Though the presidential race is dominating airwaves, some of this year’s lesser-known ballot measures may be just as consequential.
California, the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use, will vote on marijuana legalization for recreational use in November. And if you have serious concerns about criminal justice reform, the argument for legalization is compelling. Proponents of Prop 64, like Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, say it will limit unnecessary prison sentences and generate tax revenue for the state.
The classic argument against marijuana legalization is ethical — why should we legalize a mind-altering substance for recreational use? What does that teach our children? But the opponents of Prop 64 have other reasons. In fact, a lot of them are marijuana growers.
The tax revenue generated by the proposition would go to the bureaucracy necessary to uphold the legalization. And the number of imprisonments won’t be offset by so much. Schwarzenegger made possession a misdemeanor in 2010. Though marijuana legalization may be an inevitable outcome for the state: this bill isn’t the right one.
The other side of the story is one that puts “big business” behind the proposition. Opponents of the proposition say it’s vague, and doesn’t do enough for small growers. Marijuana would be an “all-cash” business, because it is illegal federally. Many local growers are backing off support.
“Given how Proposition 64 is worded, local growers have reason to be concerned about whether they will be put at a competitive disadvantage. For example, the proposition’s commercial cultivation licensing system doesn’t prevent what is known as “vertical integration” or the ability of a few big players to capture most of the market. As former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a recovering drug addict and member of the Kennedy clan, has noted, “It’s a smokescreen for big business.” – The Press Democrat Editorial
The regulatory system for medical use in California is still in it’s infancy. If we pass Prop 64, that work is overturned, and we create an entirely new tax system for marijuana — one that will be complicated by federal bureaucracy.
The author of Baha’s Blog argues the passage of Prop 64 will decrease cartel activity, when in fact cartel activity will just be redirected to states that don’t have legal marijuana. It’s important we take into account the larger context of just one state’s legalization.
It’s still illegal next door.
We need to make sure the law that legalizes is clear, and right for the job. The business of marijuana will be a big one in California; let’s get it right.