Why Proposition 19 Failed to Pass
General Eric Holder publicly threatened to cut off federal funding to California
and vigorously enforce federal law if
voters passed the proposal. This frightened high ranking California
politicians to go on record to oppose the idea and urge citizens to vote
believed proposition 19 was poorly written. Medical marijuana growers and
dispensaries owners worried that some local governments would ban
marijuana possession. In other cases corporations would set up large scale
marijuana production and distribution systems and put them out of
business. These people voted no.
organizations declared that more adults would smoke if it were legal. This
would increase the number of intoxicated drivers on the road and lead to
more accidents. Picture pothead parents exposing their children to
marijuana or a stoned motorist rear-ending a school bus full of children.
Police and parents voted no.
- †The increased potency of todayís pot
could lead to more emergency room visits. The medical issues arising from
a lifetime of chronic abuse could add an additional burden to our health
care system. HMOís and hospital administrators voted no.
- The drug
testing companies, prison industry, alcohol and pharmaceutical companies
would have to lay off workers if prop 19 passed. The people who worked
these jobs voted no.
Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill two weeks before the election that
reduced first time possession of one ounce of marijuana by adults (not
minors) from a misdemeanor to an infraction (a $100 fine). Many young pot
smokers felt safe with this new status and didnít bother registering or
voting to make their drug of choice legal.
19 surprised many voters with its offer of tax revenues and the scaling
down of the unaffordable drug war. The idea of returning control of pot to
local jurisdictions and away from drug gangs sounded like a good idea. As
the debate between the legalizers and the prohibitionists began to heat up,
the polls began to see-saw back and forth. People could not make up their
minds if this radical proposal was a solution or the beginning of a
catastrophe. When the time came to vote many felt that the shift was happening
too fast and no one could predict with any certainty what the consequences
would be. Would a yes vote lead to chaos? Would drug addiction and crime
escalate? Would lax marijuana laws lead to harder drugs?† Would we become a nation of druggies
instead of achievers?
Would Have Happened If Prop 19 Had Passed?
Everything listed above could have
happened but the benefit would be a reduction in the level of violence. The
fascination with a plant that is forbidden by governments and worshipped by
teenagers would diminish if anyone over 21 could grow a few plants for personal
use. Just as bootlegging violence disappeared when alcohol was re-legalized so
will the violence over marijuana fade away. Today adults can legally brew beer or
ferment grape juice or apple juice in the privacy of their own home. By the
same token adults should be allowed to grow a few marijuana plants for personal
use without the fear of a home invasion by law enforcement.
†The amount of usage will initially increase once
the federal government decides to stop interfering with state and local laws,
but once the novelty wears off it will become as unexciting as alcohol and
cigarettes. The merely curious will try it once or twice while others will
smoke moderately or heavily for whatever reason at various times in their
lives. The most responsible members of our society will simply quit using pot
if it threatens job security or domestic tranquility.
Drug prohibition is a noble idea
based on moral, medical and religious grounds but threatens the constitutional
guarantees of privacy and freedom in the serious business of making choices
about oneís own lifestyle. Lawmakers like to believe the public is not
qualified to make these choices and to leave it up to the authorities to decide
what is good and bad. What they fail to explain is that prohibition transfers
control from a regulated, taxed market to an unregulated untaxed market run by
gangsters. The desire for pleasure, altered states, and relief from pain and
boredom remains constant regardless of how many resolutions Congress passes.
After the self-congratulations die down, the proceeds from taxing drug sales
disappears and the escalating violence and cost of enforcing a bad policy
†After the failed Alaskan experiment with
legalization, marijuana will remain an ongoing argument with both sides taking
turns tightening and loosening controls.