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Prop. 19: Legalize and regulate marijuana

October 12, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Should marijuana be legal in California? The voters will soon decide. A new study out Tuesday is sparking more debate on Proposition 19.The RAND Drug Policy Research Center finds that legalizing marijuana in California would do little to curb Mexican drug-cartel violence and profits. That's because most Californians prefer to buy domestically grown pot rather than consume what's smuggled in from Mexico.

Supporters of the measure are still rallying behind the proposition while opponents continue to criticize the effects.

Proposition 19 will allow Californians 21 and older to posses up to an ounce of marijuana, consume it in private, and grow up to 25 square feet of the drug at home. Cities will also be able to tax any sales.

Jeff Jones, who helped sponsor the measure, says the result will be billions of dollars in tax revenue and millions more saved in trying marijuana-related offenses.

"We're talking about $300 million worth of savings that the state can reprioritize in police, law enforcement, courts and penal systems," said Jones.

But opponents say Prop. 19 will make roads unsafe because it doesn't specify how much pot in a person's system will constitute driving under the influence of drugs.

L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca is also concerned about the unintended consequences of legalizing the drug.

"There's no doubt that marijuana leads to other addictive drugs and it also causes your health to go downhill, particularly with memory," said Baca.

Surprisingly, many cannabis clubs in California also oppose Prop. 19. They fear legalizing the drug will threaten existing laws for medical marijuana users.

"It basically gives cities and counties the right to ban sales, to regulate sales in many ways, to regulate cultivation, and we end up with 538 different rules, instead one cohesive statewide regulatory framework," said California Cannabis Association President George Mull.

Two of the nation's oldest minority organizations, the NAACP, and, most recently, the League of United Latin American Citizens of California, have endorsed the measure. They say legalizing pot will stop the disproportionate arrests of blacks and Latinos.

"It is time for them to stop using my community to populate the prison systems on such minor offenses as having a joint," said Alice Huffman, president of the California chapter of the NAACP.

Whatever happens on November 2, marijuana will remain an illegal drug under federal law. Right now it's unclear what legal actions the U.S. government will take against California if Proposition 19 passes.


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