Thursday, October 14, 2010

Marijuana is a hot topic in California

As California's economy was going up in smoke, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in May of 2009 that it was time to study the possibility of legalizing and taxing marijuana. And now, Proposition 19 is on the California ballot. Interestingly, Schwarzenegger now opposes Proposition 19, calling it "deeply flawed" and claiming that its potential for generating tax revenue has been overstated.

When President Obama was asked last year about the subject, he wasn't interested. "No, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy," he said at the time. His current strategy is to avoid discussing the issue altogether. But Schwarzenegger sparked the debate in California, and the nation joined in. A Zogby poll, commissioned in May of 2009 by the conservative O'Leary Report, showed that 52% of Americans favor legalization of marijuana, with only 37% opposed. The statistics are similar in California to the national numbers and have stayed about the same since that time.

Legalizing marijuana not only allows for the regulation and taxation of marijuana, similar to cigarettes and alcohol, but it removes the criminal element, freeing up our legal system to deal with actual criminals. Medical marijuana is already available in California. The U.S. Supreme Court on May 18th 2009, upheld the right of states to implement and administer their own medical marijuana laws, affirming the long held position that federal law does not preempt state medical marijuana laws.

Passage of Proposition 19 would make it legal under state law for anyone over 21 years old to possess marijuana, and the federal laws would probably again be trumped by state law. The federal government has indicated they may challenge the law if it passes, but the feds will most likely lose out to the will of the people and move on to more important things. The legal battle over medical marijuana was a win for the state, after all.

Marijuana hasn't always been illegal. Because of sensationalistic stories of murder and mayhem associated with marijuana use, it was criminalized federally in 1937 by the newly formed Bureau of Narcotics. Up until that time it had been used as a household drug treating headaches, toothaches, depression, menstrual cramps and of course just plain stress, and drug companies were working on developing a stronger strain. In 1938, the mayor of New York, Fiorello LaGuardia, who it was rumored would light up a joint before important meetings, formed a committee to study the actual effects of marijuana. It found, despite the governments claims, that there was no scientific reason to criminalize marijuana. The study found that it did not cause insanity or act as a gateway drug. It did not cause people to go on killing sprees, and it did not cause other types of deviant criminal behavior.

Like any substance, the potential for abuse is there, but studies have shown that not only is marijuana safer than most drugs, users don't get symptoms similar to what some have called "Starbucks head," commonly known as headaches associated with caffeine withdrawal.

Further studies have shown that marijuana use actually cuts down on crime, even when used by criminals, because it makes them more mellow. Even President Nixon took up the debate. In 1972, his Shafer Commission also concluded that marijuana should be legalized. Speculation that Nixon used to get high before giving major speeches has never been proven, but many experts site the famous "Checkers speech," when the then-Senator and Vice Presidential candidate got emotional before millions of viewers, as an example of an obviously high politician.

Leading California Democrats, including Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer, are officially against Proposition 19, but the Democratic party stands to benefit from a larger voter turnout. This is due to the fact that normally apathetic groups such as young voters, who would normally skip midterm elections, may buck the trend and turn out in droves precisely because an issue that they are passionate about is on the ballot. The Wall Street Journal has recently pointed out that Democratic strategists are watching the race very closely. That's because this could be the same kind of "hot button" issue to energize the Left, much the same way that banning gay marriage energized the Right. If Proposition 19 is successful in California, look for variations to appear on the national stage, in time for the 2012 elections.

Brown, the current California Attorney General and candidate for Governor, was known for his eccentric behavior when as governor of California from 1975 to 1983 he was referred to as "Governor Moonbeam." Although there were rumors of marijuana use by Brown in the governor's mansion, it was never proven. Brown did, during his tenure, however, propose the establishment of a state space academy and the purchasing of a satellite that would be launched into orbit. Interestingly, a similar program was later adopted by the state, as a satellite was launched to provide emergency communications. Supposedly the cost of this venture, and other liberal expenditures by California politicians are what got us into this mess in the first place. In any case, billions of dollars have been spent over the years on marijuana enforcement nationwide. A 2007 report, "Lost Revenues and Other Costs of Marijuana Laws," by Jon Gettman estimated that law enforcement costs relating to marijuana nationally comes to 10.7 billion annually. The California State Board of Equalization estimates California's possible revenue from legalizing marijuana would be $1.3 billion per year.

Even though President Obama admits he smoked a little pot in his day, he has consistently been against legalization. It has been politically expedient for him to try and ignore the issue completely, but he was forced to address the issue because it outpolled all other questions in his first "online town hall" meeting early in his term.

Schwarzenegger, another famous ex-pot smoker (he can be seen in the movie "Pumping Iron" toking up), now favors cigars, at least publicly. He's the one who brought the matter to the public stage, but is now backtracking because it is politically correct. But California is on the brink of bankruptcy, and decriminalizing marijuana is a logical solution. A recent study showed that cigars are a much worse health threat than cigarettes. Schwarzenegger would be wise to give up his cigars in favor of marijuana. It's healthier.


  1. California is usually ahead of the rest of the nation when it comes to legal issues. This will definately benefit the Democrats by turning out the vote.

