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By Tom Cushing

Prop 64: Waiting to Inhale?

Uploaded: Oct 17, 2016

After twenty years’ dabbling in legal medical marijuana and with no apocalypse in-sight (sorry, Trumpophiles), this Proposition extends legalization to recreational use in California by anyone 21 years or older.

It also taxes both the cultivation and sale of the drug, and earmarks most of its likely $1Billion annual revenue stream for youth programs, including drug education, prevention, and treatment (60%); alleviation of environmental damage left over from illegal marijuana production (20%); and programs designed to reduce impaired driving under its influence (20%). The Legislative Analyst also predicts that “tens of $millions” will be saved locally, in foregone drug enforcement and incarceration costs.

The reeferendum* is supported by numerous pols and the state Dems and Greens, as well as most major newspapers (including the conservative Orange County Register); it is opposed by the state GOP and Libertarians, many localities and a mix of pols (DiFi and our own Catharine Baker, for instance), as well as many law enforcement-related entities. It leads in most polls, roughly 60-40%.

Yessers have out-financed the Nos, by about $18 million to $2 million. The arguments in favor are mostly pragmatic: that the current ban is outdated and its obvious flouting breeds a general disrespect, that bringing this major industry out of the shadows allows its regulation, taxation and diversion of funds away from organized crime, the revenue will be used primarily for youth prevention, and that police, prosecution and prison resources are better directed elsewhere.

Opponents argue that highway fatalities will rise generally and via impairment, that the Prop doesn’t zone small-time cultivation away from schools, that it will draw-not-discourage organized crime, that smoking-positive TV ads may ensue, and that its abuse burden will fall most heavily on low-income neighborhoods.

As for me? I am having a very difficult time getting excited over this one.

Admittedly, my own experience from long ago/far away was not pleasant in either the process or the effect (to my chagrin, I was this guy), so I lack much direct motivation to care. I do wonder about adding another product to the cornucopia of things that make people act lethargic and stupid.

On the other hand, I can’t get very concerned about the youth angle, given the drug’s current general availability to those who would choose to partake. And the organized crime argument is absurd – they aren’t particularly efficient producers of products (Sinaloa brand sizzling hot sauce? Mafioso Marinara? – call me when those show up at Trader Joe’s), rather they thrive on illegality. Similarly, the poor poor-neighborhoods notion is ridiculously paternalistic, and cynical to-boot. When was the last time the GOP was actually worried about anyone in poverty?

I conclude on balance that the ‘view’ – the cost/benefit of the current system, just ain’t worth its ‘climb.’ Pot may be slightly negative in terms of its long term effects on users, but I’d group it closer to bacon-cheese-double whoppers than cocaine in terms of 'things I know better than to ingest.' Further, the current illegality does divert resources from bigger problems. And it has led to unnecessary violence and environmental degradation, as well.

So it may be time to end this particular Prohibition in our state. I’ll give it a small ‘yes,’ with a big shrug.

* not mine -- suggested by a fellow A's partisan who calls himself 'Monkeyball.' I couldn't resist, even if I should have.