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Do You Want To Legalize Pot In CA?

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Video published September 16, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: KPBS Reporter Joanne Faryon asks what you think about legalizing marijuana in California.

Marijuana grown and harvested at Oaksterdam University in Oakland, CA.
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Above: Marijuana grown and harvested at Oaksterdam University in Oakland, CA.

— Do you want pot to be legal in California? This is the question California voters will be asked on November 2. The outcome could have longer-lasting and further-reaching affects than anything else you’ll be asked to vote on this November, including choosing a new governor and deciding who you’ll send to the Senate.

KPBS has been working on a special series on Proposition 19 - the ballot initiative that would regulate, control and tax marijuana. We travelled to Oakland, the epicenter of this debate and home of Oaksterdam University. Oaksterdam offers courses in everything from growing marijuana, to extracting the THC, the “active” ingredient in the plant. And they do all of this legally under the medical marijuana law, or Prop 215.

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Above: Richard Lee co-authored Prop19 and founded Oaksterdam University in Oakland, CA. He believes police spend too much time looking for small-time pot-smokers, rather than serious criminals.

The university is the brainchild of Richard Lee, who also happens to be one of the authors of Prop 19. And just before you think Oaksterdam is not a place to be taken seriously, consider this: in just three years it’s enrolled 12,000 students and collected $1.5 million in tuition.

Lee told KPBS he believes cannabis, or marijuana, is less dangerous than alcohol. He says police waste too much time looking for small-time marijuana users rather than arresting serious criminals.

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Above: Chris Smith, operates the 40Acres Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Berkeley, CA. He's not sure Prop 19 would be good for his business.

The city of Oakland seems to agree – it voted unanimously to support legalizing pot and is paving the way through local legislation to become the center for large-scale marijuana production.

While up north, we also met Chris Smith, who operates an unlicensed medical marijuana cooperative. Smith rolled a jointed, then smoked it with his co-workers while he told us he thought legalizing marijuana would be bad for his business.

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.

Throughout our reporting over the next several weeks, you’ll meet people on both sides of the debate. We’ll give you the facts about who’s in prison for marijuana convictions, and you’ll hear what authorities have to say about how legalizing pot in California could affect the drug war in Mexico. We’ll also put the county’s elected officials on the record about where they stand on Prop 19. And we’ll tell you how legalizing pot could affect the state’s and local governments' finances. The common thread in this debate on both sides is money - who stands to lose and who stands to gain.

Chris Smith put it best when he told us Prop 19 has everyone scrambling “like crabs in a bucket” to either maintain or gain a financial foothold in a $14 billion industry.

Most importantly, we want to hear from you as we report these stories. You can take our poll, upload a video, or leave a comment.

You could also end up in our TV Special, The Marijuana State, Oct 19th, at 9pm.

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Avatar for user 'Leonard Krivitsky'

Leonard Krivitsky | September 20, 2010 at 1:52 p.m. ― 6 years, 6 months ago

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. 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, Mr. Kerlikowske? 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, especially after we realized that "abstinence" may not be one of the viable choices! And Cannabis is, without a shadow of a doubt, a much safer choice than alcohol, hard drugs or dangerous, physically addictive prescription drugs, such as opiate pain pills! 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. People have written to me many times, relating how Cannabis helps them to stay away from alcohol, cocaine, "meth" and benzodiazepines. For some reason, these four drugs are especially prominent when it comes to an "exit substance" function of Cannabis. 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. Mr. Kerlikowske, be very happy that the cocaine abuse rate is dropping. Do 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! Please check these numbers for yourselves, by all means. Mr. Kerlikowske, it is time to give up "dogma" 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!

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Avatar for user 'smiles2u'

smiles2u | September 20, 2010 at 2:23 p.m. ― 6 years, 6 months ago

Great info Dr. K.... As far as the gateway drug theory, having been 18 years old and scoring marijuana in a black market. I can tell you that the reason people call it a gateway drug is because the drug dealers sell hard drugs along side the marijuana.

My first exposure to 'hard drugs' was through someone who sold marijuana as well.

If we remove cannabis from the black market you won't have these creeps (that don't care what they sell) pushing seriously addictive harmful drugs to our youth.

Youth and cannabis go hand in hand the drug war hasn't stopped that. If people really "Care about the Children" remove cannabis from the black market to further the distance of hard drugs from 'main stream'. Because let's face it... Cannabis is becoming more and more mainstream everyday. As it should be.

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | September 20, 2010 at 3:22 p.m. ― 6 years, 6 months ago

In my opinion Cannabis should be legalized. It's not because I use it, or necessarily advocate using it, but because I think having it illegal creates far more problems than ever the use of it does. Use of the plant does not turn people into raging lunatics, but making it illegal certainly creates an opportunity for criminal organizations. It is simply being pragmatic to allow its use. Locking up otherwise law abiding and taxpaying citizens is a waste of both our police resources and citizenry.

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | September 20, 2010 at 3:49 p.m. ― 6 years, 6 months ago

BTW, that reporter Joanne Faryon is smoking hot. More pictures of her "fine" reporting please. :)~

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Avatar for user 'hboooo'

hboooo | September 20, 2010 at 4:32 p.m. ― 6 years, 6 months ago

@ Randolph
I agree. Use of the plant does not turn people into raging lunatics, but making it illegal certainly creates an opportunity for criminal organizations.

