Exploring the arguments for California's marijuana legalization initiative

October 19, 2010


BikeMonkey Guest Post
The KPBS public broadcast station has been working on an exploration of Proposition 19, the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. This will be on the tee vee October 19. Nice to finally see some journalistic effort. The Prop 19 initiative has been unbelievably absent from the public airwaves, given the topic.

There was a teaser interview on the radio and I picked up a couple of interesting points.

The number of people in the CA state prison system for marijuana charges that would be impacted by Prop 19 amount to 0.8% of the total population. This is true for three large County jail systems as well.

The numbers of these individuals in prison have been dropping over the past decade.

Be wary of claims of arrest costs- advocates like to amortize total police department costs across all “arrests”. Law officer points out that most marijuana arrests that would be affected by Prop 19 are not even booked- they are arrested, cited and released instead of being taken down to the police office. This is a substantial difference in per-arrest cost.

The RAND Corporation study was mentioned- if you haven’t seen it, their report [pdf] shows that claims of the proponents that this will significantly affect the big political bugaboo of “Mexican drug cartels” is overblown. Way overblown.

Of 140 surveyed elected local officials (mayors, city council members, etc), 41 would go on record as opposed to Prop 19. Nobody else would provide a pro or con response.

The Obama Administration is firmly opposed to Prop 19.

Attorney General Eric Holder…says the Justice Department strongly opposes California’s Proposition 19 and remains firmly committed to enforcing the federal Controlled Substances Act in all states.

He made the comments in a letter to former chiefs of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter, dated Wednesday.

“We will vigorously enforce the CSA against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law,” Holder wrote.

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