Why Prop. 19 is so important
Proposition 19, formally known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, will be on the California state ballot on November 2nd. Prop. 19 will legalize marijuana for personal consumption in small quantities, and allow the government to levy a tax and enact provisions to protect our nation’s youth against drug dealers who do not abide by any age restrictions.
Anti-Prop. 19 groups, which purport to regulate morality, have shamelessly spread massive amounts of misinformation, although we cannot say this was unexpected. While I am not a California resident, nor do I drink or smoke marijuana, this is a topic which our lawmakers have cunningly avoided since the apparent failure of the so-called War on Drugs, which would more aptly be described as a war on Americans.
Who Are The Current Profiteers?
Among the current profiteers of marijuana are various criminal enterprises in the United States, and most notably the Mexican drug cartels. According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, roughly 60% of drug cartel revenue comes from selling marijuana in the United States. The FBI and DEA confirmed this figure in Senate testimony earlier this year.
2006-Present: 28,000+ Dead = Success?
Over 28,000 people have died in drug-related violence since Mexican President Felipe Calderon began his own version of the war on drugs in Mexico. This same man had the nerve to call his war on drugs a “success,” despite recognizing that there did not appear to be any positive change in the export of drugs to the United States.
Since the start of the Mexican war on drugs, 30 journalists have been killed. As a result, journalists will not give the drug cartels any negative press for fear of reprisal.
After two journalists from El Diario were killed, the newspaper decided to declare the cartels the “de facto authority in the city.” Perhaps, the word chosen by President Calderon to describe the Mexican war on drugs was too strong. Reality tells us that Calderon’s drug policies, like those in the U.S., have undoubtedly failed.
Myth: Law Enforcement Doesn’t Focus on Simple Possession
In an L.A. Times opinion piece linked from the Office of National Drug Control Policy web site, the writer states,
Law enforcement officers do not currently focus much effort on arresting adults whose only crime is possession of marijuana.
Simply stated, the statistics do not back up this claim. From 1980 to 2009, the number of marijuana arrests more than doubled. In 2009, over 88% of those arrests were solely for simple possession. Marijuana arrests account for more than 50% of the total drug arrests.
$40 Billion Dollars of Pride & Our Flailing Economy
Supporters of Prop. 19 often cite the possible revenue stream resulting from the taxation of marijuana; however, this is only one piece of the economic puzzle. Each year, we spend roughly $40 billion dollars on enforcing failed drug policy, in addition to the enormous cost of maintaining the world’s largest prison population. Not only will Californians gain tax revenue via the legalization of marijuana, but the overall size of government and its associated costs will be reduced.
Individuals in positions of power, who are directly involved in the failed war on drugs, have a vested interest to keep our current draconian drug policy on the books. There are also many privately owned prisons, whose investors have a stake in this embarrassing system of laws. From 1980 to 2006, our prison population skyrocketed from less than 500,000 to nearly 2.5 million.
Gil Kerlikowske, the current Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, refuses to allow expert advice from social scientists, drug addiction specialists, and doctors to have any bearing on our policies. When Daniel Pacheco, a Georgetown University student and member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, presented Kerlikowske with a petition consisting of 52,000 signatures, Kerlikowske deflected the will of the American citizenry without any consideration, and instead focused on a single statistic.
The Gateway Drug Myth
Misinformation regarding the gateway drug myth has spread like wildfire, and is even taught in public schools. The gateway drug theory probably started when surveyors found that many hard drug users also experimented with marijuana; however, there is no physiological, psychological, or physical function that can be used to reliably link cannabis to any semblance of a gateway theory. Although science has debunked the gateway drug theory numerous times, typically caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol use occurs prior to any illicit drug use.
A 12-year University of Pittsburgh study found that the probability that someone will transition to harder drugs is not determined by preceding use of a specific drug, but by the individual and environment. The Centre for Economic Policy Research in London, Tilburg University in the Netherlands, and four surveys carried out in Amsterdam over ten years also found that cannabis does not cause a progression into harder drugs.
Tobacco vs. Alcohol vs. Marijuana
In 2004, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study, which found the top causes of death in 2000 were related to tobacco, poor diet, and alcohol.
- Tobacco – 435,000 deaths
- Poor Diet & Physical Inactivity – 365,000
- Alcohol – 85,000
How many deaths did marijuana cause? 0. Zip. None.
There are numerous studies that prove America’s two favorite licit substances—alcohol and tobacco—are much more dangerous than marijuana.
