#454 Prop. 19 – End Marijuana Prohibition, Vote Yes



DrugSense FOCUS Alert #454 – Monday, September 20th, 2010

Syndicated columnist Debra Saunders summarizes the issues well in the
column below.

Please encourage your local newspapers to carry this column.

Newspaper editors will know how to pick up the column from Creators
Syndicate http://www.creators.com/opinion/debra-saunders.html


Pubdate: Sun, 19 Sep 2010

Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)

Copyright: 2010 Creators Syndicate

Contact: http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle/submissions/#1

Author: Debra J. Saunders


“In almost every respect imaginable, Prohibition was a failure,”
former New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent concluded at the
close of his new book, “Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.”
“It encouraged criminality and institutionalized hypocrisy. It
deprived the government of revenue, stripped the gears of the
political system, and proposed profound limitations on individual rights.”

America’s laws against marijuana have had similar effect. About 40
percent of Americans have tried the weed. In March, the Partnership
for a Drug Free America reported that 38 percent of ninth-through
12th-graders studied in 2009 reported consuming marijuana in the past month.

The last three presidents opposed legalizing marijuana, even though
President Obama says he smoked marijuana, George W. Bush hinted that
he did and Bill Clinton said he did not inhale. Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger inhaled on camera – and the most he’ll say now is that
it is “time for a debate” on Proposition 19, the November ballot
measure that would legalize marijuana under state (but not federal) law.

In 2005, Harvard economist Jeffrey A. Miron looked at the cost of
marijuana prohibition. He estimated that legalizing and taxing
marijuana would yield $6.2 billion in annual tax revenue nationally –
assuming that governments levied taxes comparable to alcohol and
tobacco taxes. In addition, the federal government would save $2.4
billion, while state and local governments would save $5.3 billion on

Miron has argued that usage rates would not necessarily rise if
marijuana is legal. I think usage will go up; even proponents admit
that Prop. 19’s passage probably would lower the cost. There is no
way to sugarcoat the possibility that, despite bill language that
legalizes possession only for adults 21 years old or older, some
teens may find it easier to get pot. And that is not a good thing.

On the other hand, it’s not as if prohibition has put a dent in teen
usage. The same survey that found that found 38 percent of high
school students had used marijuana found that 39 percent consumed
alcohol in the past month.

Okrent believes that legalizing and regulating marijuana could make
it harder for young teens to get. The repeal of Prohibition – with
closing hours, age limits and government’s ability to shutter
violators – “made it harder, not easier, to get a drink.”

Pleasant Hill Police Chief Pete Dunbar told The Chronicle Editorial
Board that the violence associated with the marijuana trade makes it
“the most dangerous drug” of all. Hence his opposition to Prop. 19.

But the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition includes a growing
number of former cops and prosecutors who support Prop. 19 because
they want to starve criminal enterprises.

Stephen Downing, a former Los Angeles Police Department deputy chief,
likened drug gangs to a starfish – cut off one limb, and they grow
another. “If you take away 60 percent of the cartels’ traffic, it
will have a real impact on their profits,” Downing told me.

“California’s No. 1 cash crop is marijuana,” he added. California
growers, under regulation and paying taxes, could squeeze Mexican
cartels out of the trade.

Downing told me he sees it as his “patriotic duty” to fight for Prop. 19.

Dunbar called the measure “too loosey-goosey.” Prop. 19 leaves it to
local governments to decide if they want to regulate and tax the
production and sale of marijuana – and that means different laws for
different locales.

But as attorney James Wheaton, who wrote the measure, explained,
“Oakland is going to have completely different issues than Humboldt
County.” Communities that want to ban the sale of marijuana will be
free to do so.

When I was younger, I knew kids who started using drugs and never
reached their full potential.

Today, I have a lot of successful friends who used marijuana when
they were younger, are glad they never were arrested, but say they
will vote against Prop. 19 because they don’t want to send the wrong
message. In part, I think, they want the government to do their
parenting for them. But it’s wrong to criminalize behavior –
possession of up to an ounce of (nonmedical) marijuana remains a
misdemeanor in California – to send a message. You criminalize
behavior that threatens public safety. While marijuana use can
threaten public safety, in every way, laws against marijuana enrich
criminal cartels.

What is the benefit? To decrease the chance of kids using drugs – by
what, 1 percent? – the public for years has backed laws that fuel
criminal practices.

Two years before repeal of Prohibition, smart people were convinced
that Prohibition would never be overturned. Its author proclaimed
that there was as much chance of repealing the 18th Amendment as
there was for a hummingbird to fly to Mars “with the Washington
Monument tied to its tail.”

Okrent told me he didn’t know he was for Prop. 19 until he started
promoting his book. “People are going to consume this stuff,” he told me.

It’s just that simple. That’s why the law doesn’t work.


Prepared by: Richard Lake, Focus Alert Specialist www.mapinc.org

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