Voters mix legalizing the leef

By Ingrid Chang

Nov. 2, 2010 was a general election unlike all others for the class of 2011. Many of the seniors recently became eligible to vote, and a certain controversial proposition was on the ballot. Proposition 19, which did not pass, would have legalized marijuana possession and use in California for persons over 21. It was a subject of great debate among students and their parents.

The majority of students who answered an October Chronicle poll were pro-legalization, but regardless of their stances on the proposition, all had strong opinions on the subject.

For some pro-legalization voters, the primary concern was freedom of choice.

“The government should not control what you put in your body. I think I should be allowed to dictate what I do,” Will Davidson ’11 said. “It has been proven to be safer than alcohol.”

The projected impact of the bill was an increase in tax and fee revenues up to hundreds of millions of dollars per year for the state of California, and would have potentially saved tens of millions.

“Since we’re in a huge deficit, I think our state could use it,” Davidson said.

Jason Mohr ’11, who thought the bill was poorly written, had a different opinion.

“There was no provision for taxes written in the proposition,” he said. “So, any assumption of a revenue windfall is simply conjecture or misdirection to the real goal of just allowing people to get high legally.”

The measure stated that licensed marijuana establishments would have to pay federal, state and local business taxes, and permitted local governments to instate additional taxes on marijuana-related activities. However, the impact would have depended on whether the state and local governments chose to regulate and tax marijuana.

Another projected benefit of the bill was to reduce costs for marijuana-related offenses and the handling of related criminal cases in the court system.

“It takes money out of crimes and gangs and it will take money off the street and put it into legitimate businesses,” Josh Lerner ’11 said. “Law enforcement should be focusing on bigger problems.”

One concern of anti-legalization voters was that there was nothing in the bill that forbade workers from being high at work, but some thought this was a trivial issue.

“It’s the same thing [as with alcohol], you’re not going to show up to work drunk. And even if you do, you could get fired if you don’t perform properly,” a student said.

Prop. 19 was a topic greatly disputed between students and parents. One student was able to sway his dad’s opinion, convincing him to change his vote from a “No” to a “Yes”.

“Every argument he gave against it, I just countered,” he said.

Despite the arguments for marijuana, there is still a stigma attached to it. Some parents agreed with arguments that their children presented but still had a gut instinct to vote against it.

The result of the Nov. 2 election was a disappointment for some students, but others were in favor of waiting a few years for a better system and a better bill.

“It’s an irresponsible system,” another student who requested anonymity said, “It’s better to wait a few years and create a better system.”