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California Politics Go To Pot

— The San Diego Board of Supervisors took a stand this week on legalizing marijuana in California. The supervisors voted against it. Unanimously. But drive a few hundred miles north and visit the Oakland City Council. They voted in favor of legalization. Unanimously.

An intern handles a marijuana plant at Oaksterdam University in Oakland.
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Above: An intern handles a marijuana plant at Oaksterdam University in Oakland.

The subject comes up because we’ll be voting this November on the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, a.k.a. Proposition 19. Up until now, marijuana has been legal in California for medicinal uses only. But Prop. 19 would allow the cultivation, sale and use of pot for any reason you desire.

Supporters of legalizing marijuana say passing Prop. 19 could solve a host of social and economic problems.

It would remedy our state budget disaster by generating a huge amount of sales tax revenue. It would free up cops and D.A.’s to arrest and jail dangerous criminals because they wouldn’t waste their time prosecuting people who sell marijuana. So, legalizing the stuff would make us our state richer and safer, not to mention more happy and blissful.

The march toward legalizing marijuana in California began 14 years ago with the passage of Prop. 215, which allowed for medical use. Unfortunately Prop. 215 has been nothing but trouble. It put state law in direct conflict with federal law, which does not allow any sale or use of marijuana. The proposition was also badly written. It’s short and vague, and it’s required years of legislative work to try to clarify it for practical use.

Here’s my take on medical marijuana: If cannabis has medicinal value, and some studies show that it has, we already have a tested institution for selling prescription medicine. It’s called a pharmacy. In the ideal world we'd throw out Prop. 215, make sure marijuana clears all of the legal hurdles to get approved for medical use, let doctors prescribe it to worthy patients and let patients pick it up at their local drug store.

Special Feature The Marijuana State

KPBS investigates Prop. 19, a ballot initiative that would make recreational use of marijuana legal and allow cities and counties to tax and regulate the sale of the drug. "The Marijuana State" will air Tuesday, Oct. 19 at 9 p.m. on KPBS Television.

If, on the other hand, California voters decide to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use by passing Prop. 19, it’s a whole new ballgame and (I assume) a whole new fight between the state and the feds.

Last year, Obama’s justice department said they’d look the other way if marijuana use was allowed under state laws, and they would not enforce federal prohibitions. But that policy was made with the understanding that any legal marijuana use was medicinal. If people are selling and smoking pot just to get stoned the feds may get over their case of couch lock and start enforcing their laws.

Also, I wonder… If California unilaterally legalizes marijuana use and cultivation, would that reduce the influence of illegal drug cartels -- as Prop. 19 supporters suppose -- or would it create a profitable and protected market for them in California?

It’s possible that smoking pot will be no different from taking a shot of whiskey fifty years from now. There may be no good reason to use recreational drugs, but humans always have and they always will. Some people say getting drunk or high is fundamentally no different from kids, on a playground, spinning around until they get dizzy. Changing consciousness is a fundamental human desire, and drugs are a risky but convenient way to do that.

Let’s just think twice -- and even thrice -- before we make a new drug an accepted part of our culture. We may have enough already.

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Avatar for user 'ginpb'

ginpb | September 15, 2010 at 10:17 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Join the Green Movement & Vote YES on Prop 19!!!!!

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Avatar for user 'tij'

tij | September 15, 2010 at 11:02 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Thomas Jefferson said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

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Avatar for user 'hboooo'

hboooo | September 15, 2010 at 11:38 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

and benjamin franklin said
"Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither"

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | September 15, 2010 at 12:49 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

And Cheech and Chong said:

Chong: "You wanna get high, man?"
Cheech: "Does Howdy-Doody have wooden balls?"

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Avatar for user 'BigSurRadio'

BigSurRadio | September 15, 2010 at 5:52 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

thought about it....~~~

I would much rather we not spend our tax dollars to criminalize a substance that the last three presidents of the U.S. admitted to using. They seem to be semi functioning...well maybe not "W". In any event

Its all a moot point anyway as I do not believe prop 19 will pass. So get your Prop 215 recommendation today, and stay safe and legal.

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Avatar for user 'malcolmkyle'

malcolmkyle | September 16, 2010 at 2:25 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Please consider the following very carefully: It wasn't alcohol that caused the surge in crime and homicide during alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, it was the prohibition of alcohol itself. That's why many of us find it hard to believe that the same thing is not happening now. We clearly have a prohibition fueled violent crime problem. A huge number of these violent crimes are perpetrated by criminal syndicates and gangs who use the proceeds form the sales of illegal substances to further even more of their criminal activities.

