California’s Marijuana Initiative in Trouble: What’s Wrong With Us?

Posted: July 14, 2010 in Marijuana Legalization, War on Drugs
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According to the L.A. Times, the most recent survey shows that opposition to California’s marijuana initiative is growing, putting the nays ahead of the yeas for the first time since Proposition 19 qualified for the November ballot.

The Field Poll showed 48% of likely voters are now against the initiative with 44% in favor. “History suggests that chances aren’t good when you start out behind,” poll director Mark DiCamillo told the Times.

Surprisingly, attitudes about the initiative seemed to break along ethnic lines, with white males evenly divided and Latino, African and Asian Americans opposed. “There just might be greater concerns within the ethnic community about the social effects,” DiCamillo said.

Women also oppose the measure by 9 points.

How I See It

Yes, yes, I confess; like a zillion other Californians, I have been under the influence of pot…and hated every dry-mouthed, fearful, migraine-producing moment of it. I discovered early on that cannabis and I were never going to be friends so I hung up my roach clip for good a long time ago. Considering today’s prices, I’m glad we never hit it off.

But a number of my chums, who were introduced to marijuana at roughly the same time as I, found pot to be an enjoyable way to relax and have a good time. Truth be told, I was a wee bit jealous and secretly thought their lack of paranoia while high was an indictment of my comparatively dysfunctional brain.

As we went on with our lives, some of my pals gave up reefer because of the legal risk. Others, however, continued to buy and use marijuana for two simple reasons: they liked it, and they weren’t about to tolerate an arbitrary, pointless intrusion into their personal lives by moralists—or worse, by prohibition profiteers like cynical “tough on crime” politicians, the prison guards lobby and booze distilleries. I understood their point, but quietly wondered if the risks they were taking were worth it. Remember, not long ago it was a serious crime to be in simple possession of the stuff, and “felony arrest and conviction” does not look good on a resumé. But, even after marijuana laws were liberalized in 1975 it was still illegal to use it, and still criminalized enough to produce nearly 75,000 arrests in 2007 alone.

Gradually, I came to admire my more stubborn friends for sticking to their guns. I mean, why was it that I could go to the liquor store and legally buy a fifth of cirrhosis and two packs of lung cancer, while my buddies had to synchronize watches and arrange secret trysts to purchase a much less harmful substance? Though I’ve known a number of people who have run into life-changing problems with alcohol, not one of my pot-smoking buddies has ever lost his or her marriage, career or health to out-of-control marijuana use. As with all mind-altering substances, I’m sure it happens; it just didn’t happen to any of my friends. Their freedom, however, was threatened every time they lit up.

Wishful Thinking

Call me naive, but I thought Californians had had enough of this cruel, silly proscription. I really believed the numbers would improve as November approached. I thought Prop 19 would have solid bipartisan support—that conservatives crying for less government intrusion and progressives alike would consider Prop 19 a golden opportunity to strike a blow for personal freedom while bringing some much-needed revenue to our state—not to mention the added benefit of damming a major tributary of the drug cartels’ cash and weapons flow.

But, these new numbers are worrisome. They indicate that the well-crafted misinformation being tossed around is doing its job. Against all reason and experts’ findings, the anti forces tell us Prop 19 will lead to an increase in crime and addiction. I’m not really sure what “crime” they’re referring to (with pot legalized), and no credible study has found that Prop 19 would lead to more reefer fiends. Jeesh.

This is It

This chance to carve a little sanity from the miserable lunacy that is the “War on Drugs” will not come again soon. Unlike the moneyed opposition, pro-Prop 19 organizations like California NORML and the Drug Policy Alliance do not have the resources to mount major political campaigns every election cycle. If Prop 19 is defeated in November we will all continue to pay the price for many years to come. Our state will lose the opportunity to develop a significant new source of revenue; We will continue to dump $170 million per year for the arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of marijuana offenders, and for the foreseeable future, millions of regular users (and countless “social tokers”) will be forced to choose between sneaking around like thieves in the night or involuntarily changing their lives by government fiat.

[originally published as “Califonia’s marijuana initiative in trouble: Stop pot on top for first time]

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