I’ve been a proponent for the legalization of marijuana for a while. Marijuana is no more harmful to people than it’s legal cousins cigarettes and alcohol — in fact many of the studies that I’ve seen actually suggest that marijuana is in fact far *less* harmful to both the human body and society than cigarettes or alcohol. We tried prohibition with alcohol way back when and it didn’t work. Keeping marijuana illegal is not working either.
Where I live, in Oakland, we are on par this year to hit a new record in murders. Oakland is one of the most violent cities in America. Most of the murders are black people killing other black people and much of the murder centers around drug dealing territorial disputes.
I don’t have a statistical breakdown on what percentage of illegal drug sales are marijuana vs. other harder drugs, but common sense would tell you that illegal marijuana sales are substantial. In 2006, 43.9 percent of the 1,889,810 total arrests for drug abuse violations were for marijuana. Our prisons are overcrowded. Our courts and policing would be better served focusing on more serious crime than marijuana possession, cultivation and distribution. And meanwhile marijuana sales each year puts millions and millions of more dollars into the hands of criminals and organized crime. Tax free dollars that can be used to buy guns, build bigger distribution empires and in general wreck more havoc primarily on poor black communities in the US.
Which is why it was with great enthusiasm that I read this article over at LAist earlier this week about an effort to put a legalization proposition on the ballet in California. The article has been enormously popular on the internet. It’s been dugg by almost 7,000 people. It’s been the top story over at sites like FriendFeed. It’s been a major story over at reddit, etc.
According to LAist, the initiative, which has been approved for signature gathering, is called the “Marijuana Legalization. Individual Rights. Constitutional Amendment.” Among other things, the initiative would call for a tax on marijuana and allow it to be sold at any store that sold alcohol. You can read the entire initiative here which includes the letter documenting the $200 fee paid by someone named “Christopher Springer,” to file the initiative for signature gathering. 694,354 signatures are needed by September, 5, 2008 to get this initiative on the November ballet in the state of California.
So why is now the right time to get a proposition on the ballet in California to legalize marijuana?
Because it would pass.
It has been over 10 years now since California voters approved Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, which removed state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess a “written or oral recommendation” from their physician that he or she “would benefit from medical marijuana.” There is no reason to limit marijuana only to medicinal use.
Public opinion support for the legalization of marijuana has never been higher. Despite millions of lobbying dollars spent by the alcohol and tobacco industries, an older generation of people who never tried marijuana but vilify it has been decreasing, being replaced by baby boomers who not only have tried it, but recognize that it is not the boogeyman that it’s been made out to be. Combined with younger voters who also have experimented or even use marijuana, the tide is turning.
In Barak Obama Americans have their first presidential candidate who has admitted to recreational marijuana use. Our own California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has not only admitted to smoking marijuana, he enjoyed it, used it and still became a highly successful actor, businessman and politician. Heck, he’s even been filmed in a movie smoking it.
California is already one of the most progressive states in the nation. The time is right. The question is who and where is “Christopher Springer?” Springer’s telephone number has been redacted from the letter where he filed his petition for the initiative. We need to get this “grass roots” movement off the ground. How can we sign this initiative Christopher, and how can we use the internet to help get the signatures necessary to get this one on the November ballot?