Drug Law

Tom Ammiano: Why I'll Vote Yes on Calif. Pro-Marijuana Prop. 19

| by NORML

California Assemblyman and Chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), has an excellent commentary today on why Californians should vote ‘yes’ this November on Prop. 19: The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010.

One major reason: Passage of Prop. 19 would bring an end to the majority of the 80,000+ marijuana arrests (61,000 for simple possession) that continue to take place annually in California under so-called ‘decriminalization.’

Really, folks ought to read the entire commentary here. Below are some highlights:

What if California could raise hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue to preserve vital state services without any tax increases? And what if at the same time, we could, without any new expense, help protect our endangered wilderness areas while making it harder for our kids to get drugs?

That is precisely what the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 initiative slated for the November ballot would do. This measure, building off the legislation I introduced last year, is the logical next step in California’s and hopefully the nation’s public policy towards marijuana.

The costs of modern prohibition continue with more than 61,000 Californians arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession in 2008 alone. That same year, about 60,000 violent crimes went unsolved statewide, yet we continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars and countless law enforcement hours arresting people for low-level marijuana crimes, further overburdening courts and prisons. Jail beds devoted to marijuana offenders could be “used for other criminals who are now being released early because of a lack of jail space,” the state Legislative Analyst’s Office wrote.

Black-market marijuana is also a main source of revenue for the vast criminal enterprises that threaten peace on our streets and weaken national security on our borders. According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Mexican drug cartels get more than 60 percent of their revenue from selling marijuana in the United States.

The simple reality is that resources tied up fighting marijuana would be better spent solving and preventing violent felonies and other major crimes.

… There may be disagreements about what direction to take but it is clear to everyone involved our current approach is not working. Regulation allows common-sense controls and takes the marijuana industry out of the hands of unregulated criminals.

As a member of the State Assembly, I believe we must acknowledge reality and bring innovative solutions to the issue of marijuana, not simply wait passively for the federal government to act. This is how change happens. Californians lead rather than follow, and we can set an example for the nation as we did on medical marijuana by passing the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 in November.

Passage of Prop. 19 would allow adults 21 years or older to legally possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. It would also permit local governments the option to authorize businesses to engage in the retail sale and commercial cultivation of cannabis to adults. Personal marijuana cultivation or not-for-profit sales of marijuana would not be taxed or regulated under the measure. Further, this act does not seek to amend or alter any existing statewide legal protections that are presently mandated under Proposition 215 or S.B. 420 (medical marijuana).

For more information, you can read the Secretary of State’s ballot summary here. Answers to FAQs about Prop. 19, and the initiative’s full text is available here.