By Nikki Broderick '14Staff Writer
On Nov. 2, 2010, the state of California will vote for the legalization of marijuana for personal use for adults over 21. Marijuana use will not be allowed in public spaces and users who provide the drug to minors will have strict consequences, including three to five years in jail for those who provide marijuana to those younger than 14 years old.
Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996 by Proposition 215, and is one of 13 states that have passed such a proposition. However, this ballot would make personal marijuana use legal for those not suffering from chronic pain or suffering. Although marijuana possession and use would still be illegal under federal law, it would be legal under the state constitution of California.
I say let it pass.
As a state, we’re broke. California’s debt totals nearly 88 billion dollars, and it isn’t going away any time soon. If marijuana were legalized, local governments could regulate and tax the sale of it to generate revenue. This legalization would also save billions of dollars by reducing the number of nonviolent prisoners in California’s state prisons. Last year, 61,000 marijuana users in California were arrested while 60,000 violent crimes were left unsolved. By redirecting resources away from recreational marijuana use that poses no violent threat, police officers would be able to focus on hard crime.
It does seem odd that to finance some of the most important gaps in our budget—education, for example—we have to legalize a drug. Then again, cigarettes and alcohol are legal to adults, both of which have more damaging effects to health than marijuana does. Marijuana also does not cause its users to become violent. Put a hundred people who are high in a room and what would happen? Nothing. They would probably sit around in a relaxed stupor. Put a hundred drunken people in a room? I think that’s the definition of a bar fight.
Let me be clear: I don’t smoke pot and have no desire to. But why should the government be allowed to stop someone from smoking pot when they are allowed to drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes legally? People are going to smoke pot, whether or not it is legal. It makes the most sense to regulate, tax and control this substance instead of watching a failed prohibition system flourish while our state spirals deeper and deeper into debt.
For more information on Proposition 19 or anything else on the ballot, visit California's Voter Information site here.