By Peri Tenenbaum ’13
On Nov. 2, California voters voted against Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Despite the loss, proponents of the act still claim a victory as they have now opened a nation wide debate on possible benefits of marijuana legalization.
Those who favored Prop 19 were dependent on both the youth turnout and the moderate voters. While the youth turnout appeared not to be nearly as strong as they hoped, it seemed that the moderate voters were simply not persuaded by the concept of legalization.
The main hitting points of the proposition were economic: the taxation of recreational marijuana would greatly increase the tax income for California as a state and hopefully lower the state deficit. Proponents also believed it would allow law enforcement to reallocate funds to more serious crimes, and also help eliminate the marijuana black market, which appears similar to the gangs that formed during prohibition.
For those that opposed Prop 19, the argument followed the same tracks that the government has been using since 1937, when marijuana was first banned. In particular, the concept of driving was high was a strong point for those that opposed legalization. There was also concern on the ability to maintain businesses and employee drug use to the standards of the Federal Workplace Act, which requires a drug-free workplace, which would potentially lead to a loss in federal funding.
The concept of legalization drew attention from all over the world as foreign officials became interested in the act. Most importantly, it drew attention from Mexico. Mexico is the largest supplier of California’s marijuana, and as such, legalization could have greatly altered the drug war landscape within Mexico. Mexico’s drug war is extremely costly and deadly, but legalization has never been considered since it is an extremely lucrative and powerful section of the Mexican life. However, if the United States began to legalize, and California in particular, then the drug cartels would lose their main consumer and much of their profits, which many Mexicans believe would help to end the violence that surrounds Mexican drug wars.
Even for those within the United States, many believe that legalization of pot promoted an end to the drug cartels within California and ending violence on the home front. Many gangs and drug cartels within California make the majority of their money from marijuana, due to its ubiquitous nature. Humboldt County, a major marijuana producer, has stated that the resort town feels more ‘Wild-Wild West’, with planes taking off, loud parties, and even late night gunfire. Former U.S. Attorney John McKay has also come out in favor of marijuana drug reform. For McKay, law enforcement officials simply do not have the funding or the body power to successfully control marijuana usage around the country, and indeed, marijuana is the main income to violent drug cartels within the United States.
The proponents of Prop 19 maintain that this has been a positive step despite the almost double-digit loss. The serious press that marijuana legalization has received has made it a nation wide discussion and moved it into the realm of serious politics. Legalization supporters are already looking ahead to the 2012 election, where they have plans to place measures on ballots in Washington, Oregon, Colorado and, once again, California.