Article written by NORML
California’s Prop 19 will be the most talked-about ballot initiative in the November election. This measure would make lawful the possession and sharing of one ounce of marijuana outside the home and allow for personal cultivation of a small marijuana garden and possession of its harvest in the home. California cities and counties would be able to opt-in to commercial sales, regulation, and taxation of marijuana. Existing prohibitions against driving under the influence and working under the influence would be maintained and prohibitions against furnishing marijuana to minors would be strengthened.
After almost 100 years of marijuana prohibition in California, marijuana is more popular and accepted than ever. Prohibition has clearly failed. Prop 19 gives us another choice, one that benefits not just those who enjoy the herb, but the entire state of California and ultimately, the nation and the world. Whether you are a regular marijuana user now, an occasional toker back in the day, or you’ve never touched the stuff, there are many compelling economic, social, public safety, and civil libertarian reasons to support its legalization. Here are nineteen reasons for six distinct groups of Californians to vote Yes on Prop 19.
For the Concerned Parents
1. To make pot more difficult for kids to buy. It might seem counter-intuitive to some, but illegal marijuana is much easier to acquire than regulated marijuana because weed dealers don’t check ID’s. Four out of five high school seniors, more than three in five sophomores, and two in five middle schoolers (8th grade) say marijuana is “fairly easy” or “very easy” to get. One third of 16-17-year-olds say marijuana is easiest to buy, not cigarettes, alcohol, or prescription drugs. Two out of five teens say they can get marijuana in a day; almost one in four can get marijuana in an hour. Obviously letting unregulated dealers control the marijuana market is not protecting your kids from access to marijuana. On the other hand, aggressive enforcement of ID carding for minors, combined with public education have led to some of the lowest rates of teen alcohol and tobacco use ever recorded. Prop 19 enacts the same common sense ID carding for marijuana as we use for martinis and Marlboros.
2. To make pot more difficult for kids to sell in school. Regardless of what regulations we put on marijuana, like alcohol and tobacco, there will be some kids who manage to get a hold of it. But part of what makes marijuana so easy for teens to buy is that they can all find in their high school one of the one million teens nationally who are dealing it. Legal access to marijuana for adults removes the criminal risk markup that makes pot so profitable. After all, when was the last time you heard of a beer dealer in a high school hallway? Prop 19 eliminates the huge profit that entices youngsters to sell marijuana.
3. To make pot less available for transfer from young adults. Governor Schwarzenegger signed a decriminalization bill that makes it an infraction, not a crime, to possess and share of up to one ounce of marijuana between anyone 18 and older. Prop 19 adds a stiff punishment of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for any adult aged 21 or older who shares marijuana with anyone aged 18-20, just like we punish adults who furnish alcohol to those under legal age. When it’s tougher for those 18-20 to get marijuana, it’s tougher for them to share it friends under 18. Prop 19 treats marijuana like alcohol as a privilege for age 21 and older.
For the “Law and Order” Crowd
4. To decrease the profits of violent criminals. Prohibited marijuana brings with it the same problems as prohibited alcohol did – gangs and violence. We don’t see bootleggers shooting up the streets over whiskey distribution any more. We don’t see clandestine wine grape vineyards sprouting up in national forests. Providing California’s adults a legal way to grow or buy their own marijuana means violent drug gangs lose customers. No, these gangsters won’t stop being gangsters, but they will become gangsters with lower budgets and fewer associates. Prop 19 brings the dangerous underground marijuana market into a safe, regulated, inspected, and taxed legal market.
5. To increase public trust of law enforcement. Currently more than 1 in 10 adult Californians smoke pot every year. It is unknown how many of these 2.9 million annual users fail to report crimes for fear of police interviewing them and discovering the marijuana they possess or grow. Prohibition also creates fear and paranoia that lingers long after the joint is smoked for these adults whenever they see police, fear that even talking to police could end in a ticket or arrest. Prop 19 allows otherwise law-abiding cannabis consumers to trust and help law enforcement.
6. To prioritize our law enforcement. It is estimated that including the arrest, jail, prison, court, and marijuana eradication costs, California spends $200 million per year on marijuana law enforcement. Then there is the time and space we can’t afford in our overworked court system and overcrowded prisons. Prop 19 alleviates much of those problems while maintaining the current laws against irresponsible use of marijuana, such as driving under the influence and giving marijuana to kids. Prop 19 focuses police priorities away from adults who enjoy marijuana responsibly and onto real crime.
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