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Prop 19 About Marijuana Industry, Not Use

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  • Government exists to protect life, liberty, and property. In its war on marijuana, it is utterly failing, not in spite of its efforts but because of them. Government policies intended to reduce the harm that drug users potentially inflict on society have given rise to violent drug cartels that actually inflict harm on society and countless innocent victims. On this point, libertarians need no further convincing. Conservatives and moderates, however, do see a role for government in policing individual behavior that’s harmful to society, such as drug use. These people in their daily lives are far more likely to witness the harm marijuana causes to people who willingly smoke it, rather than the violence inflicted on innocents by drug gangs. However, the latter harm is far worse, and it’s this that Proposition 19 addresses.

    In this way, Prop 19 is not so much about individual marijuana use. While it does legalize adult possession of an ounce or less of marijuana, current California laws punish this with a slim $100 fine, akin to a parking ticket. Marijuana use will almost certainly increase if it’s legalized, but it’s hard to imagine the current penalty deterring too many people from consuming it.

    The far more important effect of Prop 19 will be on the marijuana industry. Our current marijuana laws help violent drug cartels maintain artificially high drug prices by eliminating competition in their industry through raids and prosecutions. Whenever one drug distributor is shut down, the others quickly fill the void and grow even richer. Prop 19 would deal a severe (although not fatal) blow to drug cartels. Without their government-granted monopoly status, they would not be able to compete effectively in a semi-legal marijuana industry. Their ability to recruit new members and inflict violence would be greatly diminished. Unfortunately, federal prohibition would still prevent the formation of marijuana brands, financing, and a stable regulatory environment that would be necessary to eliminate marijuana sales as a funding source for unsavory enterprises. That doesn’t mean we should give up on state legalization; it just means our job won’t be finished if Prop 19 passes.

    While marijuana use will likely increase if legalized, the story here is not all bad. Marijuana prohibition currently makes more harmful drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, relatively more attractive because they are more potent and less smelly and thus much easier to transport and consume undetected. We can expect many current drug users to choose cheaper, legal marijuana over other, harder drugs. And, just as prohibition-era moonshine gave way to light beer and cigars gave way to smokeless e-cigarettes, there is much reason to believe that after legalization, consumers will prefer less potent marijuana and healthier methods of ingestion (an argument advanced by Milton Friedman).

    This editorial board found budgetary arguments for legalization to be unconvincing. California has a spending problem, not a revenue problem, and taxing marijuana would only be a short-term fix. Also, punitively high sin taxes would be little better than prohibition since they would present a large opportunity for tax-evading gangs. Law enforcement personnel would likely be shifted to other drug wars instead of being permanently cut because of their strong unions. And while the prison population would decrease, that alone is a weak economic argument.

    Opponents say that Proposition 19 will create legal uncertainty in two ways. First, it will create a patchwork of different regulations, since it lets local governments decide whether to allow the sale of marijuana in their jurisdiction (possession of up to an ounce would be legal everywhere in the state). The political establishment, which thrives on centralization, feigns concern for the “regulatory burden” this will place on localities and growers. To the people of California, however, this is just federalism and local choice, both undeniably good things. The vast majority of California cities can continue to forbid civic blights like marijuana coffee shops and retailers and thus preserve the status quo, but those cities that did permit it would suffice to significantly reduce marijuana’s contribution to drug gangs, which would benefit us all.

    Opponents also claim that Prop 19 will prevent employers from disciplining or firing employees who use marijuana, thereby jeopardizing public safety and federal contracts. This interpretation relies on a strained reading of a single sentence in the proposition and is contradicted by clear language elsewhere. Indeed, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office’s interpretation is that “employers would retain existing rights to address consumption of marijuana that impairs an employee’s job performance.” The clear intent is that employers will treat marijuana and alcohol use by employees in the same way. In the end, courts will interpret the text of the proposition within our time-tested legal doctrine, just as they do every other law and proposition. It’s worth noting that in 1996, opponents of Proposition 215 (which legalized medical marijuana) trotted out the same kind of scare tactics, saying that it was a “set of legal loopholes designed to protect drug dealers.” Hindsight shows these fears were blown way out of proportion.

