Maynard ponders

On our California ballot is Prop. 19, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. In essence, it legalizes marijuana for private consumption. Should I favor or oppose this measure?

I’m not a fan of marijuana, and I don’t use it. I do, however, partake in medicinal ethanol. I observe that pot makes people stupid, whereas ethanol makes me smarter. (Don’t make me prove this.)

But that’s not the right way to look at it. The essential question is whether there’s a compelling state interest in banning marijuana. And let’s also ask the practical question of whether the laws against marijuana accomplish the intended effect, or whether they do more harm than good.

I’m uncertain. My semi-libertarian leanings tilt me toward regarding marijuana as a personal vice rather than a matter justifying state intervention. But I’d support an employer’s right to refuse to hire potheads, or other social postures that discourage marijuana use.

The other day, Drudge linked this article indicating the proposition was failing.

Voters plan to oppose a measure on the Nov. 2 ballot to legalize marijuana use by 53 percent to 43 percent, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday…

…Democrats support marijuana legalization and outnumber Republicans in the state, Republicans are more consistent in their opposition. Democrats support legalization 54 percent to 45 percent, but Republicans are against it more than two to one, at or 66 percent to 30 percent. Independents are nearly evenly divided.

This Economist article offers additional comments and charts of demographic and ethnic support.

Voters, meanwhile, seem split. One poll has Proposition 19 winning narrowly, another shows a small plurality against it. To nobody’s surprise, voters in the liberal counties round San Rafael, Oaksterdam and San Francisco clamor for legalization while those in the inland counties abhor it.

Perhaps more surprisingly, most blacks and Latinos are also against it. And yet blacks are arrested for marijuana possession at twice, three times or even four times the rate of whites in every major county of California, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, a lobby that wants to end America’s war on drugs. This seems especially unfair, because young blacks actually smoke marijuana less than young whites. Alice Huffman, the leader in California of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, America’s most influential civil-rights lobby, is for legalization because she considers the existing laws “the latest tool for imposing Jim Crow justice on poor African-Americans”.

The debate tends to lose focus as it gains heat, because nobody quite knows what legalization would lead to. So the RAND Corporation, a think-tank in Santa Monica, has bravely tried to project some effects.

What would legalization lead to? Great question! Perhaps we can find something of an answer by looking to Alaska. Did you know that Alaska has already effectively legalized marijuana? See article:

For 35 years, it’s been virtually legal in Alaska, with its fierce frontier mentality, to smoke marijuana at home and grow small amounts there — currently up to 1 ounce — just as proposed in California’s Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act.

It’s the most liberal pot policy in the nation, made that way under a 1975 Alaska Supreme Court ruling that said that what a person does in his home is protected under an unusually strong privacy provision in the state’s Constitution.

The ruling affirmed that anything that isn’t harmful can be done at home without official interference, and the justices decided that cultivating small amounts of cannabis was harmless.

I wonder (and this is a serious question) what Sarah Palin has to say about this. As governor, she had to deal with the consequences of the de facto legalization. What were her observations and recommendations?

Interestingly, attempts to actually codify the legalization of marijuana in Alaska have failed. In 2004, a ballot initiative went down with 56% voting “No”. So marijuana isn’t exactly legal in Alaska; it’s more of something of a gray area. But the general idea is, what you do in your home is nobody’s business.

This report gives the impression that Alaska hasn’t changed significantly as a result of the 1975 ruling. Maybe a similar law in California would likewise leave us pretty much the same. After all, it’s not as if marijuana is hard to get now. Then again, maybe California’s in-your-face flamboyance would take legalized marijuana and turn this state into something of an endless parade of public stupefaction. We might become a magnet for every zombie and wannabe zombie in the nation. But would that really be a change from what we already are?

Meanwhile, Mexican President Calderon is complaining about the hypocrisy of a U.S. drug policy that punishes foreign producers while (if Prop. 19 were to pass) encouraging local indulgence. This is indeed a factor to consider, although I don’t think it’s the deciding factor.

One of the biggest problems with the drug trade, aside from the drugs themselves, is that it funds the operations of some of the most evil and violent people on Earth. I wonder whether the drug lords and terrorists have taken a position on Prop. 19?

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10 Comments | Leave a comment
  1. tamcat says:

    To legalize or not legalize. For me it is a no brainer. I have read the scientific opinions and everyone else’s opinion on legalization, health benefits, and harm.
    I smoked marijuana for 30 years. It is a drug. Less side effects than pharmaceuticals, but still a mind altering drug. It ruins families like hard drugs can. In more ways than some may know. I have lived it. So any reason to legalized it better be for medicinal purposes for my vote. California is over the top on this issue. Let the state (I grew up there) find revenue elsewhere. Cannabis is a good medicine, but they don’t call it “Dope” for nothin’.

    • Maynard says:

      Fair enough. But you say you were on the stuff for 30 years, and the existing structure obviously didn’t deter or prevent your habit. I’m aware of the dangers of saying that the current situation is unacceptably bad, so it’s okay to try a radical change — that’s how we get someone like Obama as president, making a bigger mess than ever. That’s why I’m not a knee-jerk advocate of “change”, but nevertheless noting that we’re failing to help our people steer clear of this pitfall, and asking whether maybe there’s something fundamentally wrong in our current approach.

