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Our View: Just say 'no' to Prop. 19

The Signal editorial board

Posted: October 3, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Updated: October 3, 2010 4:55 a.m.

It’s 1972 all over again. A call to legalize marijuana in California is back, 38 years after it first appeared on the November ballot.

But a lot has changed since 1972.

Richard M. Nixon won’t be on the same ballot with Proposition 19 this November. Television these days doesn’t much resemble “The Waltons” and “All in the Family.”

And legalizing marijuana isn’t a cause touted only by long-haired hippies with upside-down American flags sewn on their jeans’ seats.

Nowadays, California cities like Los Angeles are peppered with medical-marijuana shops, where a doctor’s note and a state-verified ID card will score you some pot to help deal with everything from back pain to chemotherapy-induced nausea.

Also nowadays, there is much more scientific evidence suggesting marijuana use has long-term negative impacts on its users.

And then there’s the other issue — the fact that now, as then, marijuana is outlawed by the federal government.

We as a state need to hash out whether we think it’s a good idea; whether legalizing marijuana is worth bucking federal law; whether it’s worth the sales-tax revenue that it’s supposed to add to state coffers.

If passed by voters, Proposition 19 would make it legal to maintain a small, home marijuana garden, use the drug in one’s home and make it legal to carry no more than an ounce for personal use. The state would regulate and tax businesses selling marijuana. It needs a simple majority to pass.

Polls have continued to show a majority of Californians support the measure’s passage.

It should be noted the proposition is also rife with loopholes, such as allowing municipalities to create local laws regulating cultivation, possession and distribution.

A smorgasbord plate of varied — and potentially conflicting — laws is not the way to start an experiment such as this. It makes things worse than they are now.

So do we give it a go and see how marijuana legalization plays out? Or do we as voters pass on grass?

We recommend voting no on Proposition 19, and it’s not out of a broad-brush “pot is bad” dismissal.

This is, indeed, an issue that needs to be resolved at the state and federal levels.

And therein lies the sticking point: Even if Proposition 19 passes, the federal government’s stance on marijuana remains the same — it’s illegal. In light of that, it is premature to go ahead and legalize it on the state level.

Which brings up a topic much broader than legal pot: This is really a matter of states’ rights.

Should marijuana be legal in California? Maybe. Maybe not. But it should be left up to the states to debate and decide, rather than a bloated federal government, one that has spent billions upon billions in a questionable “war on drugs” since the early 1970s.

We’re firm believers in smaller government. It’s a founding principle of our nation, and while the country is bigger and far more complex now than in the 18th century, the principle remains a hallmark worth returning to.

On Nov. 2, vote no on Prop. 19, but keep the discussion alive, lobby for smaller government and be part of voting our way back to smaller government that makes sense for California and America.


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