    Many Californians support marijuana legalization in principle but think that Prop 19 isn’t the way to achieve it. They’ve no doubt been influenced by the vast majority of California newspaper editorial boards and politicians who say just this. Some point to the unclear language addressed above. Some want more control (and tax authority) vested in Sacramento rather than localities. Some want this handled by the legislature, not by ballot proposition. Though that would be ideal, it is unlikely to happen. If we wait for the political establishment to craft the perfect marijuana legalization bill, we’ll be waiting forever.

    As both a moral and tangible matter, the harm inflicted on innocent victims by drug gangs is far worse than the harm that drug users willingly inflict on themselves and the abstract harm that marijuana causes to society. The logical next step after this realization is to let legitimate businesses sprout up to supply Californians’ demand for marijuana, instead of continuing our policy of enforcing violent drug gangs’ monopolies on the marijuana market.

    Unsigned editorials represent the views of The Stanford Review’s Editorial Board and do not necessarily reflect opinions of The Stanford Review or its staff. The Editorial Board consists of the opinion editors and the editor-in-chief. To submit a letter to the editor or guest op-ed, please e-mail our opinion editors, Autumn Carter at aacarter@stanford.edu and Quinn Slack at sqs@stanford.edu.

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    Unsigned editorials represent the views of The Stanford Review's Editorial Board and do not necessarily reflect opinions of The Stanford Review or its staff. The Editorial Board consists of the Opinion Editor, the Executive Editor, and the Editor-in-Chief. To submit a letter to the editor or guest op-ed, please e-mail our Opinion Editors, Autumn Carter at aacarter at stanford dot edu and Quinn Slack at sqs at stanford dot edu.

    • Leonard Krivitsky, MD

      Cannabis is less physically addictive than caffeine, while the so-called “gateway drug” theory is a complete fantasy, and it was just recently called “half-baked” as a result of a scientific study. CNN reported that Cocaine use has dropped sharply, by 30% since 2002, which is really good news. I worked in addiction medicine for years, and this is what I can advice on the matter: Any suppression of Cannabis use will be immediately followed by an increase in alcohol/hard drug/prescription drug abuse! You don’t believe me? Then maybe you will believe the Big Alcohol lobby that is financing the Cannabis Legalization opponents for exactly this reason. Right now Cannabis is just simply perceived as a much safer alternative to alcohol/hard drugs, which is precisely how it should be perceived. To have a society in which there is NO psychoactive substance use is an illusion, and it will be good for our government to realize this. So then, it becomes a matter of “safer choices”, just like with the sex education. And Cannabis is, without a shadow of a doubt, a much safer choice than alcohol or hard drugs! Just very recently a research study in addiction medicine has determined that Cannabis may actually serve as an “exit” substance for recovering alcoholics/hard drug addicts! And there is another extremely important property of Cannabis that the prohibitionists would love to keep secret: Cannabis use suppresses violent urges and behaviors and, as one prestigious textbook says, “Only the unsophisticated think otherwise” Then, of course, there is a potential of Cannabis in chronic pain, where other drugs may be ineffective (or physically addictive), with very important potential consequences for our wounded veterans, many of whom have chronic pain. It is also worth noting that Cannabis may have certain preventative value for such devastating conditions as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. And all this comes with no danger of overdoses or induction of a physical dependence! Let’s be very happy that the cocaine abuse rate is dropping. Let’s not interfere with these dynamics, and then we can possibly achieve what has already been achieved in the Netherlands where the drug overdose rate is 85%(!!) lower than in the US, and that is with much more liberal Cannabis possession laws than in this country! Maybe it is time to give up “dogma” about Cannabis, and to start listening to the experts, if we really want to lower the alcohol/hard drug use in this country, and the accompanying dependencies and overdoses!

