Why I support Prop. 19 and you should too…

July 22, 2010 in Legalization

There is a lot of talk going on about the upcoming Tax and Regulate vote in November that could legalize cannabis for adults over 21 in the State of California. People are questioning whether or not they should support this initiative for any number of reasons. Is one ounce enough? Will this put me out of business? Do the laws that regulate cannabis like alcohol increase current penalties? Is this real legalization? The critics range from uneasy farmers of cannabis to old school activists that claim to advocate legalization, but only if it is on their terms. There are dispensary operators that wonder what will happen to their organizations if it passes, and patients wondering if this vote will water down their medical need. There seems to be an awful lot of confusion regarding what is at stake, so let me make it clear…what is at stake is the beginning of the end of the war on cannabis. What is at stake is freedom. What is at stake is morality and justice. What is at stake is the future.

The first and most important reason I am asking you to support Tax and Regulate 2010 is because it is the right thing to do. Is the initiative perfect? No. Is it a hell of a lot better than the status quo? Absolutely.

The biggest upside is that this vote breaks the back of drug warriors who have for decades made a living of demonizing cannabis and jailing cannabis users. The world will be put on notice that the people of California no longer want to see their neighbors and loved ones made into criminals for the safe and responsible use of cannabis. That is huge. More than anything, sending a clear message that reason has trumped rhetoric will create a crack in the wall of prohibition that will continue to splinter and eventually lead to total cannabis freedom.

That is what we are fighting for, right? We want to be left alone in our choice to burn a joint or eat a cannabis brownie without looking over our shoulder and being made to feel like a second-class citizen. We want to be treated equally in our choice to alter our mental state with cannabis, like so many wine aficionados and beer lovers do everyday, without being scared to death of going to jail. We want to be able to have an ounce of marijuana in our car and not panic every time a cop pulls behind us in traffic. In fact, this completely nullifies a cops “probable cause” for smelling cannabis in your car. You can look right at them and say, “Why yes officer, that is my cannabis you smell.” As long as you are not under the influence there should be no issue. You can set it next to you on the seat if you want to.

This is the kind of freedom I want, and the Tax and Regulate Initiative gives me that. Peace of mind is invaluable to me. I hate being scared of cops over cannabis. The initiative normalizes the use of cannabis, which for too long has created unnecessary obstacles and hardships in people’s lives.

This initiative preserves the existing medical marijuana laws and is a humongous improvement over the current criminal laws that govern cannabis. It enables the legislature to improve upon the law but removes their power to limit it any further. It empowers municipalities to set up legitimate access points for cannabis and makes it legal for me to grow a 5×5 garden without fear of prosecution. And as a patient, I can continue to grow more if my doctor has approved it. Awesome. It lets me share cannabis with a neighbor without it being a crime and enables me to have an affirmative defense for possessing more than the ounce limit. That changes my world for the better in so many ways.

Tax and Regulate gives a person the right to possess and use cannabis. That in its self should be reason enough to get your vote; but let’s look at some of the arguments being used by people in the movement to belittle the initiative in favor of the status quo.

Some say the ounce limit is too restrictive and are upset that it is legal to buy unlimited quantities of booze and this law limits cannabis to an ounce. Unfortunately after decades of misinformation and lies about cannabis there is a need to ease voters minds about cannabis. Limiting the quantity is a concession that was made with the calculated hope of getting the thing to pass.  Obviously I would like to see less limitation, but in life we often must compromise idealism for the greater good. There are simply not enough cannabis users in the State of California to pass this on our own. We need the support of hundreds of thousands of people who do not use cannabis. Many non-cannabis users are not going to vote for an initiative that creates a virtual free for all. By ensuring the voter that there are reasonable and responsible limits in place we may win the hearts and minds of enough of them to get it passed.

Others complain that the initiative’s 21-year-old age limit is unfair to those 18-20. The big red herring argument is that by making the penalty for furnishing cannabis to a person under 21 the same as alcohol, that this “increases” or “adds” new punishments to cannabis use.  If we really want this initiative to pass (and I do), it is necessary to present the initiative in a light that is understandable to the society we live in. The most common adult use drug on the market is by far alcohol, so naturally the authors of this initiative did their best to model the structure to relate to that industry. In doing that, there are certain realities created that may seem less than reasonable to the average cannabis user who understands the safety of cannabis.

