Is legalizing marijuana in California going to change anything?

Post by Randall Ryder

This fall, California voters will have the chance to vote on a proposal to legalize Marijuana in certain situations. Specifically, adults over the age of 21 will be allowed to posses an ounce for personal use. The proposal, if passed, would also allow individuals to grow up to 25 square feet of marijuana per residence/parcel. If passed, the law would conflict with federal law. At the same time, the Obama Administration has effectively announced that the Department of Justice will not prosecute the use of marijuana under federal law. 

California already allows individuals to use Marijuana for medicinal uses.The proposal would also allow cities and counties to regulate cultivation, transportation, and sale of marijuana. That could then be used to raise tax revenue. Proponents of the plan say that California could raise tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue from legalizing marijuana. They also say it would undercut the power of Mexican drug cartels in California.
 
Opponents of the plan say that legalize marijuana will just increase the problem of drug use. They also refer to neighborhoods that currently have medicinal marijuana shops, noting that many residents are uncomfortable with the practice, and are concerned about having a prevalence of open drug usage.
 
In California, possessing an ounce or less is subject to a $100 and a misdemeanor fine, presumably with no jail time. Given the relatively lax penalty, California does not appear to be "cracking down" on marijuana use. If the law passes, what will actually happen? 
 
It is unlikely that people will soon be seen smoking joints on every street corner. Theoretically, it could become more difficult for individuals under 21 to acquire marijuana, given the new law. On the other hand, if more individuals have easy access to marijuana, that could make it easier for them to sell it to minors. Having lived in California in the past, I can attest that marijuana usage is fairly prevalent. Given the high prevalence, and generalized acceptance of using marijuana, it seems unlikely passing the new law will have a profound impact; I find it hard to believe millions of people will suddenly start using the drug.
 
Perhaps the more pragmatic concern is the growing/cultivation portion of the law. I can see people concerned that their neighbor is growing a bunch of marijuana plants in their backyard. It’s one thing to see your neighbors engaging in usage in the privacy of their home. It’s another issue when your neighbor is growing a substance that you are fundamentally opposed to.
 
In terms of law enforcement, it makes some sense to use those resources elsewhere. Even though it is a relatively minor crime to possess marijuana right now, it still uses valuable judicial and law enforcement resources. Given California’s budget problems, and overcrowded prisons, the state could certainly put the money to good use elsewhere.
 

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