On November 2, Californians will vote on the legality of marijuana. A majority of “yes” votes to Proposition 19 will legalize the use of marijuana by those over the age of 21 at home and in licensed businesses, the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, and the taxation of the sale of marijuana by local governments within the state who deem the sale to be acceptable. At the same time, the status of laws regarding the use of marijuana in situations such as the operation of a motor vehicle would not change.
The debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana within California has burned and spread more rapidly than a forest fire, as judgement day rapidly approaches. At the centre of the debate are two organizations going by the creative titles of “Yes to Proposition 19” and “No to Proposition 19.” Upon investigation of both groups’ websites, I was immediately repulsed by the image arising from that of the “No to Proposition 19” faction. Set on a black backdrop is the image of a car crash involving a school bus, along with a caption describing a set of consequences of the legalization of marijuana which will ensure California’s impending doom.
This type of fear-mongering tactic is typical within arguments against marijuana. “If you legalize marijuana, a sea of deranged drug addicts will invade your city, run you over with their cars, and convert your children to the drug while you are crippled in the hospital.” Jerry Brown, the Democratic candidate for governor of California, was even quoted as stating, “We’ve got to compete with China. And if everybody’s stoned, how the hell are we going to make it?” This type of lunacy is a clear example of the demented view these individuals have of government’s role in society. These individuals are fighting for a California that is essentially a large family, where the government is an overbearing and intrusive father; and the citizens merely helpless children who rely on their father’s knowledge to make the “right” decisions.
Although precedent has demonstrated that it is likely marijuana use – in general or while driving – would not increase with the legalization of the drug, this is largely irrelevant. The use of sense-impairing substances before or while driving is not something the government can control, regardless of the substances’ legality. Responsible substance use relies on the individual’s will. By claiming that marijuana should not be legalized because of the possibility of an increase in marijuana-related motor vehicle accidents, the “no” campaign essentially admits that they don’t have faith in the populace’s competence. Furthermore, by this logic, proponents of No to Prop 19 would also support a ban on alcohol. History – and the failure of the “War on Drugs” – have shown us just how well taking away the right to substances works.
The people deserve the right to use marijuana legally. The countless economic, social, and security benefits of giving the populace this right only makes the argument stronger. Fortunately, they have the ability to make this right legitimate. Proposition 19 is a monumental tribute to what democracy should be: the people in control of their own laws. Not a small group of out-of-date lawmakers, but the people themselves. Whether the “yes” campaign is victorious or not, democracy will be.
Davide Mastracci is a U0 Arts student. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.