Prohibition is nothing less than a grotesque dystopian nightmare. We have to regulate and we have to do it now!

The second biggest business during prohibition in Detroit was liquor at $215 million a year and employing about 50,000 people. Authorities were not only helpless to stop it, many were part of the problem. During one raid the state police arrested Detroit Mayor John Smith, Michigan Congressman Robert Clancy and Sheriff Edward Stein.

The Mexican cartels are ready to show, that when it comes to business, they also like to be nonpartisan. They will buy-out or threaten politicians of any party, make deals with whoever can benefit them, and kill those who are brave or foolish enough to get in their way.

If you support prohibition you've helped create the prison-for-profit synergy with drug lords.

If you support prohibition you've helped remove many important civil liberties from those citizens you falsely claim to represent.

If you support prohibition you've helped put previously unknown and contaminated drugs on the streets.

If you support prohibition you've helped to escalate Murder, Theft, Muggings and Burglaries.

If you support prohibition you've helped evolve local gangs into transnational enterprises with intricate power structures that reach into every corner of society, controlling vast swaths of territory with significant social and military resources at their disposal.

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Avatar for user 'Leonard Krivitsky'

Leonard Krivitsky | September 16, 2010 at 5:40 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Cannabis prohibition has never been, and is not based on science. Passage of the CA Proposition 19 will deal a serious blow to the Mexican drug cartels and to the "drug war" in general. It will also restore sanity to the California State budget by collecting sizable Cannabis revenues and eliminating the wasteful spending on the so-called anti-Cannabis "enforcement". It is established by the science of addiction medicine that the so-called "gateway drug" theory, advanced by the opponents of the measure is a complete fantasy, as is the assertion that Cannabis is "physically addictive". Cannabis is NOT physically addictive, as there is no clearly definable and reproducible PHYSICAL withdrawal syndrome, associated with its use, as opposed to truly physically addictive substances such as opiates or alcohol. In fact, the latest addiction medicine research reveals that Cannabis may serve as an "exit" substance with the potential of helping former alcoholics or hard drug users to abstain from alcohol, hard drugs, or even dangerous and physically addictive prescription drugs! It is also being established that Cannabis use may help prevent such serious illnesses as cancer and Alzheimer's disease! Cannabis use also suppresses violent urges and behaviors. Let's not be intimidated by the scare-tactics of the "opponents", but be motivated instead by science, reason and understanding of these issues, and this means voting YES on California Proposition 19 on November 2!

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Avatar for user 'Sw33tleaf'

Sw33tleaf | September 16, 2010 at 6:24 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

It's a bummer to see SD Board of Sups on the wrong side again. Not surprising though. There are a bunch of large unions in California seeing the benefit of prop 19 and supporting the Prop as well as most 18-40 year olds. I think this is just the kind of prop to get the youth out and voting. It's going to be a watershed moment folks. Voting YES on Prop 19!!

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Avatar for user 'Tom Fudge'

Tom Fudge, KPBS Staff | September 16, 2010 at 3:59 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Many good points here. But I would still like to know how California can legalize marijuana unilaterally without the cooperation of the federal government. Conceptually, legalizing marijuana for all uses makes more sense than continuing to try to regulate medical marijuana "dispensaries" now that Prop 215 has turned into a bit of a joke. (How many people using medicinal pot dispensaries arrive on wheelchairs and crutches. Not many I'm guessing.) But regulating a legal marijuana industry would not be a mellow job. Who would grow it? Who would sell it and where would it be sold? Police would still need to be involved to enforce age requirements and the like. Let's keep that in mind.

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Avatar for user 'Sw33tleaf'

Sw33tleaf | September 17, 2010 at 6:31 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Hi Tom, I'm "assuming" the labor unions will be heavily involved with this since they are putting their hat in the ring with a million plus voters and supporting the Prop. Also there is a comercial aspect of the game as well. Comercial companies would grow it, labor unions would tend them and transport and block and mortor buildings would sell it. Just like business is done in the USA everyday. Taxes on the comercial side, taxes on the labor workers pay checks and the taxes on sales. Jobs and Tax revenue. The people get their weed and the politicians get tax money and job creation. Sounds simple enough?