    • http://www.noonproposition19.com/ NO on 19

      See the newest RAND study for the TRUTH about Pop 19’s impact on Mexico’s Cartels [DTO's]:

      http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/10/legalizing-marijuana-in-california-would-not-curtail-mexican-drug-organizations-study-says.html

      The Occasional Paper (Study) released by Rand Corp. today; Reducing Drug Trafficking Revenues and Violence in Mexico Would Legalizing Marijuana in California Help?

      is a strong & key counter point that the Media and all of us speaking before groups, boards and in debates should be familiar with or at least be able to reference.

    • STAN

      NO BODY WHATS TO TALK ABOUT THE FACT THAT IF PROP 19 PASSES AND GANGS CANT MAKE THE MONEY THERE USED TO, THEY WILL TURN TO PUSHING MORE HARDER DRUGS, LIKE COKE HEROIN AND SPEED, I HAVENT ONCE HEARD ANYONE ADDRESS THIS POINT, THERE NOT GOING AWAY THEY WILL JUST SHIFT GEARS. YOU SAY THAT COCAIN USE HAS DROPPED, THATS ONLY BECAUSE OF PROP 215, THE GANGS FIGURED OUT HOW TO GROW BETTER AND TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE MARKIT, THEY FIGURE ITS EASYER TO AND SAFER TO GROW POT THEN DEALING IN SPEED AND COKE AND HEROIN, THATS WHY THERE IS A 30% DROP, YOU THINK YOUR SO SMART BECAUSE YOU CLAIM TO BE A DOCTOR, BUT IT ONLY TAKES A LITTLE COMMON SENCE TO SEE THIS.

    • Gregory

      Who ever wrote this is not educated on marijuana at all.

    • http://usmjp.com USMJP

      CRIS ERICSON,
      UNITED STATES MARIJUANA PARTY,
      IS ON THE OFFICIAL ELECTION BALLOT IN
      VERMONT!

      http://vermont-elections.org/elections1/2010FINALGECandidates9202010.pdf

      On Oct. 7, 2010 on statewide television, VPT,
      Cris Ericson showed Vermonters
      HOW TO SELL MARIJUANA.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zs9pa0u_zqQ

      HOW TO SELL

      (note: on fearlessblogging.com after the
      captcha is filled out, it changes the ZERO to an o)

      The moderator is Stewart Ledbetter, a reporter for WPTZ
      and also Vermont Bureau Chief and host of
      Vermont This Week on Vermont Public Television.

      The brief upload to youtube was done by
      Steven Moyer nodesnetwork@gmail.com

      YOU WILL SEE A TOTAL OF SIX CANDIDATES
      FOR GOVERNOR OF VERMONT 2010
      GIVE A ONE MINUTE CLOSING SPEECH.

      CRIS ERICSON, UNITED STATES MARIJUANA PARTY,
      IS THE 6TH CANDIDATE.
      SHE EXPLAINS
      HOW TO SELL MARIJUANA.

    • No on Prop 19

      The Passage of Proposition 19 is honestly opening Pandora’s box. Here are some things we can expect if it passes:

      -An increase in drug consumption. Unfortunately, Prop 19 doesn’t do a single thing to get rid of the root of the problem: our insatiable demand for illegal drugs. If anything, this law encourages recreational and regular drug users to continue consuming drugs. The approach is all wrong. We should be making a concerted effort to make our communities healthier to implement stronger prevention and treatment programs. This is especially true in low income neighborhoods where youth and parents alike are at a much greater risk of developing drug related problems, like drug dependence, which can lead to low performance at work and an increase in violence in the home.

