Prop 19 Goes Up In Smoke But Sets Dangerous Precedent
BY ARIEL SMILOWITZ
Recently, the founders of Facebook have been making waves; the Social Network was a success at the box office and managed to create a substantial amount of controversy over the origins of the popular site. However, now some of the founders of Facebook are finding popularity, and controversy, in the political arena as well, as co-founders Dustin Moskowitz and Sean Parker publicly gave their support for Proposition 19, donating $150,000 towards the cause. Proposition 19 was a legislative initiative in California to legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for those over 21. The proposition was highly controversial and ultimately didn’t pass after the recent November elections. The sad attempt to legalize the dangerous drug was only created as a desperate and last resort to save California’s faltering economy; thus, the initiative clearly portrayed the great lengths some were willing to go to make more money, even at the expense of the well-being of their fellow citizens.
California has always been at the forefront of the campaign to legalize marijuana. After years of protest, in 1975 the former governor Jerry Brown decriminalized the drug; rather than go to jail, possession of one ounce or less became a misdemeanor with a $100 fine. With the recent economic recession still looming over the country, particularly California, many advocates of the proposition argued that legalization of the drug would actually help the state’s failing economy, which is currently facing a budget shortfall of at least $11 billion. In addition, proponents argued that legalizing marijuana would reduce prison overcrowding. However, only about two percent of the people in jail are there for marijuana-related crimes. Clearly, these claims are not justified because they don’t solve any problems; legalization is merely a quick fix, something that ultimately wouldn’t have helped California’s economy recover in the long run.
Furthermore, the implementation of Proposition 19 would have allowed the local governments to regulate the sale and cultivation of the drug, and would have imposed the collection of marijuana-related fees and taxes. In the end, even though marijuana would have been taxable, the fact that each city or county would have had to design its regulations creates several problems, considering the fact that marijuana is still illegal on the federal level. Thus, the proposition would have created an enormous legal quandary. These obvious holes in the proposition reinforce the fact that its proponents don’t care about the mess that legalizing marijuana would bring to the state, as long as profit is made.
If marijuana had been legalized, it would’ve had lasting effects among the country’s youth, deepening the impression that it isn’t harmful, when in fact the drug is very detrimental to one’s health. For example, short-term effects can include distorted perception, memory loss, problems with learning, loss of coordination, lower blood pressure, and increased heart rate. In the end, marijuana may not be physically addictive, but it is psychologically addictive and is known as a gateway drug, meaning that its legalization could potentially lead to the increased use of more dangerous drugs. Furthermore, according to a 2009 survey called Monitoring the Future, about 21% of twelfth-graders had used marijuana in the month before the survey. With this in mind, legalizing marijuana would have sent the message that using marijuana is okay, spiking the percentage of teenager users. Is this really what we want – a generation of pot-heads? What kind of future is that for America?
Although Proposition 19 wasn’t passed, the issue of legalization is far from dying out; its proponents are already promising its revival in 2012. If California achieves success in legalizing marijuana, the issue may spread throughout the country, eventually ending the federal ban. In the end, legalizing marijuana will effectively create the impression that problems can be solved by legalizing drugs, and that the economy is more important than the well-being of Americans. Even though the use of marijuana is widespread already, the fact that it’s still illegal manages to convey the idea that using the drug is wrong and harmful. Thus, the idea of Proposition 19 may be the proverbial slippery slope: the belief that marijuana is harmful will significantly diminish, and its legalization will eventually lead to a future where more and more drugs are legal and acceptable.