OB Rag Fall 2010 Elections Part 2 – Proposition 19: A Vote To Legalize Marijuana

by on September 30, 2010 · 20 comments

in Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Election, Environment, Health

Prop19 grow econI read the news today, oh boy…

Pull up a chair and stayed tuned over the next few weeks as I walk you through the candidates and ballot proposals for 2010…

This should have been the easiest of all the propositions on this fall’s California ballot for me to write about, but it’s not turned out that way. It’s a very personal story, and I invite you to walk down this path with me as I explore my reasoning.

In some ways you could consider me a poster child for the cause, something that came to mind recently when my parents unearthed a tattered copy of a May, 1972 feature that appeared in the San Diego Evening Tribune (remember when we had two daily papers?). There I was, spouting off as the “radical” editor of the “underground” San Diego Door, expounding on politics, the counterculture, and drugs: “Drugs are a new kind of entertainment, like watching television…

Times have changed, and so have I, but I still harbor a deep seated belief that government has little or no business in people’s personal affairs. It’s my opinion that “morality” laws are, by and large, simply the result of over-zealous religious fundamentalists seeking to use the power of government to enforce their moral code. Arresting people for smoking pot ranks right up there with laws that prohibit selling groceries on Sundays: stupid, useless, and a waste of money. I rant inside: “Get your religious codes out of people’s lives; if your beliefs are so dammed good, you shouldn’t need the police to enforce them!”

After my days as a an underground journalist, I went on to work in the hospitality business, working my way up through the ranks as an assistant manager, general manager and ending up as an executive director of restaurant and hotel operations. In my 30 years in the industry I learned that pot users were no different than other employees: some of them were great workers and others worthless as tits on a slab of bacon. (Cokeheads are a different story!)

As I’ve surveyed the political landscape in recent times, I’ve noticed that the forces lining up against Proposition 19—the Correctional Officers Union, assorted control freaks and defenders of the status quo—are all, generally speaking on the other side of the political divide from where I stand (except for a few principled libertarians). Like these self righteous meddlers:

The World Congress of Families – with affiliates on five continents and members in 65 nations – warned of the dangers to children and families of California’s Proposition 19 on the November ballot, which legalizes marijuana in the state. WCF Managing Director Larry Jacobs noted: “In the past 40 years, liberal social experiments have taken a devastating toll on families and children. Now, the same radicals who brought us no-fault divorce in the early 1970s are pushing drug legalization.”

So, based on the argument that, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” I feel a strong inclination to support this initiative.

On the other side…

I was a late-comer to the whole marriage and breeding thing, and, as a result, I now have a teenage daughter at an age where many of my contemporaries are well into their second and third sets of grandkids. I’d like to think that my daughter will be wise enough to stay away from the drug culture, for reasons that we’ll get to in a few paragraphs. But, in thinking this through, I’ve realized that ultimately she’ll have to make her own choices. I do feel that she shouldn’t have to face the court system or jail. She’s going to have enough other tough things to face in her life, given the sad state that the economy and this nation currently face.

zoloft-prozac-paxilA few years back I went through a fundamental identity crisis. Although I’d stopped using drugs decades ago, I’d slipped into a pattern of depression and self-medication. I got a doc to sign me up for a hefty daily dose of Zoloft and continued my practice of hitting the bars for a few cocktails at the end of the day. Big mistake. (That particular combo works at the “fight or flight” reptilian level of the brain…ugh) Although I’d somehow continued to be functional at work, the combo worked its ugly magic into my consciousness and I became something or somebody who had very little to do with the real me. I’ll spare you the details of my descent into darkness. Suffice it to say, at the urging and with the support of some very wonderful people I have found myself in a much better place. My life isn’t perfect and I don’t pretend to have any answers. But I hope you can see where I might have some doubts about the wisdom of enacting any policies that could alter consciousness. Ultimately, though, I can’t see myself as the morality police here.

And then there are the whackos. You’d think that the very real prospect of passing a law—imperfect as it may be— that made a step towards removing private behavior from the business cycle of the prison/industrial complex would be welcomed by all those who support decriminalization or legalization of marijuana. But, nooooo! There’s a bunch of “advocates” running around the state of California acting like the fringe of the fringe Tea Party set. Or they’re so paranoid that they’re claiming that rival groups are really part of a government plot. I guess it just shows that craziness isn’t unique to any part of the political spectrum. But it does make me wonder if this whole process makes any sense.

Prop19 posterThe best reasons to Vote Yes on 19…

Proposition 19’s biggest effect may well not really be about the act of smoking pot. It can be a launching point for a larger and much needed dialogue about US drug policies and their influence on other nations and individuals around the globe. I view Prop 19 as a leveraged action that could ultimately upset the applecart also known as the “War on Drugs”.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the actual workings of government policy in this area, this “War” is between narco-criminal syndicates and various government entities. Like the “War” in Vietnam and the “War” on terrorism the “enemies” that we are “fighting” here are unconventional organizations that are rarely defeated through conventional warfare (or high tech gizmos. or spy satellites and drones.). The mighty drug enforcement armies claim small victories through arrests and seizures, but the larger battles are largely being won by the cartels. Business is good. Take one leader out and four more pop up. They’re virtually the only industry hiring in many areas of Mexico, and the pay is much better that at the NAFTA driven assembly plants along the border. It’s akin to playing “whack-a-mole” at the carnival.

Now I’m not going to say that the cartels are going away if Proposition 19 passes. The mafia didn’t go away when prohibition ended. But if the rationale for the Military/Industrial/Narco complex is attacked via a rear guard action by the voters of the State of California, then there may emerge a better way out of this quagmire with the cartels. If there’s actually room in jails for hard drug smugglers and they aren’t released early due to overcrowding, then law enforcement has a chance of being more effective in this area.

Even more importantly, passing Proposition 19 opens the field of debate as to mere existence of this cumbersome, expensive and ineffective “War on Drugs”. You want to cut Federal spending? Here’s some waste for ya! And while you’re at it, take a look at that financial black hole called the “War on Terror”. I’m not, by the way, suggesting that we stop enforcing laws or that we roll over and play dead with the Jihadists out there. What I am saying is that, given the way our government’s “fighting” these “wars”, we’re playing their game; tying up resources, destabilizing our economy, marginalizing the legitimacy of Washington and taking a very human toll with thousands of maimed or mortally wounded young people.

Prop19 prohibitionThere is a very powerful military industrial complex that’s grown up out of these “wars”, as it is extremely profitable. Its financial future is vested in continuing conflicts around the world. Maybe, just maybe, there is an opening here that could some day lead to a change in direction for our country based on something other than shadow boxing with unseen enemies.

Proposition 19 has grown the political debate on marijuana policy nation-wide, one that has dominated until now by medical marijuana debates. While the major candidates for office in California oppose legalization, many privately admit that Prop 19 will be a potential game-changing issue to drive turnout among younger, progressive voters in this election. The fact that the California PTA has taken a neutral rather than opposing position on this issue, signals the strength of the winds of change that a blowing in California.

There are rumblings around the beltway that the federal government could sue California if Prop 19 passes. Nine former DEA administrators are urging Washington to challenge Proposition 19 if voters approve it in November. They’re arguing that state legalization of marijuana would violate the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which says “this Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof…shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” Since Prop. 19 conflicts with the federal Controlled Substances Act, they say, it is unconstitutional.

Drug Policy Alliance attorney Tamar Todd recently responded to a LA Times editorial claim that California “does not have the authority” to legalize marijuana:

The Times is simply wrong to suggest that California does not have the authority to tax and regulate marijuana. There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that requires states to criminalize anything. We could scrap our entire penal code tomorrow if we wanted to. States get to decide state law, not Washington. This is why California and 13 other states have been able to legalize and regulate medical marijuana despite continuing federal prohibition… …The reality is, however, the federal government does not have the resources to undertake sole—or even primary—enforcement responsibility for state drug crimes. More than 95% of all marijuana arrests in this country are made by state and local law enforcement agencies.

And even if the Feds want to make nasty with this one, the debate will only get louder and larger. So in 2010 Proposition 19 is about more that letting people fire up a joint. Just as Proposition 8 (in 2008) was about human dignity as much as it was about marriage, these initiatives are about changing the game.

Let’s do it.  Vote for Prop 19!

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

martin September 30, 2010 at 10:14 am

I agree with the arguments for prop 19 and disagree with almost all of the arguments against prop 19. There’s just one that worries me – the possibility that schools could lose federal funding. Is there truth to this claim? If prop 19 passes, could Obama’s administration pull that funding? Even if Obama doesn’t, could a future president’s administration?

From – Prop 19 “Would place hundreds of employers, including public schools, at risk of violating the Federal Workplace Act of 1988 which mandates the necessity of a drug-free workplace. This is why public school superintendent John Snavely, Ed.D. warns that Proposition 19 could cost our K-12 schools as much as $9.4 billion in lost federal funding as well as the loss of millions of dollars in federal grants for our state colleges and universities.”


Sarah October 1, 2010 at 12:59 pm

I know that “higher” minds than mine are hared at work on this but I’m not sure that Prop 19 would necessarily impact the Drug Free Workplace laws. It’s my understanding that the Drug Free Workplace rules deal with use, possession, etc. of controlled substances IN THE WORKPLACE. I don’t think it follows that legalizing pot would necessarily mean that we have to allow teachers, students and school administrators to smoke it at work or possess it at work. We don’t allow them to drink at work. Why would this law mean that we must allow them to smoke pot at work?

(The medical use laws SHOULD have more impact on the Drug Free Workplace, ’cause if pot is medicine, how can we NOT allow patients with proper prescriptions to use their medicine at work)

Here’s the basics about what organization must do to comply with the act:

1. Publish and give a policy statement to all covered employees informing them that the unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensation, possession or use of a controlled substance is prohibited in the covered workplace and specifying the actions that will be taken against employees who violate the policy.

2. Establish a drug-free awareness program to make employees aware of a) the dangers of drug abuse in the workplace; b) the policy of maintaining a drug-free workplace; c) any available drug counseling, rehabilitation, and employee assistance programs; and d) the penalties that may be imposed upon employees for drug abuse violations.

3. Notify employees that as a condition of employment on a Federal contract or grant, the employee must a) abide by the terms of the policy statement; and b) notify the employer, within five calendar days, if he or she is convicted of a criminal drug violation in the workplace.

4. Notify the contracting or granting agency within 10 days after receiving notice that a covered employee has been convicted of a criminal drug violation in the workplace.

5. Impose a penalty on—or require satisfactory participation in a drug abuse assistance or rehabilitation program by—any employee who is convicted of a reportable workplace drug conviction.

6. Make an ongoing, good faith effort to maintain a drug-free workplace by meeting the requirements of the Act.


Diane5150 October 1, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Screw the Federal government on this issue. The public schools suck. The Federal policies are a failure. WE need to shake things up and shake things loose.We have lost our Republic if WE fear our own government.


Abby October 3, 2010 at 4:30 pm

I for one would be willing to pay higher taxes to be free of what amounts to nothing more than blackmail from the federal government.

The people want an end to this failure of a drug policy. It’s been a waste of tax money, and has made a lot of very bad people rich.


annagrace September 30, 2010 at 10:39 am

Doug- this is a great article, not only because of your analytical skills on the topic, but because you have spoken your personal truth. Your thoughts as a parent are important. You have been an employer and have suffered from your own need to self-medicate- albeit with legally prescribed medications and alcohol. Your perspective touches upon the many aspects of this debate, and your support for legalizing marijuana should carry a great deal of weight.

Prop 19 gets my “yes” vote.


JMW October 1, 2010 at 1:53 am

Doug, hi. My only regret about the smoking of this naturally occurring, organic, non-“commercial” drug is that I know it’s consumption contributes nickels and dimes to brutal people. (On the other hand, I have paid 40 years worth of taxes to the U.S. federal government.) Surely, were there no market for it as an illegal substance, a substantial source of income would be unavailable to them (can we do that with taxes?). Likely, something else would present itself to their avaricious minds; probably, something else already has.
One note: According to my understanding, the “war on terror” is not being fought against “jihadists,” (though they and their opponents make the claim). My understanding, developed through discussion with students, is that Islam does not condone the killing of women or children even in jihad. Jihad has been defined to me as only a war to defend one’s homeland from invasion by a foreign power, and, in that case, defenders kill soldiers, not civilians of any age or either gender. Conceivably, one could argue that by extension American bases in Saudi Arabia do constitute “an attack” by a foreign power, hence the “join me in jihad” commercials. However, this was dismissed as unIslamic by the students. Consequently, I see the acceptance of the term by those in Washington as tarring all with the same brush, and, by those on the other side, as grasping at straws for legitimacy.


doug porter October 1, 2010 at 9:33 am

You’re right JMW. i plead guilty to using the faux shorthand in my story. the “war” on terror is a much more complicated issue than that, and mis-labeling/misunderstanding many of the humans involved is among the many reasons why the US military cannot “win”.


dave rice October 1, 2010 at 8:46 am

Well-written as always, Doug. A few months ago you seemed much more pessimistic on 19’s chances of passage – has something changed your thinking on that? I’d love to see the law pass, but I’m reserving a bit of skepticism for now…

The biggest obstacle I see to implementation (provided it does pass) is lack of a reliable method to determine the level of THC that one might be affected by. While it can be said that some people get fall-down drunk with a BAC of 0.04% and other seasoned drinkers may show no signs of impairment until 0.10% or so, we can at least measure how much alcohol is in someone’s system and from there set a concrete limit of 0.08%, whether or not everyone agrees that’s where it should be.

Most of the conservatives I talk to that are otherwise supportive and would swing in large numbers to vote yes are scared of stoned drivers, stoned workers doing dangerous stuff like working on electrical wiring, etc. Current blood testing/whiz quizzing makes no determination of whether someone’s high at the time of the test or if they were high sometime last week, and subjective sobriety tests like walking in a line, reciting the alphabet, and so forth don’t tend to stand up in court.


doug porter October 1, 2010 at 9:42 am

well dave, it ain’t over till it’s over, but the opposition that i expected to emerge on prop 19 has been largely silent. the polling looks good at this point. but the misinformation being spread by groups that should be supportive–despite the flaws in the law–continues to worry me.


Diane5150 October 1, 2010 at 10:26 am

Sex offenders are more harmful than pot smokers. Put that in the conservative pipe and smoke it.


Goatskull October 1, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Unless they’re pot smoking sex offenders.


kenloc October 1, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Sex offenders often act out under the influence of alcohol.Perhaps they should be forced to smoke pot, then they will just eat some candy and play video games until they fall asleep instead of going out and raping 15 year olds.


Diane5150 October 1, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Oh that’s good, let’s scapegoat alcohol. Instead let’s teach people how to spot the grooming behaviors of the pedophile. Let’s stop sexualizing our children. Let’s take our lives back from the politicians and the corporations. Let’s stop living in fear.

(could a manic episode be on my horizon?)


Kenneth Legg October 4, 2010 at 8:07 am

I will continue to scapegoat alcohol all day because it causes misery and desctruction in peoples lives on a daily basis.Smoke a bowl for that manic episode)


Anna Daniels October 4, 2010 at 7:50 am

LA Times does not endorse Prop 19 today, Oct 4. Read the argument here:


Shane Finneran October 4, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Boo to the Times for blowing it on this one.

The Times article argues that Prop 19’s conflicts with federal law mean it is doomed, so we should vote no. But earlier in the article, it explains how Cali passed the medical MJ act in 1996 in the face of federal opposition — and these days, not only is medical MJ alive and well in Cali, 13 other states have also adopted similar laws. Feds can only do so much…

Also, first paragraph of the article is the perfect argument for voting Yes on 19:

“Seventy years of criminal prohibition, “Just Say No” sloganeering and a federal drug war that now incarcerates 225,000 people a year have not diminished the availability or use of — or apparently the craving for — cannabis. And helping meet the demand is California, the nation’s top grower. Marijuana production here results in an estimated $14 billion in sales, and its cultivation and distribution are now tightly woven into the state’s economy.”


annagrace October 4, 2010 at 6:33 pm

I’m with you Shane. the LA Times opinion is little more than a smoke screen…


Citizen Cane October 4, 2010 at 6:43 pm

The Times article also make a big deal out of the regulatory chaos that would be created by differing county regulations. Is this a legit concern?? We already have lots of variety in building codes and development covenants. So maybe you won’t be able to grow pot in your front yard in Rancho Santa Fe…boo hoo.
Any billions lost to school funding might be offset, by spending less on prisons, courts, and SWAT ranger eradicaton programs. Plus we can’t really put a price on the damge that is being done to our National Parks and Forests. Here’s some more info:


Legalizing pot could also be good for the tourist industry….and munchie makers.


Citizen Cane October 4, 2010 at 6:51 pm

I was just reading something about Prop 19 making is a felony to smoke pot around minors. Is that for real?? I’m allowed to indoctrinate my kids with any religious lunacy of MY choice, but it will be a crime to smoke pot around them? How will I ever level the playing field for a game of Scrabble?


Citizen Cane October 4, 2010 at 7:50 pm

I just read read the full text of the proposed law…maybe it has to do with how “administer” is interpreted. Second-hand smoke isn’t mentioned, but perhaps that would be “administering” the drug to a minor. Does that mean it would be OK to eat pot brownies in front of kids?

I’m not too keen on the part of the law that says no “consumption” in public or a public space. So much for getting back to nature…no smoking or eating it… not even in remote, desolate public places. Sounds like we’ll still have people clogging up our jails for breaking stupid laws.


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