Ex-cops, judges, prosecutors: 'Legalize pot'

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES Proposition 19 would make it legal for adults to possess marijuana, and it would allow local governments to tax it. It's getting support from what might seem an unlikely source: former members of law enforcement.

The debate is heating up over Proposition 19: Should marijuana be legal in California? The two sides are trying to show how it would either hurt or help the state if adults could buy it freely.

It's against the law to use marijuana, but that hasn't stopped people from buying it. Retired law enforcement officials say it's as easy as buying a pizza.

"This war on drugs that has lasted now for 40 years is a total and complete failure," said Retired Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Stephen Downing.

Supporters of Proposition 19 say law enforcement spends billions of dollars each year trying to stop marijuana while drug cartels make billions in profit.

"What's the largest cash crop today in the state of California? And it is marijuana," said Retired Orange County Judge James Gray. "Number two is grapes, by the way, if you care."

Backers of the measure say that by legalizing it and regulating it, it would generate tax revenue.

"We're going to treat marijuana like alcohol. It will still be highly regulated, but it takes the profit motive away from the gang members, which makes it safer for us as law enforcement," said former police officer Kyle Kazan.

"The truth is that the proponents for Prop. 19 haven't really thought out much of anything, other than how they feel," said L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca. "And I suspect they might have had a little hit on a joint or two once or twice."

Baca, who is against Proposition 19, says gangs would still be involved in the drug trade. They would still be selling marijuana to children. He worries legalizing it would bring unintended consequences.

"It's long-term effects, it's short-term memory loss. We do know there is a short-term memory loss when you smoke marijuana," said Baca. "And so the question is, Is this best for our future? Is this best for children?"

No matter what California voters decide, marijuana would still be illegal at the federal level. Proponents believe that will change.

"It will sweep the nation. This is something the voters of California can stand up and say, 'Let's understand the federal government does not have all the answers here. We in California can manage this much better ourselves,'" said retired judge Gray.

You can expect a lot more debate over this issue over the next few weeks before the voters head to the polls on Nov. 2.

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