- Roughly 3 million violent crimes occur which involve alcohol
- 2/3 of victims who suffered violence at the hands of a significant other reportedly involved alcohol
- 72% of college rapes occurred when the female was too intoxicated by alcohol
- Odds of male-to-female physical aggression 8-11 times higher on days when men drank
- Read more at saferchoice.org…
- No reports of lung cancer related solely to marijuana
- Heavy tobacco use causes obstruction of the lung’s small airway, whereas marijuana does not
- Marijuana has widely accepted medicinal value and is very versatile, whereas tobacco…kills people
- Read more at drugpolicy.org…
A Failed Social Experiment
The United States took a stab at alcohol prohibition from 1920-1933 via the United States Constitution. Almost immediately following the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment, which outlawed alcohol, speakeasy clubs sprung up all over, effectively creating a black market and handing alcohol sales over to organized crime. During this time, our government poisoned industrial alcohol in an attempt to curb usage by scaring the American public, causing an estimated 10,000 deaths. Because of the illicit drug market created by prohibition, the government could not regulate the production of alcohol, and sometimes people became ill after drinking bootlegged whiskies. The current lack of regulation over marijuana puts individuals at risk in the same way. After 13 long years, instead of grasping onto failed policies, the United States government accepted the outcome of this failed social experiment, and ratified the Twenty-first Amendment, repealing the prohibition of alcohol.
Drug Education “Does Not Work”
Many schools utilize the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program to educate students about drugs and drug abuse. DARE swears by abstinence, which is largely irresponsible, especially considering 50% of 12th grade students report using illegal drugs at least once. Harm reduction is an equally important response, and can serve to prevent overdose deaths, if implemented.
The DARE program is always taught by a police officer, who addiction specialists would undoubtedly consider unqualified. Interestingly, studies have shown that drug use among DARE students often remains stagnant, or increases. In 2001, the Surgeon General placed DARE in the “Does Not Work” category.
Anecdotal evidence reveals that there is a general feeling distrust among students partly due to the lack of a distinction between the soft (marijuana, caffeine) and hard drugs (heroin, cocaine).
If the reason marijuana must remain illegal is due to the potential harmful health effects, then we must reevaluate our current stance toward alcohol and tobacco. Further, if this same stance is of the utmost importance to our lawmakers and law enforcement, why are guns so loosely controlled?
Our hypocrisy has not encouraged healthy living, nor has it created a better society. American drug laws are a step toward authoritarianism, and have made citizens into criminals. Although most marijuana users are not addicts, for those who habitually smoke, our laws have criminalized a medical problem. While the Obama administration has loosened up enforcement pertaining to medical marijuana dispensaries, there is still work to be done.
Our drug laws do not protect the citizenry, but instead attempt to regulate morality. It is quite clear that alcohol and tobacco cause more health concerns than marijuana, and yet we fine and jail marijuana smokers, while at the same time letting people smoke until they lose a lung or need oxygen to breathe. We watch 4,000 people die per year as a result of alcohol poisoning, when on the other hand, there is not one confirmed death from a marijuana overdose.
We need relief from this failed social experiment. Anti-Prop. 19 groups focus solely on the emotional aspect of this struggle, which has so clearly been created by misinformation. When the benefits of marijuana legalization so clearly outweigh any perceived threats, it is time for change. This is why Proposition 19 is so important.
Pro-Proposition 19 Organizations
- Yes on Prop 19
- Drug Policy Alliance
- Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
- National Black Police Association
- Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
- United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)
- View more at yeson19.com…
 Department of Justice. Crime in the United States 2009
 The Informant. Proposition 19: Marijuana by the numbers
 The Huffington Post. Drug Czar Confronted At Press Conference (Video)
 Los Angeles Times. Why California should just say no to Prop. 19
 Reuters. Einstein, insanity and the war on drugs
 Wikipedia. U.S. incarceration timeline
 The Associated Press. AP Interview: Calderon sees a drug war success
 PBS NewsHour. Mexico’s Drug War Putting Reporters, Journalism in the Crosshairs
 Drug War Facts. Annual Causes of Death in the United States
 SaferChoice.org. Facts on Cannabis and Alcohol
 Drug Policy Alliance. Myths and Facts About Marijuana
 Wikipedia. Prohibition in the United States
 United States Surgeon General. Ineffective Primary Prevention Programs
 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Youth & Generation X Planner, Alcohol Poisoning
 Science Blog. Study says marijuana no gateway drug
 DrugScience.org. Marijuana Research: Marijuana as a Gateway Drug
 Slate.com. The little-told story of how the U.S. government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition