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Do You Want To Legalize Pot In CA?

Marijuana grown and harvested at Oaksterdam University in Oakland, CA.
Christopher Maue
Marijuana grown and harvested at Oaksterdam University in Oakland, CA.
Should Pot Be Legal?

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.

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.

Richard Lee

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.

Chris Smith

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.