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Vote carefully on Prop 19

Original post made by Amos Irwin, Barron Park, on Oct 28, 2010

On November 2nd, Californians will decide whether or not to legalize marijuana. I have no personal interest in this legislation because I don't smoke marijuana. When I graduated from Gunn High School in 2003, I considered drug policy reform a pointless effort championed by ex-hippies and juvenile delinquents. I changed my mind freshman year at Amherst College after attending a presentation by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). Police officers and judges who dedicated their lives to enforcing our drug laws criticized the War on Drugs for overloading prisons, deepening racial inequality, and creating massive profits for drug dealers. Today, as a grad student in international relations at the Fletcher School, I see America's drug problem funding urban warfare in northern Mexico, fuelling civil war in Colombia, creating gangs in El Salvador and Honduras, and ruining our relationship with most of Latin America.

Most Californians now agree that we should legalize marijuana to help solve these crises. Legalization wouldn't substantially increase the availability of marijuana, since the Federal Drug Administration reports that 80% of American high school seniors already have easy access to the drug. We also know that legal regulation is safer and more effective than criminalization-- liquor stores have cut down teen alcohol consumption far more than police enforcement has reduced marijuana use. Parents should be comforted by the fact that stores legally selling marijuana to adults would put drug dealers out of business.

The editors of the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, and San Francisco Bee say Proposition 19 is the wrong way to legalize marijuana. Local governments may create inefficient marijuana tax systems (we'd still save billions of dollars). Prop 19 would bring California totally out of line with federal drug policy (that's the point). Your office will be full of "on-the-job smokers" (this is false, marijuana would be treated like alcohol in the workplace). They argue that we should wait until 2012 to legalize marijuana. The Chronicle also warns against "the stench and potential height of marijuana plants."

I will vote YES on Proposition 19. These editors have forgotten that if we wait four more years, California's drug dealers will earn $56 billion, California police will arrest three million people for marijuana possession (8% of our state's population), and another 28,000 people will die in the drug war we have exported to Mexico. Marijuana has never been legalized before, so it's natural to be worried about the consequences. Opponents of Prop 19 demonize the uncertainties as if we should feel safer with the status quo. But we cannot forget that Prop 19's minor flaws and uncertainties are insignificant compared to the cost of four more years of our destructive marijuana policies. Please don't be afraid to vote for change this Tuesday.

Comments (5)

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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2010 at 11:35 pm

Anything to put the hurt on Mexican drug cartels is a good thing.

Vote yes on 19


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Posted by Sceptic by nature
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2010 at 8:03 am

I wish I had the faith that this would make things easier. I feel that we could possibly be shifting the problem.

Drug dealers would still exist, but I suspect they would be aiming at younger kids so our middle schools and high schools would become greater targets. I also tend to think that the dealers would try to undercut prices at stores and provide "home delivery service" or other benefits to keep their customers.

As a society we are trying to stamp out cigarette smoking in public places and now there will be more of a problem as pot smokers become more blatant. I hate the smell of cigarette smoke having grown up and worked in very smokey environments in the past. Walking around public areas can be very unpleasant as I smell the cigarette smoke and also pot smoke, and if it becomes legal then this smell which tends to linger longer than cigarette smoke, will become more widespread.

If making vices legal is the aim what will be next? Legalizing prostitution?

Be careful indeed, think this thing through. Don't jump onto the let's get tax from it or get the authorities looking for more severe drugs bandwagon. Just think what it might do to our quality of life.


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Posted by P'ville
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 29, 2010 at 12:38 pm

My concern is that if marijuana is legalized we will have to deal with an increase in stoned drivers. The DUI/cell phone/texting problem is bad enough already. No sense in making it worse.

There is plenty of stinky pot smoke in Palo Alto already. That also would become worse if Prop 19 is passed. Are people really dumb enough to believe that Prop 19 will hurt the drug cartels? By providing them with a much larger customer base, Prop 19 would greatly increase their business and presence in California. Local growers will be unable to fill the gap in supply and demand due to Federal law enforcement. Mary Jane Weed is still illegal in Uncle Sam's eyes.


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Posted by Conflicted, but no
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 30, 2010 at 6:24 am

As with alcohol, I would tend toward legalizing it as a libertarian bent.

On the other hand, as with alcohol, there would be more deaths from car accidents and other accidents as it becomes ever easier to obtain pot.

It is a genie in a bottle. Once out, we can't put it back in.

I was almost tempted to vote for it on the basis of lowering "profits" to growers and sellers, but in the end, that does not make sense. The freer the market, the more money there is in it. I suspect it would do the opposite.

So, I will vote no, much to the chagrin of every libertarian I know. ( Perhaps I am a "do no harm" person above a "libertarian")


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Posted by Adobe
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 31, 2010 at 9:53 pm

I've been on the fence on this one, but after thinking about it more, I think I'm going to vote "no", for three reasons:

1. The notion that legalizing marijuana will sweep away drug-related organized crime similar to what happened after Prohibition was lifted seems flawed, because the majority of drug violence is fueled by trade in hard drugs like cocaine and heroin, which will remain illegal.

2. Legalization will inevitably be viewed by many as an endorsement of pot smoking by the government. Usage will go way up, especially among young people--not something I view as a desirable outcome as a father of young children.

3. As a recent NY Times article shows (see link below), legalization itself can result in a rise in crime as areas with lots of marijuana vendors become magnets for criminals and seedy types.

Web Link

In any case, the Obama administration has already said they'll fight this if it passes, so legalization might not even occur even if the proposition passes.


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