It amazes me that this distraction of an argument would influence a person to continue to make criminals out of the vast majority of cannabis users who ARE 21 and over. Furthermore, it is insulting to dismiss the entire initiative over a statute that is the same as people buying booze for a kid in a parking lot. I guarantee you that our prisons are not filled with people caught fishing for beer. I do know that prisons are filled with people who have used, grown, sold, given or violated their probation by using cannabis.  Know there are parents who have lost custody of their children for their use of cannabis. Is it really worth tearing down the opportunities the initiative affords so that we can give a joint to a 19-year-old? These kids get booze just fine if they want it. The same will go for cannabis. Every day parents let their adult but not 21 kids have a glass of wine in the safety of their own home. Does the ATF kick their doors in and put them in prison or take away their kids? No. So this unfortunate argument is just weak and lacks substance.

The fake outrage over these “added penalties” can only be attributed to nitpicking. Would it be great if the law were written for 18 and over? Sure. I firmly believe that if you can join the army and fly to other countries to kill people that you should be able to smoke a joint or have a beer at the and of your day. Unfortunately, my extremely liberal views are not shared by the vast majority of people and I am willing to concede an increased age limit and an agreement of penalties that parallel alcohol to get the votes needed to actually pass it. My experience in talking to people that do not use cannabis is that people are willing to support the initiative because of its limitations and relation to the legal status of alcohol.

Still others argue that legalization will devalue their crop and essentially put them out of business. I have two words for these people….”YOU SUCK.” I mean, really? Really? You would continue to make criminals out of hundreds of thousands of people to make an extra buck? That is simply the worst logic ever expressed and frankly, it is offensive. What you will find is an increased competition, as outlaws will not be in total control of the production. This type of real market competition scares some. That is understandable, but it is unfathomable to consider not legalizing cannabis because you suck at business and marketing. Look at the wine industry. There are a number of cheap, average, mass-produced wines on the market, but there are also $500 bottles on the market. Why? Do you think the $500 bottle of wine is made with magic grapes? No. It is made with a higher quality, and the producers have done a great job of marketing their product. They have created a desire for their limited high-end product line. Cannabis will be no different. People who create great products will continue to see a demand for their services. Those who cut corners and lack the ability to create desirable products will fail; whereas now they get by because prohibition has created a demand even for mediocre cannabis.

Some have estimated that the price of cannabis would be cut in half. Well grow twice as much then. Lobby your local officials to allow for economic viability through cannabis production. But voting against legalization to protect your own financial interest is despicable. How could you sleep at night if the initiative fails and people continue to lose their jobs, kids, and freedoms so that you could make more money without having to truly compete in a legitimate market? Your income level is an irrelevant conclusion in a much larger argument.

Talented and hard-working people will thrive in a legitimized industry. Those who have dedicated their lives to growing and producing cannabis will be the leaders of this industry. Those who simply use cannabis as a means to an end and would put their pocketbook over reason will have a special place in hell I am sure.

I also believe that the initiative will create a substantial tourism industry that people can tap into. California will always produce the finest cannabis and be the birthplace of the movement in America.  The millions of people who enjoy cannabis around the world will want to come to California to be immersed in the culture of it all. There will be “Bud and Breakfasts” that open to accommodate cannabis enthusiasts and farm tours that will attract folks to spend money. As it is embraced by the culture over time, could we see “Cannaland,” the world’s first cannabis-themed amusement park? Maybe we will; but not if we do not get the vote out.

The time is now and the opportunity has never been greater. It is our responsibility to do our part to get this passed and take a huge step towards ending the war on cannabis. Talk to the people in your lives. Encourage the person at work or in line at the grocery store to vote to legalize cannabis because it is the morally right thing to do. Tell the hesitant soccer mom you know that it is not a matter of whether or not her baby will have access to cannabis- they will. The choice is whether her baby should go to jail for their decision to use cannabis. Talk to your religious relative and explain that cannabis is a plant and that he true sin is to continue to lock a person up for using God’s natural wonder plant. This campaign is all of ours. We will sink or swim in the process.

Already the initiative has accomplished more than could have been expected even a couple of years ago. It has created a national dialogue that continues to make people question prohibition. The opposition will come out in force as the election grows near. It is all of our responsibilities to ensure that we do not allow those forces to get away with continuing the failed policy of making criminals out of cannabis users.

Do what is right. Join me in supporting the Tax and Regulate initiative and make your voice heard on November 2, 2010. United we stand and divided we fall. Put the petty differences aside and let the egos rest. Make the simple choice; if you want to end prohibition, as we know it, vote yes. If you want to continue to allow for tyranny and chaos to rule, vote no. The choice is yours.