Pubdate: Sat,09 Oct 2010
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2010 Independent Media Institute
Author: Paul Armentano
Note: Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML (the National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), and is the co-author 
of the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink 
(2009, Chelsea Green).
Cited: Proposition 19
Bookmark: (Proposition 19)


It's Time to End the Legal Harassment, Discrimination, and Criminal 
Prosecution of Adult Marijuana Users in California Simply Because 
They Are Healthy -- Prop 19 Will Do That.

A majority of California voters now say that they back Proposition 19,
which seeks to enact the most far-reaching marijuana law reforms
anywhere in the United States. The immediate effect of Prop. 19, if
passed, would be to provide legal protection to the individual
marijuana consumer - that is the estimated 3.3 million Californians
who are presently using marijuana for non-medical purposes.

Passage of Prop. 19 makes the adult possession (up to an ounce) of
cannabis and the cultivation of marijuana (whatever amount may be
harvested from a 25 square foot garden) legal.

That is, marijuana -- when possessed within these specific limits --
will no longer per se be defined under state law as illicit contraband
that may be legally seized by the full force by law

The broader, long-term effect of this initiative will be to allow
communities to finally come to terms with the fact that some 10
percent of Californians are already using marijuana, and that it is
time that society regulates its commercial sale, production, and
distribution in a safe, common sense manner.

Society doesn't regulate alcohol because it's innocuous; it does so
because the substance alters mood and behavior and should be regulated
appropriately -- along with controls regarding who can legally produce
it, consume it, and under what circumstances its use is lawfully permitted.

This same principle ought to apply to the retail production and sale
of cannabis, just as it presently applies to virtually all legal
commodities sold on the retail market.

Yet as is apparent by the criticism voiced by some, there is a
minority of folks who wish to define cannabis legalization
unconventionally. Fringe websites such as 'stoners against Prop. 19.'
argue, "Simply put, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative
does not reflect most people's ideas of what legalization would be."
That may be true. But the conflict doesn't lie with Prop. 19; it lies
with some people's 'idea of what legalization should be.' They would
prefer that legalization be characterized as the absence of any
regulation whatsoever. It's ironic because, in truth, it is the
present criminal prohibition of cannabis that is an unregulated free
for all. Conventional legalization is just the opposite.

It is counterintuitive for some critics of Prop. 19 to advocate that
marijuana be treated in a 'legal' manner, but then at the same time
demand that it not be subject to regulation. Bottom line: all legal
commodities are regulated in some manner and their retail production
or sale is subject to taxation.

For example, cell phones are legal to possess and use in California,
but if an individual uses his or her cell phone while driving they are
subject to legal sanctions and intervention by law

Possessing domesticated pets are legal in California and elsewhere,
yet certain apartments and home rentals forbid tenants from having
pets on the premises.

Certain localities have even barred adults from possessing certain
pets (e.g., pit bulls) all together.

Water is legal, but it's a product that is highly regulated by the
government. The state taxes private individuals' water use; it can add
components like fluoride to the product without voter consent, and it
can even sanction the private individual if their water use is greater
than that deemed appropriate by the government (in times of water
rationing). Yet, even with these rules and regulations, is there any
organized outcry from the public claiming that water, pets, or cell
phones 'aren't really legal?'

Ditto for the subject of taxation.

Gasoline is taxed at the state level, federal level, and there's also
an excise tax that is passed on to the consumer. Same with alcohol.

There are a multitude of taxes that are charged to the consumer on his
or her phone bill. How about the taxes tacked on to airline travel,
which equal nearly 25 percent of the consumer's total purchase price?

By comparison, the number of specific taxes and regulations sought to
be imposed upon marijuana under Prop. 19 are arguably minimal in
comparison to the taxes and regulations on many commodities consumers
already use every day. In fact, under the proposition, an adult can
grow marijuana themselves and avoid any taxes all together.

Is there the possibility that under Prop. 19 some local governments
might seek to over-regulate or over-tax certain aspects of the plant's
use or retail distribution? Of course, and that is precisely why
reformers and other concerned citizens will continue to need to be
involved in the democratic process after Prop. 19 passes.

Ultimately however, the question is: what is the preferable policy for
adult marijuana use -- not the Utopian. Right now the state has the
power of a gun to seize an adult's marijuana -- even marijuana that is
used in the privacy of one's home -- and to sanction that adult with
criminal prosecution and a criminal record if their use is for
non-medical purposes. Under Prop. 19, an individual would no longer
face these criminal sanctions for their private activities, as long as
their private use was limited to possession and cultivation within
certain limits. That is legalization. And in NORML's opinion, that is
a net gain -- not a net loss.

Bottom line: California criminally prohibited the possession and use
of marijuana in 1913. Nearly 100 years later it is apparent that
cannabis is here to stay. It is time to begin to address this reality,
and regulate its production, distribution, and use accordingly.
Proposition 19 is a first step (but certainly not the final step) in
this direction. It's time to end the legal harassment, discrimination,
and criminal prosecution of adult marijuana users in California simply
because they are healthy.

A previous version of this commentary appeared online at:
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake