UP IN SMOKE: Cali Ballot Battle Too Close To Call


WASHINGTON POST: For those who have long argued that smoking marijuana should not be a crime, a potentially historic turning point is just weeks away. Voters in California will decide Nov. 2 whether to make their state the first to legalize the growing, selling and recreational use of marijuana. And polls here – the nation’s most populous state – suggest that residents are about evenly split on the issue. Proposition 19, as it is known, would take away criminal penalties for people 21 and older for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. MORE

WASHINGTON POST: As the Obama administration presses Mexican President Felipe Calderon to stand firm in his costly, bloody military campaign against drug mafias, Mexican leaders are increasingly asking why their country should continue to attack cannabis traffickers and peasant pot farmers if the U.S. government is barely enforcing federal marijuana laws in the most populous state. This debate grows more urgent as California prepares to vote in November on Proposition 19, a game-changing ballot initiative to legalize the recreational consumption of marijuana. According to the polls, the vote is tight. Weary of spectacular violence and destabilizing corruption stoked by the prohibition against pot, some of Mexico’s most prominent figures are wondering aloud what legalization would do on their side of the drug war. Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, a rancher and a free-market conservative, said last month that cannabis should be legal in his country. “The sales could be taxed, with high taxes, as we do with tobacco, to be used to fight addiction and reduce consumption,” he said. MORE

RELATED: The primary mission of the police is to protect life and property by reducing crime. By passing Proposition 19 this November, voters can help themselves and the police by instantly preventing between 40 million and 208 million crimes a year in California. In comparison to marijuana crimes, the number of murders, robberies, rapes, burglaries, and aggravated assaults total fewer than half a million combined. Voters can achieve these massive crime reductions without any costly new programs. By passing an act to control, regulate and tax marijuana, the election will actually significantly reduce police and criminal justice spending. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst, Proposition 19 will also increase tax revenues by $1.2 billion by taxing marijuana, which currently escapes taxation because it is illegal. Marijuana crimes are only recorded when the police make an arrest or seizure, and marijuana use can only be estimated by research. Estimates by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that between one-tenth and one-third of the population in California uses marijuana; a staggering ballpark figure of between 3.8 million and 12.5 million people. The estimates may be low because marijuana use is consensual, unlike murder, robbery, rape, burglary, stalking and assault, where victims or witnesses alert the police. Using an estimate of 4 million marijuana users — on the extremely low end of the scale — if the individuals used marijuana only twice a week, it could amount to as many as 208 million marijuana crimes per year. MORE

RELATED: Should it be approved by voters in November, the Tax, Regulate and Control Cannabis Act of 2010 – also known as Proposition 19 – would do many things. It would allow adults 21 and over to possess small amounts of cannabis, it would allow law enforcement to pursue new penalties against adults providing pot to minors, and it would splinter the already-fractious cannabis legalization movement (the latter’s already done-and-done) But something it won’t do? Legalize cannabis. Not once does the word “legalize” appear in the text of the ballot measure submitted to the Attorney General a year ago. Not once does the word “legalize” appear on the Yes on 19 website. Some might call this semantics, but it’s significant — and deliberate. “We wanted to stay away from the L-word,” said ballot co-sponsor Jeff Jones, when he spoke at at a recent Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club meeting in San Francisco. Any act lessening criminal penalties on marijuana use and cultivation was bound to be contentious enough, Jones said, so stepping back from full-blown legalization was a strategic move. Does Proposition 19 make cannabis legal — like alcohol, like cigarettes, like tomatoes, candy, or baseball cards? Yes and no. There will be strict limits on how much cannabis an adult can possess or cultivate, with a gram one way or the other providing the difference between legality and jail. MORE


NEWSWEEK: The argument against Proposition 19, the California ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana, goes something like this: if the initiative were to pass, it would create a world where lackadaisical employees would show up to work with bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. In between responding to e-mails, operating machinery, or planning a classroom lecture, they could take a quick break—poking their heads out the closest door or window to light up, inhaling the sweet smoke of California skunk, without any consequences. Out on the streets, intoxicated drivers would weave in and out of Southern California palm trees, and the smell of cannabis would seep from local apartment complexes, where new dealers would be growing stock. Marijuana would slowly begin showing up in schoolyards where it wasn’t already; at parties, too. Ultimately, it would be a gateway drug to much, much worse. It’s a haze-ridden portrait that opponents of the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act, which is inching toward a a statewide vote this fall, are doing everything in their power to make sure voters see. Their official argument, to be distributed to polling stations come November, warns that the measure will increase intoxicated driving, that schoolbus operators could arrive to bus stops already high, or that employers who let staffers sell candy bars at work would suddenly have to let them sell dope, too. To convolute things further, the California Chamber of Commerce issued a report last week suggesting that—should the measure pass—local businesses would be required to pay for marijuana-related accidents through workers’ comp, and that employers would have to permit employees to smoke pot in the office. MORE

RELATED: People with serious chronic diseases who want to participate in the New Jersey’s medical marijuana program may be able to sign up for a patient registry within the next four to six weeks, an advocacy group leader said today. Speaking to about 75 prospective patients, legal advocates and aspiring marijuana merchants at the State Museum in Trenton, Chris Goldstein of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey said state health officials are now “actively working” on launching the patient registry after initial delays. MORE

RELATED: Medical cannabis legislation is active in PA and residents continue to show strong support. New polling conducted by Franklin & Marshall College saw a full 80% of respondents ‘Strongly Favor’ (53%) and ‘Somewhat Favor’ (27%) legal medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. The poll was conducted from May 3-9 and included 1,023 residents of the Commonwealth. MORE

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