In just over 48 hours the polls in California will close and citizens of that state will have either accepted or rejected Proposition 19, a citizen's initiative to seriously decriminalize possession and cultivation of marijuana for adults. If passed, California will be the first state in the nation to allow an adult to possess up to one ounce of the fibrous herb, and to operate a 25 x 25 foot grow op. Predictably, law enforcement, drug treatment professionals, and concerned parents are up in arms and warning of dire social consequences should Prop. 19 be adopted.
They offer the same arguments that proponents of cannabis prohibition have been advancing for decades. They warn of rampant pot abuse by children, death and mayhem on the highways, sky high cancer rates, and a surge in addiction. Certainly, they argue, if the wild weed is legalized thousands, perhaps millions of pot users will be subject to marijuana's proposed gateway effect and move on to hard drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.
Earlier this month, Mexican soldiers stack bails of marijuana -- 134 tons of it -- to be burned near the city of Tijuana. Credit: Getty Images
When California voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana use, the ballot initiative will be closely watched in Mexico.
In California, supporters of Proposition 19 say one reason to legalize pot in the state is to help reduce the violent illegal drug trade south of the border, where Mexico's drug war has claimed some 29,000 lives over the past four years.
But in Mexico, there is no clear consensus on how the passing of Proposition 19 would affect the Mexican drug trade.
Californians will go to the polls this Election Day, and decide whether to legalize marijuana for adult, recreational use. The measure’s called Proposition 19, and the debate has largely centered on how it could impact the financial future of the state.
But how has California’s anti-pot policy faired so far? Some argue that prohibiting pot keeps people from using more dangerous drugs. Others say that criminalizing cannabis disproportionately harms minorities.
The latest poll on California's Proposition 19, which would legalize adult marijuana recreational marijuana use and allow local governments to regulate and tax sales, shows the ballot initiative ahead with 52 percent supporting it and 41 percent against it.
The push to legalize marijuana in California is seeing increased public support.
A field poll shows likely voters support Proposition 19 by a 49-to-42 percent margin. In July Prop 19 trailed by four points.
The new field poll is similar to an exclusive Action News Poll conducted by SurveyUSA this month. It showed 47-percent of likely voters said they would vote to legalize marijuana, while 43-percent were opposed.
Marijuana is the most popular illegal drug in the United States. Seventy years of criminal prohibition, "Just Say No" sloganeering and a federal drug war that now incarcerates 225,000 people a year have not diminished the availability or use of — or apparently the craving for — cannabis. And helping meet the demand is California, the nation's top grower. Marijuana production here results in an estimated $14 billion in sales, and its cultivation and distribution are now tightly woven into the state's economy. It is grown in homes, in backyards and even in national parks, including Yosemite.
Marijuana is popular, plentiful and lucrative, costing about $400 a pound to grow and yielding $6,000 a pound on the street. So it is perhaps inevitable that an attempt would be made to legalize it, as Proposition 19 — the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 — purports to do.
The 700,000-member Service Employees International Union's endorsement could boost the Proposition 19 campaign, which has been relying on grass-roots outreach.
The state council of the Service Employees International Union, the largest labor union in California, has endorsed Proposition 19, the initiative on the November ballot that seeks to legalize marijuana.
The endorsement, announced Tuesday, could boost the campaign, which has not been able to raise enough money for television advertisements and is relying on grass-roots outreach.
The SEIU, which says it has more than 700,000 members in California, is a significant political force in state politics, although it is not clear how much money or muscle it will put toward passage of the measure.