In 1913, California became the first state to pass a law criminalizing the use and cultivation of marijuana. This November, California may also be the first to pass a law legalizing it.
On March 24th, the California Secretary of State’s office confirmed the amount of valid signatures on a petition to legalize marijuana was enough to earn a way onto the November 2010 ballot. This differs from the medicinal marijuana law California was the first to pass, via Proposition 215 in 1996, which allowed physicians to prescribe marijuana for medicinal purposes.
This new law would allow marijuana to be possessed legally (up to one ounce) for recreational use. In other words, marijuana would be as legal as alcohol. In fact, similar to alcohol laws, the initiative sets the same age of 21, and specifically states that the users will not be able to drive while under the influence, ingest it in public, or while minors are nearby.
In other words, marijuana would be as legal as alcohol.
It seems as if the tide against marijuana legalization has slowly been turning in California. When Prop 215 first passed there were several years where marijuana dispensaries were routinely raided and shut down, and their owners arrested. Mainly this was due to conflicting federal laws which stated that marijuana was an illegal Schedule 1 drug with no medical use.
In the last few years however, the federal government has taken a hands-off approach to the medical marijuana issue, and now 14 other states also have medical marijuana laws; although California would again be the first to legalize it for recreational use.
Today, one only needs to look around southern California to see the changing attitude toward marijuana legalization. The prevalence of medical marijuana dispensaries in Southern California alone illuminates this fact. On some areas, there are multiple dispensaries not only on the same street, but in the same strip malls. To put it in perspective, during 2009, in the city of Los Angeles, there were more medical marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks.
This kind or proliferation has not gone unnoticed by a California population that has seen mounting budget deficit begin to take a real toll on government services. It is estimated that by legalizing marijuana and taxing it, the state could make an extra $14 billion in revenue. Proponents of the bill also point to the money that will be saved by not having to jail marijuana abusers.
However, there are many opponents of the law that point to the unknown consequences of legalizing marijuana. Concerns include:
Health Issues- Marijuana smoking damages the lungs, causes short-term memory loss, and slows reaction times, which many believe could lead to more dangerous roads.
Legal Issues- The state law would again put California at odds with the Federal law which still lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. They would also have to create a system for governing the licensing, taxing, permit issuance etc. Also, the law allows for cities to pass their own ordinances that either allow or don’t allow marijuana in their city. This could lead to a situation where marijuana is legal in one city and illegal in the next. Plus, many employers will still be able to test for marijuana and fire people for showing positive, even though the drug itself would be legal.
And finally, addiction issues: The issue most important to us, here at Sober Living by the Sea, is how the legalization of marijuana will impact the people with addictive tendencies. Although we know the fact that marijuana being illegal does not keep people from becoming addicted; it is a concern that making it as available as alcohol will no doubt lead to an increase marijuana addiction problems. There is also a concern that by making it legal, we are sending a message to children that marijuana is okay to use, and some young people that would have avoided it, will now try it. And unfortunately, trying one drug often leads to stronger, more addictive drug use.