In the last few months before the November elections, most of the media’s attention has been focused on the tea party’s wily, pseudo-revolutionary antics. But while Fox News is playing sound bites of Christine O’Donnell’s “I’m not a witch” ad and speculating just how many house seats Republicans and their noisy sidekicks the tea party are going to win from Democrats, a real revolution is happening in California.
Proposition 19, if passed on Nov. 2, would legalize marijuana for public consumption in California. This would make marijuana essentially as legal as alcohol: adults over 21 will be able to buy up to an ounce from a licensed cannabis dispensary, use marijuana in a private residence or licensed business, and even grow marijuana for personal use in a 25 square-foot area. Right now the initiative is ahead in the polls, with 48 percent for, 44 percent against and 8 percent undecided (ABC News).
California has always been at the head of sensible marijuana legislation. They legalized marijuana for medicinal use in 1996, and many people feel that the “medicinal” label was put on the bill just to get it passed. Now anyone with a headache in California can get a cannabis prescription for one year. For awhile the federal government tried to stop Californians from getting high, (even though medicinal marijuana is legal by state law, it is still illegal federally) and the D.E.A. would periodically raid California dispensaries. When the number of dispensaries kept rising, and public outcry against the raids got louder and louder, the white house finally declared an end to the prosecution of cannabis clubs.
“It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in October, 2009.
With this huge battle won, marijuana advocates in California began their next move towards full legalization: Proposition 19. This initiative has the potential, if passed, to finally disprove all of the erroneous arguments advocates of “The War on Drugs” have been clinging to all of these years.
Proposition 19 could cripple the Mexican drug cartels’ presence in the marijuana industry, clear up jail cells for actual violent offenders, save money and time for law enforcement agencies to chase real criminals, and even make the government a little money from taxing and regulating it.
Most importantly, as many moms and family organizations have said in supporting the amendment, legalizing marijuana and getting it out of the black market would actually make it more difficult for minors to get hold of it and possibly dispel the myth of the “gateway drug” once and for all. The reason marijuana use leads to other drugs is because to buy marijuana, you have to go to a drug dealer to get it, and that’s not necessarily all they want to sell you.
Another huge step that Proposition 19 would make possible is taking marijuana off of the schedule 1 narcotics list and making it more available research. In her book “The Pot Book,” psychiatrist Julie Holland urges people to look at the importance of opening up cannabis research. Recently scientists have found a new molecule in marijuana called cannabidiol, or C.B.D., which is not intoxicating and they believe may be useful to treat anxiety, depression, and
even cancer, but is nearly impossible to research.
No one knows how the federal government would react to the passage of Proposition 19. So far Holder has simply said that the administration is “strongly opposed” to the initiative. Beyond that, the federal government is currently ignoring the issue and hoping it goes away. But should Proposition 19 pass, they will be forced to either strike down a law that was freely enacted through democratic process, or finally take a logical, reasonable look at drug policy in America.
So tell your friends in California, tell your state and federal representatives here in Missouri, it’s time for a sensible approach to a completely benevolent, nonviolent drug: cannabis.
When Proposition 19 passes, dispels all the myths about marijuana, forces the federal government to address an issue they’ve been ignoring for too long, and allows research on a truly incredible plant, we just might see some actual change in this country.