Pubdate: Sun, 3 Oct 2010
Source: Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, CA)
Column: It's A Gray Area
Copyright: 2010 Daily Pilot
Author: James P. Gray
Note: James P. Gray is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior 
Court, the author of "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed" (Temple 
University Press).
Cited: Proposition 19
Bookmark: (Proposition 19)


It is time for us to be realistic and manage the trade and usage of 
marijuana instead of simply moralizing about it. The honest facts are 
that today marijuana is the largest cash crop in California (No. 2 is 
grapes); with illegal dealers there are no controls whatsoever on 
quality, quantity, age restrictions, price or place of sale; and most 
of the big money goes to groups like the Mexican drug cartels, 
juvenile gangs and other thugs, and they don't pay taxes on any of it.

It is also a fact that the voters are ahead of the politicians on 
these issues. Yes, most of the vocal politicians and current law 
enforcement officials have taken a position against Proposition 19, 
but many retired law enforcement officials, who are much less subject 
to political considerations, are speaking out in its support.

For example, I belong to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition 
( My fellow members are people 
like former Los Angeles Police Department Chief Deputy Steve Downing, 
former San Jose Police Chief Joe McNamara, former Seattle Police 
Chief Norm Stamper, and thousands of other former narcotics officers, 
prison guards, prosecutors and others, all of whom are stating the 
obvious that our nation's policy of marijuana prohibition is not working.

Holland's and Portugal's experience will shed light on what will 
happen when Proposition 19 passes. Holland decriminalized marijuana 
possession and use for those 16 and older in the early 1970s, and 
several years ago, the minister of health was quoted as saying that 
they have only half the marijuana usage, per capita, as we do in our 
country -- both for adults and teenagers! "We have succeeded in 
making pot boring," he said.

Of course, our country glamorizes marijuana by making it illegal, and 
also by having such obscene profit motives in getting others to sell 
it to you, your neighbors and your children. And you will also note 
that today young adults are not selling Jim Beam bourbon or Marlboro 
cigarettes to each other on their high school campuses. But they are 
selling marijuana to each other all the time.

Proposition 19 will reduce those problems, just like it did in 
Portugal when they decriminalized all drugs in 2001. What were the 
results? The CATO Institute found that even though the drugs were 
legal in Portugal, usage of them did not increase. In fact it 
actually went down about half a percentage point. And problem drug 
usage was reduced by half! Why? The problem users were no longer 
afraid of their own government because now if they came forward, they 
would receive drug treatment instead of being punished.

Those findings make the alarmists in our country who say we would 
become a "nation of marijuana zombies" look pretty silly. In fact 
just ask yourself, if Proposition 19 were to pass, would you use 
marijuana? From my standpoint, you could give it away on street 
corners and bless it by every religious leader in town, and I am 
still not going to use marijuana (unless my medical doctor recommends 
it to me for some illness or disease). And most everyone else feels 
the same way. In fact as a practical matter, anyone who would use 
marijuana if Proposition 19 were to pass is probably using it already!

What do the other opponents of Proposition 19 say? Some say that we 
would still have an illicit market for selling marijuana to young 
adults if Proposition 19 were to pass, and that would be true. But 
when alcohol prohibition was repealed, it was no longer moonshine 
alcohol that was being sold to minors by people like Al Capone, it 
was alcohol that was mostly bought legally and then illegally 
transferred. The same would be true with marijuana. So that would 
still undercut the illegal dealers.

There are basically three other groups of opponents. The first is 
people who say that the cities would not be able to handle the 
administrative responsibilities of setting up programs for the sale 
of marijuana, the second is some employers who are concerned that 
marijuana users would be able to run rampant over the workplace, and 
the third is some of those who make money at medical marijuana dispensaries.

Regarding the cities not being able to set up their own systems, that 
really is a non-issue -- they do it all of the time. And besides, one 
of the beauties of Proposition 19 is that it will still be illegal to 
sell marijuana within a city's borders (except under Proposition 215 
for medical marijuana) unless that particular city expressly opts 
into the program. In reality what will happen is that the cities will 
learn from each other. So if one city tries something that is 
successful, others will tend to use that system, and the opposite is also true.

As to the workplace issues, Proposition 19 expressly states that it 
would not affect any of the current regulations of the workplace. 
Employers still can require drug testing as a condition of being 
hired, and still, just like alcohol, can test employees if they have 
some cause to believe the employees are impaired in the workplace.

Finally, it is true that people supplying marijuana within 
Proposition 19 will probably be more organized. That will very likely 
reduce the price of the marijuana, even after the payment of 
applicable taxes, which will, in turn, take the market away from both 
illegal sellers and also some of the medical marijuana dispensaries. 
That is an understandable reason for people presently operating 
dispensaries, but it is not a reason for the rest of us to oppose 
Proposition 19.

On Nov. 2 you can help us repeal the failed policy of marijuana 
prohibition, and bring our state's largest cash crop back under the 
law. This is probably one of the most important elections of my 
lifetime, and I hope you will further look into and support Proposition 19.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake