ROLLING PAPER-THIN ARGUMENTS AGAINST PROP 19

October 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

Anyone who reads this column with any regularity could probably predict with a great degree of certainty what my position is on Proposition 19, the controversial (to some) ballot proposition, whose sexy official title is the Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Act of 2010.

Legalizing marijuana is a no-brainer for me. My home country of Australia has long had a ‘soft’ response to possession and use of small amounts of cannabis, ranging from cautions and relatively small fines to diversion of offenders to education and treatment centers. Although it is still officially ‘illegal’, there is a tacit acknowledgment by law enforcement that there are more pressing problems that need to be dealt with. Having said that, I don’t think Australia goes far enough either; as long as enormous amounts of public money are still spent on the search and seizure of marijuana crops, and the people who grow them, I think valuable time and resources, on the part of the government, are being wasted. But that’s for the voters of that country, including myself, to figure out.

For those of you who vote here in California, there are different issues. Let’s begin by throwing out the moral side of the argument, for the simple reason that it is nonsense; the people who are against marijuana on moral grounds are not dealing in rational logic nor weighing compelling arguments, for and against. They simply think it’s wrong, but if you were to ask most of these people why it’s any more ‘wrong’ than tobacco or alcohol, they’d give you their best blank stare.

I can’t see anything wrong with raising tax dollars by regulating the plant and taxing it. I also can’t see any problem with taking much of the product out of the hands of dealers and cartels, whether they be from Mexico or here in the US. We must remember that this will not solve the problem of illegal distribution- after all, Prop 19 does not allow for the selling of marijuana in certain public places, as is done in the Netherlands (I’m for that too- I’d much prefer people to be stoned than drunk). But it would improve the situation drastically; people would be allowed to possess up to an ounce of pot and grow it on private property, hopefully thinning out the number of non-violent ‘criminals’ clogging up the legal system and our over-crowded prisons.

Now… what about the opposing arguments being raised by those who wish to maintain the status quo?

First, the most vacuous- that Prop 19 does not establish coherent regulatory structures and tax proposals with which to carry out the new law.

This is the ‘too hard’ argument. Great. Let’s get rid of that one. The history of legislative progress, in any country, is littered with examples of new laws being enacted without having all the details in place. That is the job of governments and legislatures- to figure these things out. Prop 19 may not have all the answers to potential problems in place, but one thing is for certain: the only way to answer these questions is to enact the law and come up with solutions as problems arise. Opponents have said that Prop 19 has ‘ambiguity’ in how taxes might be levied and how much money might be generated from those taxes.

Yeah… so? Next argument.

This one is a little more compelling. The Obama Administration has positioned itself against the legalization of marijuana, which does confuse things. However, Opponents of Prop 19 claim that California would become a ‘breeding ground’ and ‘base’ for dealers wishing to sell pot throughout the rest of the country.

This argument implies that there is currently some kind of dire shortage of pot, existent across the US. It’s true- all I hear from my friends in New York, Minnesota and Florida is that it’s damn near impossible to get one’s hands on the stuff! People all across this nation are positively praying that us good citizens here in Cali will pass this law, so that they can finally get high… I’ll let all of you, dear readers, decide on this one.

Next: marijuana leads to acts, and creates a culture of, “criminality”.

Yes, a high percentage of convicted felons have used pot, among other drugs. A larger percentage regularly drink milk and eat copious amounts of french fries (admittedly, the consumption of the latter might be connected with pot). While alcohol, cocaine and other methamphetamines have been shown to cause heightened aggression and violent behaviour, marijuana has been proven, in the vast majority of cases, to have the opposite effect, enhancing feelings of relaxation and lowering stress levels, one of the reasons why it is prescribed by doctors not only here in California, but all over the world. I don’t recall a doctor telling anyone to down a shot of tequila or light up a Marlboro in order to feel better.

Well, alright then, what about the fact that marijuana is a ‘gateway’ drug, leading to and even encouraging the use of harder drugs, like cocaine, crack cocaine, meth and heroin?

Hmm… well, I could just believe what the World Health Organization found through its study of the ‘gateway’ theory, done from research in 17 countries: that other ‘unmeasured (my italics) common causes’ probably had as much to do with the progression from softer drugs to harder, as anything else.  What might some of these common causes be? Gee… how about societal attitudes, which group marijuana with other illicit drugs, like the aforementioned cocaine and heroin? What would happen if the next generation were to grow up in a world where tequila was illegal? Isn’t it possible that a progression from Quervo to cocaine might be established? Folks, drug dealers do one thing: they sell illegal drugs. Why not take the one that shouldn’t be illegal out of their hands?

Here’s the last doozy for today: that we would be sending the wrong message to kids, that ‘being stoned is okay’.

Is getting high on a regular basis a good thing? I’ll leave that to each person to decide for themselves. Would I want my child to be getting high every day? No. Just like I wouldn’t want them to be habitual drinkers, or smokers. Or McDonald’s eaters. Or be people who have a lot of unsafe sex (or any unsafe sex, for that matter).

I’m in agreement with the anti-Prop 19 people on one thing: we do need to draw a line in the sand as as society. Cocaine is a destructive, heavily addictive stimulant. Heroin is beyond the pale. However, people that cross even those lines need to be treated with compassion and given alternatives, as do the people who sell them the drug. If we made a commitment to that, we’d be on the road to not needing propositions at all. The US has a way to go on this front.

Marijuana is here. We have it. It’s done. So let’s make its use and sale as positive and constructive as possible.

I’ve heard the arguments. Yes on Prop 19.

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