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Avatar for user 'thersant'

thersant | September 17, 2010 at 11:15 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Regarding the question about how a state can legalize marijuana unilaterally when the federal government continues to have it listed as a drug of no merit and illegal to dispense or use?
First of all, it is not a proper question in that a state cannot legalize what the federal government makes illegal. Instead, each entity has jurisdiction over its own law enforcement system. If a state chooses to prohibit use of its law enforcement systems (state, county and city) in a particular arena then all that leaves is the federal law enforcement at issue.
So I submit that we have seen how some laws are enforced and some are not. If the feds decide to allocate some of their law enforcement resources to this it would likely be at the highest levels of interstate transport and sales.
This is indeed a market issue too and we have no good data and lots of guesses as to how the proposition's passage would/will effect market prices, reduce or redirect law enforcement and penal resources, etc. But as far as the law goes, we can see the states' rights issue at the center of it all.

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Avatar for user 'sclaw'

sclaw | September 20, 2010 at 1:37 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

If passed, Prop 19 will be IMPOSSIBLE to enforce just as how Prop 215 turned out to be a SHAM. Marijuana is not like alcohol or cigarettes. A person can use an unlimited amount of alcohol and cigarettes. So who will enforce to make sure that each person possesses up to 1 ounce (28 g) of marijuana for personal consumption? Who will enforce to make sure that a person grows marijuana at a private residence in a space of up to 25 square feet (2.3 m2) for personal use? If 95% of medical marijuana users do not have debilitating illnesses, one can predict that 95% of the population will possess more than 1 oz of marijuana. Majority of people will also grow more than 25 sq feet of pot. That's an enforcement nightmare. What are the laws regarding coming to a potluck or picnic with brownies, cheesecake and ice cream laced with marijuana? What if the brownies served at school potlucks have marijuana laced in the? It is now all too easy to get anyone (children, adults, seniors) to ingest marijuana without their knowledge. Who will enforce this? The cops will not have time to enforce every bit of out of compliance. This will end up like the shopping cart law and the illegal immigration law - no one enforces it. So if Prop 19 passes, one can predict that marijuana will be unlimitedly available to anyone children and adults like bananas because marijuana can appear in foods, soups and drinks or any form.

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | September 20, 2010 at 3:44 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Marijuana laws will likely have to be like the laws for alcohol use. But I must admit those are some really imaginative examples you seem to worry about. Use of marijuana does cause paranoia in some; not that I'm suggesting you've used it.

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Avatar for user 'fr33domfightr'

fr33domfightr | September 20, 2010 at 9:35 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

@Tom, hmm did I miss something since 1913 ?!?! The California legislature began the prohibition of Cannabis in 1913, before the feds ever got involved. Most of that was due to racist reasons without any public comment or understanding of Cannabis. I say, if it can be prohibited by the State, it can be unprohibited by the State.

I don't know that Prop. 215 has turned into a bit of a joke. Tell that to medical users and see what they think. I suspect some people are taking advantage of it, but that doesn't dismiss the positive effects for medical users.

Just as Oakland will allow for manufacturers to produce Cannabis, so can other cities. This is no different than the Wine Industry. Do police normally go into bars checking for IDs?? NO. That's left for the business to perform. Anyplace Beer, Wine, or Liquor is sold, Cannabis could be sold. This isn't rocket science.

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Avatar for user 'Sw33tleaf'

Sw33tleaf | September 23, 2010 at 7:20 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

@sclaw Really dude? You can't be serious with all that? I've seen your cut and paste comments on other articles as well and i'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish or if you're really just dumb? I believe the latter.

Where do you get this info from? "If 95% of medical marijuana users do not have debilitating illnesses, one can predict that 95% of the population will possess more than 1 oz of marijuana."

Another quote from you. This one is just plain ignorant "What are the laws regarding coming to a potluck or picnic with brownies, cheesecake and ice cream laced with marijuana? What if the brownies served at school potlucks have marijuana laced in the? It is now all too easy to get anyone (children, adults, seniors) to ingest marijuana without their knowledge. Who will enforce this?"

And last but not least another one of your predictions "one can predict that marijuana will be unlimitedly available to anyone children and adults like bananas because marijuana can appear in foods, soups and drinks or any form".

Other than your misguided predictions there are laws that are already on the books that will come in to play if anyone has food laced with anything without their knowledge. And Prop 19 is directed towards adults not children. Knowledge is power bruh figure it out!

