California’s Proposition 19 and the Legalization of Marijuana

Proposition 19 was the “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010”. The summary of the proposition is to allow Marijuana be decriminalized and available for personal use. The proposition actually failed in California during the voting process in November 2010, as to much surprise of its supporters.

The reasons of its failure to pass could have been the rationale of the majority. I know some supporters of the Act have arguments on why it should pass, but we need to put them on the stand to see whether their claims are true, false or simply misleading (meaning with some truth in it, but not looking at the bigger picture).

Let’s start with the context of Proposition 19, which mostly includes arguments for legalization that imply on Economic and Law Enforcement benefits. Afterwards, we move to the other arguments for its legalization, such as “Health”, medical, resource & energy benefits, etc.

For further reading and reference to my cross-investigation, please read the full context of Proposition 19 in this website.

Dissecting Proposition 19: Findings

  1. California's laws criminalizing cannabis (marijuana) have failed and need to be reformed. Despite spending decades arresting millions of non-violent cannabis consumers, we have failed to control cannabis or reduce its availability.
  2. According to surveys, roughly 100 million Americans (around 1/3 of the country's population) acknowledge that they have used cannabis, 15 million of those Americans having consumed cannabis in the last month. Cannabis consumption is simply a fact of life for a large percentage of Americans.
  3. Despite having some of the strictest cannabis laws in the world, the United States has the largest number of cannabis consumers. The percentage of our citizens who consume cannabis is double that of the percentage of people who consume cannabis in the Netherlands, a country where the selling and adult possession of cannabis is allowed.
  4. According to The National Research Council's recent study of the 11 U.S. states where cannabis is currently decriminalized, there is little apparent relationship between severity of sanctions and the rate of consumption.
  5. Cannabis has fewer harmful effects than either alcohol or cigarettes, which are both legal for adult consumption. Cannabis is not physically addictive, does not have long-term toxic effects on the body, and does not cause its consumers to become violent.
  6. There is an estimated $15 billion in illegal cannabis transactions in California each year. Taxing and regulating cannabis, like we do with alcohol and cigarettes, will generate billions of dollars in annual revenues for California to fund what matters most to Californians: jobs, health care, schools and libraries, roads, and more.
  7. California wastes millions of dollars a year targeting, arresting, trying, convicting, and imprisoning non-violent citizens for cannabis related offenses. This money would be better used to combat violent crimes and gangs.
  8. The illegality of cannabis enables for the continuation of an out-of-control criminal market, which in turn spawns other illegal and often violent activities. Establishing legal, regulated sales outlets would put dangerous street dealers out of business.

Findings 1, 2, 3, 7, and 8 are all dubious since it does not have a strong assertion for Cannabis’ legalization. The following argument explains it:

Misleading: Criminalization has Failed

Findings #1, 7, and 8
Flaw 1: The solution to the problem is not legalization, but to target the traffickers and their source. Indeed, it is not logical to imprison the “non-violent” marijuana users to combat the problem. However, can legalization do it? Legalization prevents Marijuana users from having “Criminal Status”, but it does not stop the traffickers: these are the cartels and other violent people who are willing to kill to protect their “investments”. Even if the marijuana trade is legal, these Cartels are still looking for illegal means of trafficking Heroine, Cocaine, and Methamphetamines – legalizing marijuana, means you should legalize these intoxicating and dangerous drugs as well. Otherwise, you will be making another repetitive argument for Heroine, Cocaine, and methamphetamines.

Flaw 2: There are actually laws that provide minimum penalties to minor offenses. Therefore, to say that non-violent users are being “jailed in rape-infested prisons” is an over-assertion and an over-reaction. Just read the following laws for each State on NORML.org.

Findings #2 and #3
Flaw 1: Making an assumption that legalizing the use of Marijuana because a lot of people are using it anyway is like legalizing over-speeding on roads because many people drive faster than the allowed speed limit anyway. This makes findings #2 and #3 fallible. Complete prohibition is of course an extreme, and taking anything into the extreme is dangerous. Complete legalization is equally dangerous as well.

