The talk of legalizing marijuana in California has created a nationwide buzz. Tuesday in West Hollywood, a group of mothers spoke out in support of Proposition 19, saying it will create safer communities for all kids by reducing gang violence and eliminating the marijuana black market.
"By taking it out of the hands of criminals and finally putting it into the hands of those that will control cannabis away from children," said Dale Jones, a spokesman for the Proposition 19 campaign. "Our current policy has failed."
"Those that currently sell illegally that don't get the license, is it really logical that they're going to throw up their hands and say, 'Gee, I didn't get the license. I better go down to the grocery store and get a job,'" said Joseph Esposito, head deputy district attorney in the L.A. County Major Narcotics Division. "Of course not."
Prop. 19 would allow people 21 and older to grow up to 25 square feet of marijuana and carry up to one ounce for personal use.
The moms say regulating and taxing marijuana could mean more resources for schools, while also making it harder for kids to get pot.
"If you ask any kid in high school what's the easiest drug for them to get their hands on, they're going to say marijuana," said Gretchen Burns Bergman, co-founder and executive director of A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing). "Easier than tobacco. Easier than alcohol. And those are regulated."
"If you talk or look at any of the studies where they've talked to 12- to 18-year-olds, many will tell you that the reason why they're willing to use alcohol and controlled substances is because it's legal for adults," said Esposito. "Proponents of Prop. 19's suggestion or insinuation that this is going to be some windfall of money for California is false."
If Proposition 19 passes, California will become the first state to legalize marijuana for non-medical reasons, and federal law-enforcement officials are watching closely.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says the federal government will still enforce the laws against pot, even if marijuana prohibition goes up in smoke in California in two weeks.