pot at work,” says Denise Davis of the California Chamber of Commerce.
Even if it passes, pot would still be illegal under federal drug laws, so it’s likely Prop 19 will be challenged in court. That means the whole controversial issue could just go up in smoke.