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A landmark California initiative that would legalize marijuana and allow local governments to tax drug proceeds is coming under fire from many sides these days, including some advocates of medical marijuana use.
Despite leading in three of four public opinion surveys, the fate of Proposition 19 on the November ballot remains up in the air. The initiative, billed by its advocates as a "common sense" approach to marijuana control, appeared to be sailing to victory in late September when the venerable Field Poll found it leading by 7 percentage points among likely voters. Since then, however, Proposition 19 has experienced a series of setbacks -- last week a survey by Reuters/Ipsos, with a much smaller sampling than the Field Poll, found the initiative trailing.
Proposition 19 would permit any Californian who is 21 or over to grow marijuana for his personal use. It would also, more controversially, permit California's 478 cities and 58 counties to set their own rules on regulation, taxing, and retail sales of marijuana, creating what even some proponents of legalized pot say is likely to be a crazy quilt of new regulations. Nine California cities have advisory measures on the November ballot, seeking voter guidance on the taxation rates that should be imposed for marijuana sales.
Proposition 19 may have lost ground on Sept. 30 when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law that, beginning Jan. 1, will reduce possession of an ounce or less of marijuana to an infraction equivalent to a traffic ticket, punishable only by a fine. This development would in other years have been cheered by advocates of legal marijuana. Instead, these advocates point out -- accurately-- that the measure was approved by the Legislature in order to head off Proposition 19. Even so, Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance that is promoting Proposition 19, acknowledged that the new law is a significant reform. Opponents of the ballot initiative, including Schwarzenegger, hope it is significant enough to derail Proposition 19.end quote.
So by the California Governor reducing the state penalty for an ounce or less of marijuana to something equivalent to a traffic ticket the governor and others are trying to reduce the likelihood of Proposition 19 passing. It is hard to say, however, at this point whether prop. 19 will pass or not, so it literally might go either way. Also, Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General saying the government plans to more aggressively prosecute recreational users but not medicinal users brings a new element into the mix as well.
The complexity of this problem was accentuated at the dinner table last night as friends of mine and my wife and I spoke about this problem. The original idea in California among voters was to lessen the problems with the mass murders in Mexico by decriminalizing an ounce or less of the stuff. But as the conversation progressed at the dinner table we all realized that this problem any way you deal with it is sure to cause unexpected problems. I think studying Amsterdam and the kinds of problems they have had there with all this might be important. What they have done there was both successful and unsuccessful as well. I think this is much more akin to prohibition in the U.S. I think the pros and cons of selling alcohol legally or much the same as selling Marijuana legally to the over 21 crowd. The main difference to me is that a person's decisions tend to be affected for about 6 months after smoking marijuana which is a lot different than just drinking alcohol and one's decisions affected for at most 24 hours if one does not drink again for another week or month after that. So, this problem is an ongoing one. Do you prosecute recreational users and ruin their lives or do you ruin society by having people making bad decisions for the next 6 months after one recreational use? Also, what affect will this have on Mexican drug cartels that are killing thousands of people in Mexico every year and will this reduce the violence in Mexico and help keep it from spilling over the border into places like Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California?