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Avatar for user 'dialyn'

dialyn | September 23, 2010 at 9:30 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

I really wish we would stop referring to "recreational drugs" as if taking drugs was the equivalent of taking a hike or bicycling. It is not harmless, and even the sainted marijuana has negative aspects (just like alcohol and just like cigarettes, but marijuana is given a pass on the negatives in the eagerness people have for getting drugged out). The stench of the weed personally sickens me so I'll never take the junk. I would vote for the proposition IF the medical marijuana stores were more highly regulated. Being able to get marijuana for a hangnail is just ridiculous...the doctors giving out prescriptions for everything while we all pretend marijuana cures all ills is simply stupid and naive. Now we have unions wanting to get in on marijuana so they can get their cut of the pie. Let's be honest. We want to be drugged out and we want to make money off of the weakness of other people. I'd be more pro-marijuana (though I'd never take the stuff myself, just as I don't smoke and I don't drink because it just doesn't interest me as an entertainment) if people were just honest about their motives. Marijuana can cause mental problems. Marijuana can cause cancer. You can legalize it, and you can drive around in a smoke filled car while you text your stupidity to your nearest and dearest, but be honest about what you are doing, and what the results will be. And of course kids will get a hold of any drugs or excesses their parents indulge in....they raid their parents' medicine chests and steal their cigarettes and drink alcohol their parents store up. Don't be stupid and think the kids won't follow the wonderful role models their parents provide.

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Avatar for user 'x76'

x76 | September 23, 2010 at 11:02 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Marijuana should have never been made illegal -- it's a WEED. Yet somehow after the government makes a stupid mistake, it's nearly impossible to correct. You want to know what the big deal is going to be once marijuana is no longer illegal? COMMERCIAL HEMP. You can make fuel, plastics, cloth, paint, food et cetera et cetera out of its very long fibers and useful seeds. Its delightful intoxicating properties will be dwarfed by NON-PETROLEUM and NON-CHEMICAL sources for common products!

Taking psych drugs? What do you think that Big Pharma fears the most? Legal marijuana! They can't patent it. A glass of wine and a puff on a pipe at the end of the day -- no pills needed, thank you.

Prop 19 is forty years overdue. I hope it passes in a landslide. Make sure to apply for permanent absentee voter status so that e-voting can't steal another election (which is what it was designed to do)!

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Avatar for user 'MarijuanaDocs'

MarijuanaDocs | August 16, 2011 at 2:04 a.m. ― 5 years, 6 months ago

I tend to get on the soapbox about this issue because of the rationalizations that were used in criminalizing marijuana. The propaganda that Anslinger used to gain fear that "colored" jazz musicians would corrupt their white children with drugs and music is just absurd in this day and age. It is a lobby issue and there are too many companies that are afraid of the ramifications of having hemp as a cash crop... and the pharmaceutical companies would have a serious problem as well. Lobbyists have been really putting it to politics for way too long now.

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Avatar for user 'MarijuanaDocs'

MarijuanaDocs | August 16, 2011 at 2:10 a.m. ― 5 years, 6 months ago

I have seen many clubs get raided in San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco over the last 5 years. There have been many fake doctors as well trying to scam patients. I have a friend over at one of the Peninsula delivery locations that literally lives daily in fear of the DEA coming for her business. She delivers to cancer patients and has loyal customers that come to this area to see a specialist and get their deliveries for marijuana after they get transfusions, mri's, etc etc.

I am at odds as to the best way to control/tax/etc. But I think we have a lot of farmers in this country that could figure that out in a hurry with hemp.

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Avatar for user 'Len'

Len | August 16, 2011 at 9:41 a.m. ― 5 years, 6 months ago

Once again, Tom proves ignorance of the topic under discussion, in stating that only those who need wheelchairs or crutches benefit from medicinal marijuana. When Tom goes to a (non-orthopedic) doctor, does he find the waiting room full of people using wheelchairs or crutches?

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Avatar for user 'DoctorLove'

DoctorLove | August 21, 2011 at 3:15 p.m. ― 5 years, 6 months ago

I agree with Len on this one. It seems that recent studies are finding preventative benefits in marijuana as well as counters to some ills. If marijuana can prevent cancer from starting when done at whatever levels and however it is ingested... how do you keep that from the public? I was looking through some bay area gigs and found one recently for an elderly man that needed a senior helper that was "4:20 friendly"... When a man in his 80's needs a pothead to take care of him for fear of the stigma of having it around... it says something about the world and the laws we live in nowadays.

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