For the next four posts, I will explore the controversial topic of marijuana legalization, and address the question of whether or not Californians should vote “yes” on Proposition 64, which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana. In recent years, other states such as Colorado and Washington have passed similar laws like Prop 64 and have seen positive results such as decrease in violent crimes and millions in tax revenue without the expected negatives like an increase marijuana usage among the youth. The questions I hope will discuss and hope to answer in the next couple posts are: what are the pros and cons of legalizing recreational marijuana? And do the pros outweigh the cons?
The state of California has a long history with the legalization of marijuana. The state was the first to pass Proposition 215 in 1996 which legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and for the two decades since then, Californians have been fighting for legalizing recreational use. According to George Skelton, a writer for the LA Times, he says, “In 2010, a marijuana legalization initiative lost by seven percentage points.” Today, “All polls show the initiative winning by a landslide, supported by roughly 60% of voters,” proving that Californians have become more active and accepting for recreational use.
Supporters of Prop 64, many of whom are companies ready to take advantage of the new possible business opportunities, believe that legalizing marijuana will create an entirely new profitable industry that will provide an enormous boost to California. Ben Alder, public radio host for Capital, reports that marijuana may bring “additional tax revenues ranging from high hundreds of millions of dollars to over $1 billion annually, mostly dedicated to specific purposes,” such as “reimbursing state agencies for their regulatory costs, drugged driving research, after-school programs, and environmental restoration,” creating smart innovative projects to make California better.
Opponents of Prop 64, however, are against the fact that people are looking to invest into the marijuana industry only to gain from its promising fortune. Lauren Michaels, legislative director for the California Police Chiefs Association, comments on the marijuana industry saying, “It’s a bad initiative being funded by people with dollar signs in their eyes,” reveal the greed of those who seek to join the new industry.
Others who oppose recreational marijuana use, mostly older conservatives, fear their neighborhoods will become unsafe due to the increase in violent crimes that may possibly arise.
Citizens, law enforcement, and state legislation alike also worry about the potential costs and dangers and negative effects that allowing the free use of marijuana will have on their communities. Skelton, also adds, “No one — not even highway patrolmen — knows precisely how stoned a motorist can be before he’s dangerously under the influence of cannabis,” exposing that California’s government doesn’t have an answer to enforce and determine “high” driving.
As you can see from just this quick intro into some of the pros and cons, the legalization of marijuana is a very controversial topic right now. Since the issue of legalization will appear once again on Californian’s ballots this November 8th, and with more support than ever, there is much debate on the fiscal, economic, and social impact that this vote will have on the future of our state.