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Californian voters were wrong about Prop 19

Staff Writer

Published: Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 18:11

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Even though Proposition 19 failed at the voting booth, it represented to American’s one of the largest examples of questioning the legality of a law. The Regulate Control and Tax Cannabis Act only garnished 46 percent of the vote.

The Act sought to make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana legal, and allowed for the possessor to consume the marijuana in a non-public place or in a public establishment licensed for on-site consumption. It would have allowed local governments to authorize retail sale, and create a special tax on marijuana. Also, personal growth of marijuana would be allowed in a regulated amount.

The California Chamber of Commerce ran many ads against the referendum, seeking to exploit the wording of the law to coerce individuals who did not have an opinion of the subject to vote no. “Imagine coming out of surgery and the nurse was high,” said the advertisement, “Employees would be allowed to come to work high.” While this would seem like a legitimate reason to critique the Proposition, the Act actually states the right to “maintain an employer’s right to address consumption of marijuana that affects an employee’s job performance.” In the 2008 case of Ross v. Raging Wire, the California Supreme Court held that it is legal for employers to fire workers or refuse to hire them based on positive drug tests or impairment. Furthermore, the Court said that public intoxication laws still remain in effect allowing for a ‘stoned’ employee to be fired just as easily as a drunken employee.

Regardless of the legality of any drug, it must be protected from the children. Allowing for the black market to continue flourishing is ludicrous. A drug dealer would never ask to see a child’s identification to ensure that they were of a proper age to consume the drug. With the large presence of Mexican drug cartels in California, removing one of the core tenets of fund raising could help to remove the presence of these violent gangs and help to allow the law enforcement to vigorously attack the cartels pushing cocaine and methamphetamines, another huge problem in California.

Furthermore, given the financial crisis that California is currently facing, saving money on prosecuting the victimless crime of marijuana could save both local and state governments’ immense amounts of money. The failure of this Act will lead to more and more prison overcrowding, wasted funding and wasted hours of policing, according to the Law Enforcement against Prohibition, an advocacy group.

What California and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger do not understand is that minimizing the punishment for violating marijuana laws does not make the illegality of marijuana any less severe. Just a month before the vote, Schwarzenegger signed a bill that made possession of up to an ounce equivalent to a traffic ticket or a mere $100 dollar fine. Decriminalization of marijuana is a rather misleading term, since governments that do so are not making it no longer a criminal act, but rather are reinforcing its wrongness while making the punishment a joke. Just because there is no real punishment in store, does not mean that it is okay that it is still illegal. It would be like saying to a child, “I understand that what you did is not really wrong, but I am still going to punish you, but only a little.”

I believe that one of the reasons people who consume marijuana on a frequent basis might not have voted for the Act is that they were wary of the regulations associated with making it legal. Just as has been the trend with alcohol and cigarettes, the governments frequently raise taxes forcing both manufacturers and buyers to pay more.

Even with George Soros giving $1 million to the campaign for the legalization of marijuana, the campaign failed. This represents the Californian people not quite being ready for this radical change. The supporters of the bill must go back to the forge and figure out what went wrong and how to sway the 5 percent of people that voted no to vote yes.

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