As the Nov. 2 elections approach, some voters already know how they will vote on Proposition 19.
The proposition would legalize marijuana use in the state of California in order to generate revenue from the sale of cannabis. Fifty-two percent of Californians favor the proposition, while 41 percent oppose it and 7 percent are undecided, according to a Public Policy Institute of California survey released last month.
On the opposing side is Roger Salazar, co-founder of Acosta Salazar LLC and “No on Prop 19” campaigner.
“One of the things we’re concerned about is what passing Prop 19 signals to our kids,” Salazar said. “For years we’ve been telling them to stay off drugs. What kind of message does it send when we say, ‘Drugs are bad unless we can make money off of them’?”
If Proposition 19 passes, any person over 21 will be able to use marijuana legally in California.
“It is easier for teens these days to get cannabis than alcohol,” said Evan Nison, the “Yes on Prop 19” campus organizer for the state of California and the deputy field director for the Bay Area, Central Valley and San Diego.
“In countries that have legalized marijuana, safety has not been jeopardized,” he said. “As most people know, marijuana is a much safer choice than alcohol, and we should give adults over 21 this option.”
Counties and cities will have to make regulation laws for marijuana if the proposition passes.
“Local government is the best way you can have your voice heard,” Nison said. People within the county or city will have a direct say in how marijuana will be regulated.
Opponents say locally-enforced regulation is a loophole.
“Proposition 19 claims to regulate tax and control marijuana, but it doesn’t do any of those things,” Salazar said. “It legalizes pot statewide, but leaves it up to each city and county to take on the burden of regulating and taxing marijuana themselves. Prop 19 doesn’t set up any formal regulatory system which means it’ll be the Wild West of drugs until local governments create a patchwork of laws to fix it.”
Another issue that strengthens the conflict between supporters and opponents of Prop 19 is public safety.
The proposition is designed to increase public safety in two ways, said Zaki Manian, regional director for Proposition 19.
First, cultivation of marijuana will become “no more appealing to criminal gangs than cultivating peas and carrots,” he said.
Second, less gang and gun violence will be associated with the sale of marijuana, Manian said.
The issue of driving under the influence of marijuana is another point of contention between the two sides of the argument.
Prop 19 will not make it legal to smoke marijuana while driving. But nor does the proposition forbid people from smoking marijuana before driving.
“Under California law, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of any substance that impairs your motor coordination,” Manian said. “This would be unchanged by Prop 19.”
However, there are no devices in the market right now that test THC levels. Thus, driving under the influence of marijuana might go undetected for a while, until a new kind of breathalyzer is available.
As a result, many transportation sectors are against the proposition because of safety concerns. Not being able to drug-test workers may lead to impairment on the job.
“School administrators worry about not being able to drug-test [bus drivers and teachers],” Salazar said.
The transportation and education sectors would no longer be a drug-free environment, Salazar said.
UCSC students have taken a liking to campaigning for Prop 19. Some students unaffiliated with the campaign have become vocal about their stance on Prop 19.
Third-year Clare* pointed to creation of new jobs and increased revenue as benefits of Proposition 19, but said that she is opposed to the proposition.
“I was raised on the preconceived notion that drugs are bad,” she said. “Making marijuana legal will only increase the use of it because the drug will be more readily circulated within society. Drug dealers will focus on selling to minors if the prop passes, because it is the only group that cannot get marijuana legally. Where will the money to implement Prop 19 come from, if our state is in such financial distress — that’s what I want to know.”
* Name was changed.