  2. echosierra says:

    I would believe it’s medicinal if I didn’t know so many people who don’t suffer any more of the same daily aches and pains that I do, who are going to the medical pot store every day. These stores have become de facto distribution centers and many of these people are supplementing their incomes by reselling the dope. Also, it’s still a carcinogen if you smoke it. If it’s medicine, put it in a capsule and distribute it from pharmacies.

  3. Conservatarian says:

    One potential upside – maybe the Liberal Dopers would be too stoned to go vote. But seriously, I would be okay with legalizing small amounts of MJ for personal use from the personal responsibility Libertarian viewpoint. Alcohol is abused, prescription drugs are abused, food is abused, cigarettes, etc – so I don’t give much credit to the abuse angle. It would free up the Cops and Courts for more serious offenses. I would really crack down on drug trafficking though, that’s where you get the bang for your buck (dare I say, control the border). Also we are missing out on some great industrial applications of MJ because visibly you can’t tell the difference between a MJ dope crop and a MJ industrial crop.

  4. aardvark says:

    It is a diversionary tactic to further dumb down and control the m-asses AND to take MORE of the people’s money; bread and circuses. Oppose.
    PS: I escaped from Calif. in 1974, though I still have family there.

    And to Conservatarian (I probably are close to one too):
    Legalize a little and they’ll just take more. There is no “freeing up cops” on this one, I’m afraid. There will only be MORE stoned driving and other bad behavior.

  5. MACVEL says:

    Consider the drug cartels who could use this stellar law to branch out into the US and put us in the same grip as our southern neighbors. We need to apply the Bruce Rule here.

  6. Conservatarian says:

    Yea it will reduce the load on the courts and law enforcement, I know what I’m talking about – former State Crime Lab Forensic Chemist in the area of Drug Chemistry, taught MJ identification to officers at the State Public Safety Training Center. I sat in court plenty of hours waiting to testify on a couple of joints, not to mention the hours and resources in analysis for those that pled out.

    I don’t think bad behavior is a valid argument by applying it to things selectively. It doesn’t really matter to me though, there are things much more important than this, but it is a big waste of time, money and resources. Money, I would rather have in my pocket or diverted to education. If government is involved it will get messed up anyway.

  7. Jerthebear says:

    How would we know if more people smoke pot in California? Look who the voters have put into power over the last 20 years and where those leaders have taken the state. They vote stoned now, give`m all free dope, then the 2012 election switch all the “PULL” stickers to “PUSH” stickers on the doors leading into the voting locations, the states liberal agenda will end. AND, why is numb and stupid better than clean and sober in California?

  8. thierry says:

    you can never truly protect people from their excesses- be it drink, drugs, or french fries and super sized fast food meals. you can just stop them when it causes them to criminally harm others. prohibition manipulated selectively by government never works and drives the sellers and the users into criminal associations that are truly destructive and malignant- growing only more powerful and rich in the shadows.

    my father was a drug dealer and my grandfather who raised me was a cop so i guess i have an unusual perspective on this. i’ve taken an array of illegal drugs but do not have an addictive personality. most people with drug problems, addictions, are self medicating over real issues and problems. alcohol is legal. it’s a drug. it also causes untold misery and costs society , impacts the quality of many people’s lives. i do not see how alcohol is less dangerous and less destructive than pot. i’d rather be around lazy air headed vipers than angry mean drunks.

    we’re wasting our time on the one and two joint busts while foreign and home grown gangs are controlling entire cities peddling far more dangerous drugs while assassinating one another on the streets. we’ve got bigger problems-perhaps enforcing our borders and deporting illegal gang members and felons might make us safer rather than running cheech and chong down.

    the mexican drug cartels are already here- as are the colombian ones and el salvadorian ones- so the idea that legal maryjane is going to turn us into mexico is absurd. because of the crack down on ‘mom and pop’ meth labs here, most of the meth in the country today comes from mexico. mexico is what it is because of ineffectual and corrupt government and no rule of law not because of the status of a certain drug under law. it’s the illegality of substances and activities like prostitution coupled with lack of rule of law that gives gangs their power and incredible money making potentials. the old school american gangster( and the liberal democrat gangsta new england political dynasty starting with the letter K) was born out of Prohibition. our porous border is the main conduit for all the most dangerous and harmful drugs and humans.

    the ‘war on drugs’ would be won if it was perhaps rather viewed as a war on criminal border crossing. deprived of the american money buying up drugs, the criminals running mexico would be rendered powerless.

    it’s not the substances that can’t be ‘ controlled’; it’s human nature. people will get high any way they can no matter what the consequences. taking marijuana out of the potential control of the most vile criminal elements might not be such a bad idea. most of the people i know who sell pot are not depraved drooling uzi carrying thugs- they’re 60s and 70s hippie throw backs and Rastafarians for which it is a sacrament in their religion- and significantly they do not sell other drugs and are not involved in violent crime. what’s needed is perspective and less nanny state-ism.

  9. Sam Joe says:

    I want there to be strict enforcement of people who are “under the influence” i.e. “high” in public. No getting high in public or in a public place. Employers should be able to discriminate against pot smokers as well. If you are self-employed and do it in the privacy of your own home, have at it.

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