Californians to Vote on Legalization of Non-Medicinal Marijuana

Published by: Frank Galvano on 6th Oct 2010 | View all blogs by Frank Galvano


Californians to Vote on Legalization of Non-Medicinal Marijuana

California became the first state to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in 1996. Since then, 13 states have followed suit. Next month, Californians will vote on Prop 19: the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. If passed, the bill would make California the first state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The bill will also allow financially struggling communities to tax the drug.

While legalization of a drug listed on the FDA's Schedule I may sound like a radical measure to most of the country, a recent poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 52 percent of likely voters support Prop 19, while just 41 percent oppose it. The proposed legislation is polling higher than Senator Barbara Boxer or either gubernatorial candidate, Jerry Brown or Meg Whitman. It has even garnered the support of one of the state's more powerful unions, the Service Employees International Union.

If voters turn down Prop 19, there is not much punch to California marijuana laws, anyway. The state essentially decriminalized possession of the drug over three decades ago, making it a misdemeanor that carries a small fine akin to public intoxication. Then last week Governor Schwarzenegger decriminalized it even further, downgrading possession of under an ounce of marijuana to an infraction, akin to receiving a traffic ticket.

Colorado may follow suit in 2012. There is already a group laying down the ground work for a Prop 19-like referendum to appear on the ballot in that year. And a recent poll showed that 49 percent of the state's resident would support legalization and taxation of pot while just 39 percent would oppose it. The chief cause for the movement towards legalization of weed is economic. A recent study conducted by the libertarian Cato Institute found that allowing cannabis to be a regulated commodity could generate $8.7 billion in tax revenue annually while saving about the same amount in law enforcement budgets.

A number of civil rights group have announced support for Prop 19, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Latino Voters League. 

The main factor for growing support for marijuana legalization, insiders say, is on overall change in attitude. People are simply becoming more skeptical of  the long-held belief that pot is a gateway drug and users inevitably graduate to harder, more dangerous drugs. A study published in the “Journal of Health and Social Behavior” last month found that life factors such as stress and job status were more reliable predictors of whether teenagers would use hard drugs than was previous marijuana use.
 
Many supporters of legalizing pot acknowledge that the drug does have negative effects on health. Their argument concerns the hypocrisy of keeping alcohol, which has well-documented links to fatal car crashes and a host of detrimental health problems, legal while having pot is a crime. The alcohol industry has contributed heavily to anti-Prop 19 campaigns, no doubt from fears that legal weed would cut into sales of beer, wine, and liquor. 

 


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