Flaw 2: It is a myth that Netherlands is a “Marijuana-Heaven”. There are certain laws that guide Netherlands in its tolerance towards the substance. In the Netherlands, the possession/purchase of Cannabis is tolerated in small amounts. One can purchase cannabis in special shops (called "coffeeshops") if one is aged eighteen and over. Sale and purchase of cannabis anywhere else is illegal. Cultivation and wholesale of cannabis is likewise "tolerated" in small amounts (guidelines here are no more than five plants at home or the possession of 5 grams per adult maximum). The tolerance guidelines appear in appendix of the Opium Act. The Opium Act states very clearly that every part of the hemp plant is banned except for the seeds – this is in accordance with many of the international treaties that the Netherlands have signed. It is for this reason Cannabis cannot be legalized in the Netherlands. Thus, it remains illegal but it is "tolerated." A recent court decision allowed medical cannabis to avoid legal prosecution for possession of a small number of cannabis plants; however, the state is appealing the decision.[1]

Flaw 3: The ultimate goal of governments, medical communities, Scientists and concerned Citizens is to avoid a rise of addiction among users and potential users. Our goal should not be criminalizing users. The problem of the rising amount of consumption is addiction—and legalization is not the solution, but control of the addiction. Of course, pro-legalization proponents argue that marijuana is “not addictive” and “not dangerous to your health”. We will get to that myth shortly.

Flaw 4: If Marijuana is illegal, why continue to use it and risk being jailed (if it's 'not addictive')? If you think the law is rubbish and stupid, you have to go some place else where the activity is allowed; otherwise, you can legally fight it using legislative reform, which will require you to commit to a research that will prove otherwise the law must be changed (scientific research and consequential observation).

Misleading: Marijuana is Safe, non-lethal, and not addictive

Finding #5
The word “safer” is definitely misleading, and this is what the government and many concerned citizens have been uneasy about, if I knew it any better.

Flaw 1: There is still great amount of research to be done in terms of the medical and pharmaceutical benefits of Marijuana, along with its dangers. This website[2] has a short and quite fallible defense on why Marijuana is “safer” than other substances like Tobacco and Alcohol. It argues, “Marijuana does not make a profound or permanent mental illness or erratic behavior, but only in temporary amount of time”. It is true that Marijuana does not have a permanent effect on mental illness, and erratic behavior—so does alcohol. Alcohol abusers can act like buffoons when under the influence of too much alcoholic substances. It also admits that, even not permanently, Marijuana can cause (temporary) impaired judgment, impaired memory, decreased intellect; causes anxiety attacks paranoia, and impaired muscle coordination. Then imagine the law is legalized: the proposition will force employers to commit on not discriminating Pot users coming in to work high. How can you do your job properly, or even study in a class, when you have impaired judgment, impaired memory, decreased intellect, causes anxiety attacks, paranoia, and impaired muscle coordination? How would this law be beneficial to employers?[3]

Flaw 2: Marijuana actually does have a permanent effect on the human body. It’s just that it’s not about psychological damage or mental illness. David Moir and colleagues note that researchers have conducted extensive studies on the chemical composition of tobacco smoke, which contains a host of toxic substances, including about 50 that can cause cancer. However, there has been relatively little research on the chemical composition of marijuana smoke, until recently. These researchers in Canada report that marijuana smoke contains significantly higher levels of several toxic compounds — including ammonia and hydrogen cyanide — than tobacco smoke and may therefore pose similar health risks.

Their study, termed the most comprehensive to date on the chemical content of marijuana smoke, is scheduled for the Dec. 17 (2007) issue of ACS’ Chemical Research in Toxicology, a monthly journal.