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Avatar for user 'sprout'

sprout | September 20, 2010 at 7:27 p.m. ― 6 years, 6 months ago

I love the gateway theory its about having something you can lean on when your completely clueless as why people change up from one drug to another.
Here are some reasons why people use multiple substances.
#1. Drug Dealers are great salesmen, a store selling pot will not offer you other drugs like cocaine etc.
#2. Marijuana will not gradually increase your high as you smoke, it just kinda just levels out after a few tokes, some people just want more than what pot has to offer, but in no way dose pot cause cravings for another drug.
#3. Another drug was passed around at a party, whats that got to do with pot!!, Gateway! are we laughing yet.
#4. Some people just prefer a different kinda high, physical uppers, downers, mental uppers, downers etc.
#5. Friends share with you.
Now heres the real gateway theory!
You got hooked on a prescription drug like codine, morphine etc and its not working anymore so you turn to street narcotics like heroin to help make you feel better.
Stop comparing Marijuana to Meth and Cocaine, Marijuana is natural and all the others are processed to form a drug, stop confussing the issue! the only reason Marijuana leads to more potent drugs are because the dealers are great salesmen.

just vote yes on 19

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Avatar for user 'sprout'

sprout | September 20, 2010 at 7:34 p.m. ― 6 years, 6 months ago

If we vote no on PROP 19 all of the users of Marijuana will more than likely obtain medical marijuana recommendation cards and will use the product anyway. If that happens it will continue to support illegal growing and importing of marijuana and there will be no conrol or taxes generated from its use.

Please understand 1 thing, Pot is sold at every street corner now, if prop 19 is approved Marijuana will be completely controlled and handled in a safer manner including quality control, prices will be more realistic and in turn the illegal importing will cease to exist.

The Dispenseries have spent money to setup the medical marijuana collectives therefore they have everything to lose if Prop 19 is approved, Remove all the scammers and peddlers vote yes and allow the state to protect the minors and keep some cash in this country for our future.


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Avatar for user 'brixsy'

brixsy | September 20, 2010 at 10:48 p.m. ― 6 years, 6 months ago

I have heard that the bill was badly written. However, this could just be BS from the alcohol and prison industry. They are working hard to stop this from passing. However, the momentum could be with us this round. This is a social issue and govt' needs to stop mandating what people do with their own bodies. Let's pass this, keep people out of jail, and get some more tax inflow.

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Avatar for user 'rupertsmom'

rupertsmom | September 22, 2010 at 1:01 p.m. ― 6 years, 6 months ago

What has USA not learned from Prohibition? Sure, let's keep organized crime going strong and keep marijuana illegal.

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Avatar for user 'princess'

princess | October 6, 2010 at 8:13 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Although I agree in concept with the idea that keeping it illegal causes legal problems, it is incorrect to think it is not addictive in some manner - having known and lived with chronic pot smokers, when they do not have it for some time they do become very irritable and show the other signs associated with anyone trying to quit any addiction. In addition, it is never a good idea to breathe smoke of any kind into your lungs. Seems obvious to me, but apparently not to anyone else!
More importantly to me and to the health of myself and others, is that I cannot be around the smoke - I develop asthmatic symptoms and get nauseated. In addition, those who do not wish to be high should not have to be around it - so if people want to make it legal, make it legal to ingest, not smoke - that way it does not affect others as much. How many times I have walked around in certain areas of San Diego and caught the whiffs from houses or apartments and then felt ill, I cannot tell you. And it is not fair for parents to have to try to figure out where to walk with their children in order to keep them from getting high or having an asthmatic attack.
And let us not forget employers. There are many jobs that, if anyone is the least bit intoxicated from anything, become much mroe dangerous. There need to be checks in place that allow employers to NOT hire people who smoke pot, or to be able to test and fire those who have a level in their system that is considered too high to safely work - just as there are for alcohol levels in the blood.
And let us also think about driving while under the influence. The effects of pot last a long time - much longer than a glass of wine at dinner. If too much has been smoked the prior night, those people should not be driving the next day.
So ALL the societal problems need to be considered, not just the economic and legal issues mentioned above. People are not educated on the length of time pot can affect their motor skills and reflexes. In addition, there is only one reason to smoke pot - and that is to get high (excluding medical use of course). There are other reasons to have a glass of wine or a beer. To treat getting high any differently from getting drunk will cause more on-the-job and on-the-road accidents and fatalities.
If this law were to also provide for education of employers and education of users to ensure these things do not increase, and if the law had very strict restrictions on where it can be smoked (versus ingested) so that others just walking down the street are not adversely affected, I would vote yes. But I have to think about my health too - and I would like to be able to walk down the street without having difficulty breathing. It has been so nice to see a decrease in smoking - to have it replaced with another health hazard is not something I want to see.

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Avatar for user 'marlyn'

marlyn | October 12, 2010 at 11:48 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

It is important to point out that it is the pot users that have spent the money to get enough signatures on the ballot. Obviously, a lot of people smoke pot in California. However, many more do not. Legalizing it will only increase the perception by our youth and adults that maybe it isn't such a harmful substance. "It's only like having a can of beer," the argument goes. The research does NOT substantiate that. Anyone who has been involved with drug addiction and/or know people who use but are not users themselves understand that using marijuana affects the brain and body. What many may not know or don't want to know is that the potency of MJ's THC has increased significantly over the years and has become much more addictive. I hope when KPBS does their discussion on the 19th that whoever is editing the content does their homework about the true consequences of what legalizing MJ will have on our community. You need to look at Amsterdam, not Oaksterdam, to see what our future could be!

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