Pubdate: Tue, 21 Sep 2010
Source: New University (CA Edu)
Copyright: 2010 New University Newspaper.
Author: Alexander Gura
Note: Alexander Gura is a fourth year political science major.
Cited: Proposition 19
Bookmark: (Proposition 19)


On Nov. 2, 2010, California will vote on Proposition 19, otherwise 
known as the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. Opinion 
polls throughout the year thus far show a split Californian 
population with those in favor of legalization having a very slight advantage.

Although those in favor of the legalization of marijuana do have an 
advantage in the polls, come Nov. 2 it will be a very close decision. 
Polls indicate a margin of only a few percent between those in favor 
and those opposed to Proposition 19.

Although many do support Proposition 19 on a purely ethical and moral 
standing, California's fiscal situation is without a doubt the 
impetus for the legislation in the first place. The State Board of 
Equalization estimates that a $50 per ounce tax on marijuana sold 
will generate $1.4 billion in new tax revenue annually.

Given that California is currently $19 billion in debt, Proposition 
19 has garnered much of its support in hopes of relieving that debt. 
Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimates that cannabis prohibition 
is costing the United States $7 billion annually in potential tax 
revenue. With a national deficit of over $13 trillion steadily 
rising, it seems the government could use every penny.

In California there is $14 billion in marijuana sales annually and 
our state is riding the bench on this massive market. Furthermore, 
California is spending its valuable tax money hunting down and 
prosecuting marijuana users. Former San Jose Police Chief Joseph 
McNamara says, "Like an increasing number of law enforcers, I have 
learned that most bad things about marijuana N especially the 
violence made inevitable by an obscenely profitable black market N 
are caused by the prohibition, not by the plant."

Proposition 19 limits purchases of marijuana to those over the age of 
21, much like alcohol sales. Although outright legalization strikes 
many opponents as "giving up" a battle in the war against drugs, it 
is likely that legalization will help to prevent young children from 
early exposure to marijuana.

Oftentimes it is much easier for children to obtain marijuana than 
alcohol because, unlike supermarkets and liquor stores, drug dealers 
do not card minors. With legalization, marijuana will be sold in 
licensed establishments and not on street corners.

California's prison system is already overburdened and overcrowded, 
meaning that many criminals are put back on the streets before their 
sentences are finished. Legalizing the use of marijuana would open up 
cells in prisons for violent offenders, rapists and those who truly 
need to be off of the streets. Those incarcerated for marijuana 
related offenses should be released early in many cases, not violent criminals.

Opponents of Proposition 19, such as Pleasant Hill Police Chief Pete 
Dunbar, believe that, "If proposition 19 passes, our workplaces and 
roadways will be in danger, we will not benefit economically, and a 
huge burden will be placed on law enforcement representatives as 
enforcement of the law will be confusing and in some cases, out of 
their control."

When I first read this statement I was under the impression Chief 
Dunbar was describing our current situation. The sale and consumption 
of alcohol is legal, our state government is turning its back on 
billions of dollars of potential tax revenue, and our legal system is 
more confused than ever sorting federal and state laws for the use of 
medical marijuana for select individuals. Someone should ask Chief 
Dunbar what he has been smoking.

The current system for legal marijuana is poorly designed and allows 
anyone over the age of 18 to purchase marijuana legally providing 
they have a doctor's note. This doctor's recommendation is not hard 
to come by, simply take a walk down the Venice Beach boardwalk to see 
for yourself. The abundance of care-giving centers and doctors who 
issue easy to come by scripts have primed the public.

"[They are] no longer outraged by the idea of legalization. And truth 
be told, there is just too much money to be made [from it]," San 
Francisco mayor Willie Brown said.

In Oakland, California, medical marijuana sales are already being 
taxed and the money is going to save libraries, parks and other 
public services that are in danger of being shut down due to our 
indebted state government.

It is time to wake up and smell the pot. California loves marijuana 
and Californians will smoke whether it is legal or not. 400,000 
Californians currently smoke marijuana legally and another two 
million Californians smoke marijuana illegally. The real question 
here is whether or not California's government wants to be a part of 
this booming industry, make some money, open up our prison system, 
and regulate a drug so widely used, and more difficult to abuse than 
alcohol, that many hesitate to even call it a "real" drug.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake