Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Status of Legalization: Guest Post by Brandon Yu

Our guest poster, Brandon Yu, is a Managing Editor of AllTreatment, an online rehab center directory and substance abuse information resource.


After much months of national attention, California Proposition 19 has failed by 8 figures in nearly a 600,000 vote difference. The Proposition, which was supposed to legalize marijuana in the state of California for recreational use, was opposed since the beginning by elected officials of both parties, including Democratic Senators Barabar Boxer and Diane Feinstein and Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The federal government likewise said it would “vigorously enforce” federal drug laws vigorously against Californians that grow or sell marijuana for recreational use.

Proponents noted many benefits of legalization. The passing of the proposition would have generated $1.4 billion a year in tax revenue, resulting significant savings for state and local governments and boosting the economy in the process. Some believed it would also reduce drug-related violence and take revenue away from drug lords. However, opponents argued that it would raise the cost for programs in substance abuse due to the supposed increase in marijuana use, and that the state’s medical marijuana program would flounder since people would gain the drug through other means.

So what does the prospects look like for legalization in California, let alone the status for the country’s future?

Marijuana laws in California have grown increasingly more relaxed in the year leading up to the proposition. Though he did not support the legalization proposition, Governor Schwarzaneggar signed a bill into law that downgraded marijuana possession from a Misdemeanor to a simple Civil Infraction during his final months as governor.

Bordering states looked to California to set an example. Measures in South Dakota and Arizona had measures that advocated for medical marijuana, but both were similarly rejected. Foreign countries, particular Mexico, had also been looking to how California would react to legalization. Mexican President Felipe Calderon, whose country had been entrenched in a drug war for the last half decade, was considering legalization in order to put money out the opposition’s pockets. The Mexican drug cartels make anywhere from $20 billion-$30 billion annually off drug trafficking alone, with marijuana comprising of 60 percent of that income. Legalization would have reduced that number dramatically by $12 billion.

Despite the setbacks, the legalization movement is stronger than ever. Marijuana legalization had been defeated before in California. In 1972 a similarly titled Proposition 19 also failed when put at the hands of voters. However, that proposition failed by a much higher margin, with a 66.5/33.5 No/Yes differential, a considerable difference than the 54/46 resulted from Tuesday.

Proponents are vowing to get a similar one on a ballot in the near future despite Proposition 19’s failure. Some exit polls have shown that some Voters think that marijuana should be legalized, in a margin of 49%-41% with 10% undecided, suggesting that voters had more issues with the wording of the proposition rather than legalization.

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