In this new study, researchers compared marijuana smoke to tobacco smoke, using smoking machines to simulate the smoking habits of users. The scientists found that ammonia levels were twenty times higher in the marijuana smoke than in the tobacco smoke, while hydrogen cyanide, nitric oxide and certain aromatic amines occurred at levels three to five times higher in the marijuana smoke, they say.[4]

What are its permanent effects, then, now that we have found the levels of toxins are much greater than Tobacco? Some fellows still do not agree that marijuana can cause death in the long-term even with continuous usage.[5] Maybe it doesn’t, but here are other profound things about it: it decreases immunity, increases cardiac problems, increases the risk of Erectile Dysfunction and decreases fertility.[6]

Flaw 3: To say that Marijuana is not addictive is a misleading. If there are no addictive properties to Marijuana, then there will be no ‘Marijuana addicts’; there will be no drug wars because the users will have a realization that their consumption is threatening the safety of other people from another country. The fact that people crave for it means it is addictive. Addiction can happen to anyone with any thing: some people are addicted to sugar, video games or sex.

THC, Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the active ingredient in Cannabis, and like any other powerful, mood altering substance, people who are prone to chemical dependency can become addicted to Marijuana. Some people can use it occasionally and then leave it alone for extended periods. The thing about marijuana is it is very subtle. You can use it daily, for extended periods and think nothing of it. Yet the person has become completely dependent and doesn't even realize it.

The only fact that I can support here is that marijuana is “less” addictive than other substances such as Nicotine, Heroine, Cocaine, Alcohol, and Caffeine. “Less addictive”, doesn’t mean not addictive.

Flaw 4: Can you guarantee that if Marijuana is legalized, there will be lesser incidents of Minors having access to the substance? Looking at our old friends Tobacco and Alcohol proves different. Would it be a suggestion that, in order to get kids out of Tobacco and Alcohol, they should try Marijuana instead? I hope that wouldn’t be a suggestion from the legalization proponents, which is immensely sick.

Flaw 5: Just like alcohol and its temporary effects, law enforcement will never have control of people abusing the substance in great amounts when it is legalized. Users can be driving on the streets after getting high at home or any private place; and according to our previous data, Marijuana can impair your judgment, and muscle control, thus can have the same effect like drinking and driving (for marijuana’s case, smoke and drive) – accidents or even deaths of innocent passers-by could occur.

Flaw 6: Marijuana as an alternative to Tobacco and Alcohol is just an analogy to saying, “I love to shoot and kill something or someone, but I can’t kill people, so I have concluded to hunt animals for fun instead.”

True, but fallible: Marijuana has Medical benefits

I do not doubt the Medical benefits of Marijuana. It has been a fact that it can relieve pain, nausea, spasticity, and other symptoms for many individuals who have not been treated successfully with conventional medications. However, even this feat can be scrutinized sometimes.

Flaw 1: Marijuana’s medical benefits are reliefs, not treatments or permanent cures. Of course, if medical science can find a cure, then Marijuana isn’t that much of a prize anymore. However, it could be luck if science actually found out that Marijuana could cure something. It’s also highly doubtful that some patients who would very much prefer Marijuana for their pain relief than aspirin (which mind you, is also derived from natural sources) do not have a history of Marijuana use.

Flaw 2: A medical benefit (just a relief) does not really justify a full legalization of Cannabis. It’s rational that, if it has medical benefits, let it be legal for medical use, not for recreational use. It has little or no benefit at all when used for recreation, other than selfishness for bliss. A person’s personal enjoyment should not have a bad consequence later to his or her well-being, and the well-being of other people (noting on the effects of second hand smoking). Alcohol and Tobacco are already legal, but guess what it did to society? Would you choose to open Pandora’s Box and release one more misdemeanor to the community?

True, but consequential: Marijuana’s Economic Benefits

Finding #6
Economic Benefits is somewhat related to the legalization of Alcohol and Tobacco, though in my point from an earlier statement, that full-legalization of Marijuana just adds up to the trouble that Alcohol and Tobacco already brought in Society and Human Health. To sum it all up, dealers and distributors will be rich, and people will be sickly and high. There are still reasons why economic benefits are a weak argument for legalization.