    As far as the health concerns, pretty much anything these days can kill you. The worst case is McDonald's which promotes bad nutrition to children with it's Happy Meals, which lures kids with toys.

    California needs the money, and the prison system is over extended. So Prop 19 doesn't seem like such a bad idea.

  2. Maybe we should be making cigarettes and alcohol illegal instead of legalizing pot.

  3. Proposition 19 looks like a good idea to me. A billion dollars is a lot of money. Prohibition didn't work either. First California, then the nation. I'm waiting to hear more from Obama.

  4. I'm voting yes. normally midterms don't get me out, but this time defitely. I'll be there with bells on!

  5. California is need of tax revenue and this is the best place to look. Unfortunately, until Prop 19 is passed we won't know exactly what the consequences will be... But it's worth the shot.

  6. Jerry Brown definitely benefits from the Prop 19 being on the ballot. The national apathetic Democratic turnout will hurt the Dems, but in California, this might be an issue that brings out the voters who might have stayed at home.

    If all goes well, the amount of money brought in by added taxes will be enormous. The economy right now is in such trouble that we need to think of new ways for revenue. so far, this seems to be the best bet.

    The court system is clogged up and overcrowded, and the nation will be watching to see if this passes if there will be an improvement in the prison system.

    As controversial as this proposition is, it deserves a chance. I don't usually vote on middterms, but this time I will. One vote for Prop 19 and one vote for Jerry Brown.

  7. The polls are about evenly divided on this. But pretty much all law enforcement and both Republican and Democratic politions are against it, and i don't think it's because they're trying to stay away from the controversy. It is about a serious health hazard, and there are other ways of raising money.

  8. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder just announced the federal government will be enforcing marijuana laws no matter the results in California. It is correct that medical marijuana is now legal in California and the federal government lost its fight to override state law.

    If Prop 19 fails to win, the issue will be closed for now. But if the majority passes, as it looks will happen, then the state will again be at odds with the federal government.

    The passage of this bill could ultimately bring in billions to the state economy. Although this is badly needed right now, it may not be a good reason to make marijuana legal.

    Many politicians are saying that the bill is badly written. Others are against it because it is political poison. The voters will have a chance on Nov. 2 to have their voice heard. If it is the will of California citizens, then the federal government should step aside and let the state law take precedence.

  9. "Legalizing marijuana not only allows for the regulation and taxation of marijuana, similar to cigarettes and alcohol, but it removes the criminal element, freeing up our legal system to deal with actual criminals."

    Not really true. Drug cartels south of the border make huge profits from pot smuggling. Legalizing pot in the US will simply encourage them. Further, we may end up with a drug war between legal growers here and illegal importers from south of the border who offer their product for less money and tax free.

    I'm not convinced this will eliminate the black market for pot.

  10. So the federal government is planning to ignore the will of the people and prosecute federal law, even if the state laws make marijuana legal. We see how that worked with medical marijuana. Speaking of which, anybody who wants pot can get it now anyway, because the so-called prescriptions are given out for any illness, including, I would assume, an ingrown toenail. Leave it to California to lead the way on legalizing pot.

  11. I feel that it should be legallized and of course taxed like tobacco and alchohol.

    First of all, the myth that it is the gateway to other drugs is hooey. Secondly, I have never known any that smoke pot to be violent or criminal in nature. Very mellow folks. The violence associated with pot is due to the cartels, pushers, gangsters who battle over the "turf" in which to sell it. The vast majority of those folks are not users.

    Legallizing pot would not lead to legallization of cocaine,crack, methamphetamines etc. These drugs DO lead to erratic and violent behaviours and should not be legalized.

    Can there be abuse in using pot? Certainly, just as there is in alchohol. It is after all the different make up of each person and their personalities. It's all part of the human factor.

    But to have so much time and taxpayer money spent on keeping this illegal is ridiculous. Just MHO

  12. The federal government has no business getting in the way of state laws. In the future, they will see the futility in their ways and leave the states alone.

  13. Ron Paul supports legalizing marijuana, so it must be a good idea.

  14. Schwarzenegger hasn't been very effective keeping California afloat. Jerry Brown will do a better job. Personally, I don't think Prop 19 will pass.

  15. There's a problem here.

    Why would you legalize something and expect to tax and control it, when you can produce it in your own yard for $0.00 .

    There's a reason it's called "weed" ....

  16. 49% of California voters now appose Prop 19, down from 52% last month, according to new poll in L.A. Times.

  17. You tube censors pro Prop 19 videos. What other dirty tricks are going on? Conservatives will try anything to keep this from going through. But you tube?

  18. I will be voting for Jerry Brown. He is against Prop 19, and I tend to agree with him. He's got a tough job ahead of him, though. Something has to be done to balance the budget.

  19. According to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, federal law always trumps state law. Therefore, marijuana is still illegal in California, even for "medical" purposes. Perhaps if Prop. 19 passes, federal enforcement will become even less selective.

  20. Proposition 19 would be a godsend for people who smoke marijuana religiously.

  21. Found you blog Paul! Hope you're enjoying Seattle.