      -More health problems. Drugs are bad for the body, you learned in first grade, and things haven’t changed. Like alcohol and tobacco, marijuana and other drugs damage every part of your body, including your nervous system, brain, liver, lungs, etc. Drugs consumption also increases your chances of engaging in high-risk sexual behavior. Drug consumption is bad for the body. The last thing we need is Americans to develop another unhealthy lifestyle behavior. If we allow this proposition to pass, I can almost guarantee we’re gonna end up spending a whole lot more taxpayer money than we are now on treating and rehabilitating substance abusers. The picture of America’s health looks even more grim if you look at our obesity rate.

      -A diversification of drug use in America. Weed is a gateway to harder drugs, such as meth and cocaine, which are highly addictive and damaging to the body. The last thing we need is more people smoking joints and experimenting with heroin, all the while being a public nuisance and danger to society.

      -California…the new Amsterdam. Ever heard of “drug tourism”? It’s a real problem, and if you ask the Dutch, they’ll tell you it’s because lax drug policies have led to more drug criminality, more drug overdoses, and more accidental drug deaths.

      -No change in cartels’ power. As the commenter mentioned above, contrary to popular belief, marijuana legalization will NOT curb the power of the cartels, for two reasons. First, and most obviously, even if this proposition passes, marijuana will be legal in 49 other states. That’s a HUGE marijuana market for the cartels, and they’ll continue trafficking cannabis to states where it’s illegal. The second reason why cartels’ power will be unaffected by the passage of this law is because cartels are involved in other criminal activities which supplement their incomes and allow them to remain in power. They kidnap for ransom, smuggle people, launder billions in profits, and even kill for a profit. The diversification of their criminal activities would allow cartels to remain well in power even after the passage of this law. The violence in Mexico will continue. If you are really concerned about stopping the thousands of drug-related deaths in Mexico… then maybe you should stop smoking the reefer! (which is by the way, illegal)

      -Increased violence in the home and breakdown of families. Some argue that drug violence on the streets of California and Mexico will decrease if marijuana is legalized, which may be true to an extent, but what’s also true is that an increase in drug consumption is accompanied by violence and abuse in the home. All that we’re doing by letting this law pass is moving hostilities elsewhere.

      So please, vote NO on Prop 19.

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    • Michael

      I am glad to see the “Common Sense” argument take place. First off Stan, please when you make a point against another person and try to put down their opinions because of their profession Ex. a physician. The more you speak or in this case write the more you exhibit your own extreme lack of any conviction. Check your speeling, I never knew the word “common sence” had another spelling. The people who disagree based on anothers professional background are people who are looking for arguments because of their own insecurities in life and what they do for a living. You have a lot of hate and anger and I don’t even know you. You are like most people in this country. Highly ingnorant and an expert on nothing, with too many opinions based on very little knowledge to support your claims. Do yourself a favor and read a book. Please stop arguing with people that you wish you were, you made no valid point about your argument. This physician is absolutely on the mark. I am from NJ and now I live in Florida. There is a major empidemic in this state with the Prescription drug abuse and how many people die a year in the ER from overdose. I am referring to the opiod abuse by pain clinics. Its the most horrific thing I have ever seen here. The drug companies have the most powerful lobbyists to push through their agendas and the drugs are killing us. There is a loop hole in the state that allows Pain Clinics to administer highly addictive pain pills to everybody and anybody with an MRI. The do not take insurances and they take only cash. Just another way to skirt around the IRS and government. Marijuana is an absolute joke that we dont have it decriminalized here in this country. The three biggest lobbyists in the world are BIG Tobacco, BIG Pharma, and Alcohol. The marijuana lobbyists are now just getting recognized but are not even close to the financial power the big three use to get what they want heard. The big three are also the biggest competition for them as well. Do I have to spell this out for you??? Do you get it…? The picture is much bigger that you or I could ever imagine just to get a plant that “god” has put on this plant for a reason to be accepted. Hemp will save America! It will put the economy on the fast track for momentum to grow. Just like the end of Prohibition did for the end of the world wars and the depression. The facts are all in print everywhere to support this proposition. I will be voting yes on all ballots in favor of this movement….!!!!!! Vote yes on 19

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