Flaw 1: If legalized, then the Health Care system will automatically include Marijuana related incidents on premiums, especially insurers. Now, consider also, that people can have free or low cost health-care that will be paid for by (mostly non-smoking) taxpayers. If there were a speculative result of 15 Billion Dollars in revenue from Marijuana when it’s legalized, the amount of cost due to the government to maintain Health Care would be 50 Billion Dollars. That’s more than double the amount of spending than what the revenue can bring in. The definition of “controlled substance” is unchanged by Proposition 19, but marijuana use will be “unlawful” no more. So, marijuana-induced accidents may not be excluded from liability. Employers could face millions of dollars in increased insurance premium costs to insure against the cost of marijuana-related accidents.

Flaw 2: Of course, the money contributed by Marijuana (if we disregard its apparent backfire on insurance and health care costs), can help in funding the governments’ job creation projects, but a “career” in Marijuana distribution (or careers that will require Marijuana users) sounds like an absurd proposal for its legalization.

Flaw 3: If money is the problem of the government, and legalization of Marijuana can solve it (and for some reason people cannot get employment from Science and technology to boost the economy), then we might as well legalize other “taboo” things that can turn in large amounts of revenue: such as Assassinations. A hit can at least cost $50,000.00 per head, and up to $200,000.00 to half a million dollars for high valued targets (political figures, and corporation executives). If we legalize assassinations, then we can tax “assassination agencies” for their revenue – the analogy truly sounds absurd and disturbing.

True, but weak: Cannabis as Alternative Resources for Energy and Supplies

I am done with Proposition 19’s findings, but legalization proponents are bringing more things to the door to legalize Marijuana, such as alternative resources. It is a fact that Marijuana can be used as bio-fuel and an alternative to paper. Proponents to legalization argue that using an alternative source, Marijuana, will save the planet from using Fossil Fuel, and destroying thousands of trees for manufacturing paper.

Flaw 1: Just like medical benefits, if you would use it as bio-fuel and paper, use it for those reasons, and limit its use in public and recreational purpose.

Flaw 2: Cannabis loses again because there are other alternative to paper and fuel that are not as intoxicating (dangerous when ingested, though – joke). For alternative fuel, people can use Solar Power, Electricity from power cells, Compressed Oxygen Air, Hydrogen, and (for extreme cases) Nuclear energy; For paper, the ancient Egyptians made paper out of papyrus plants, the 3rd-century Chinese made it of flax and wisteria, and the 12th-century Spanish made it out of cotton. In modern times, we recycle the paper that we dispose.

Uninteresting point: Cannabis is useful for Religious Purposes

One of the key 'importance' of cannabis, unfortunately, is for religion and their religious rituals.[7]

Flaw 1: There is very unlikely to be a god; therefore, religions must not exist, and this “closeness” to god by means of Cannabis is but a Hallucinatory product of intoxication is pointless.

Flaw 2: If you want to ‘see the god’ that’s residing in your head – who also cannot affect the fate of humankind and grant wishes and answer prayers – you don’t need cannabis, all you need is Michael Persinger’s God Helmet.[8]

Conclusion

I have changed my position through the course of time and I am not against a limited legalization of Cannabis – though as much as possible, I would like to see a world were people will no longer need to consume alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and any other intoxicating and addicting drugs just to please themselves. I know I don’t. Just as my points have described here, there are things that Cannabis are helpful for, but those helpful things do not constitute recreational use. The law enforcement should not even treat users with such discrimination; instead of treating them like scum, they should be treated with pity and get help for them. There is no perfect solution to the Drug problem. The people have to think carefully of the consequences of the two evils, and decide what needs to be done. Would experimenting on laws help? Then, let’s just hope the saying, “It wouldn’t hurt if we try”, does not really hurt us.

Views: 3

Tags: 19, 2010, California, Cannabis, Marijuana, Pot, act, cannabis, government, laws, More…legalization, politics, proposition

Comment by Apple on November 8, 2010 at 3:15pm
Victimless crimes are not crimes at all.
Comment by V John Merc on November 17, 2010 at 5:52pm
I somewhat agree, because you call it a habit, or a vice, not a crime. Although technically, there is a victim - the user. So satirically appropriate, it's called a "Crime-less Victim".

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