California’s Prop 19: A Word-for-Word Analysis
I’ve spent the weekend reading various blogs that have sprouted up in opposition to Proposition 19, California’s effort to legalize marijuana this November. These “Stoners Against Legalization” blogs confound me; they remind me of Sam Kinison’s line comparing “Rock Against Drugs” to “Christians Against Christ”.
Some of these blogs are based on the notion that legalization would be worse than “what we have now”. The assumption there is that if you smoke marijuana in California, you must already have your Prop 215 recommendation from a doctor, and you’d be losing your rights under Prop 19.
Most marijuana smokers, believe it or not, are healthy and aren’t comfortable spending money for a doctor to give them permission to use cannabis. Currently we face a ticket, fine, and misdemeanor drug conviction record for possession an ounce or less of cannabis. That record prevents us from getting student aid and can cost us our jobs, child custody, and housing, or if we’re on probation, our freedom. (Even if California succeeds at downgrading possession to an infraction from a misdemeanor, a $100 ticket is a lot of money to some people!) We face a felony charge if we grow even one plant at home. For us, Prop 19 is much better than “what we have now”.
Another thing that appears in some of these blogs is outright misinformation, such as talk of a $50/ounce state tax (it’s not in the initiative; that was Ammiano’s bill) or that it would supersede Prop 215 (it wouldn’t, and Prop 19 even references Prop 215 in its language, so it couldn’t). Others play up the “millionaires”, “big corporations”, and “monopolies” that would be created and the earnest Emerald Triangle family growers who’d be put out of business (which amuses me: Prop 19 allows localities to regulate sales, so why wouldn’t Humboldt, Trinity, and Mendocino county residents whose economy depends on pot sales lobby really hard to get legalized pot sales OK’d in those counties and cities within, and regulated in a way that protects the small grower?)
Two notable sticking points have to do with minors below 21: Prop 19 creates a new crime in being an adult over 21 who gives marijuana to adults aged 18-20 and Prop 19 forbids adults over 21 from smoking where minors are present. Prop 19’s penalties in the first situation mirror the penalties for giving alcohol to 18-20-year-olds; but, yes, it is disturbing to create a new statute that calls for jail time over marijuana. It’s also questionable whether an adult should be punished for smoking pot if their child can see them – we don’t even require that of alcohol and tobacco.
But are these reason enough to continue ruining the lives of people 21 and older? Besides, if you’re over 21 smoking with some 18-year-olds or in front of some minors, and you’re doing it inside your home, who is to know? And if you’re 18-20, wouldn’t you love being legal in 1 to 3 years?
Because the biggest thing Prop 19 does, the forest that these blogs are missing for the trees, is LEGALIZE ADULT MARIJUANA CULTIVATION AND POSSESSION.
Even under Prop 215, the adult cannabis consumer is guilty of being a criminal unless proven innocent as a patient. When Prop 19 passes, the adult cannabis consumer is considered innocent until proven guilty. It is a complete game changer for law enforcement, because:
- the smell of marijuana on your person is no longer probable cause to search you;
- that joint in your pocket means nothing;
- the seizure of stems, leaves, and seeds from your trash is irrelevant;
- a couple of baggies with weed residue in them are just garbage;
- the sight of that bong on your table visible through the kitchen window isn’t a “welcome” mat for a police search;
- your utility bills raising a bit for water and lights don’t matter;
- your neighbors smelling skunky plants is just a nuisance, not the source for an “anonymous tip”;
- receipts for lights, soil, fertilizer, ballasts, trimmers, and stuff are meaningless;
- infrared signatures of your home aren’t evidence of anything;
- marijuana sniffing K-9 units are out of a job; and
- pre-employment drug testing programs become harder for businesses to maintain for cannabis.
Basically, one of the simplest tools law enforcement has for harassing cannabis consumers – the sight and smell of cannabis and paraphernalia – is no longer in the tool belt. As long as you’re an adult, keep your grow in a 5’x5′ area, don’t smoke in front of kids, and don’t leave the house with over an ounce, you are free from police harassment.
And even if you don’t follow the law perfectly, who’s to know? If you’re pulled over and there’s an ounce and a half in your backpack, how does that cop know? Does it “smell heavy” in your car? So long as you refuse a search, how will he know? The smell of pot isn’t cause for a search; you’re allowed to have an ounce of it.
If you have a 10’x10′ garden, who’s to know? Is the electric bill that much higher? Does the garden smell more (probably not at all if you build a good grow room)? Plus don’t forget that you’re allowed to have more than one ounce, namely, any amount that you grow within your 5’x5′ garden, at the location of the garden. I think by the time law enforcement came back with a warrant to investigate how big my garden is, three-fourths of it would be cut down and I would suddenly have my 5’x5′ garden and my hanging plants from the last 5’x5′ area I harvested.
Suppose there is four pounds of marijuana at my house. Why, officer, that’s the results from my last legal 5’x5′ personal garden harvest. What, you don’t see any 5’x5′ growing space? Well, I used to grow, but I took down my garden and sold my equipment after my last harvest. Why, yes, they were some pretty big plants. No, I didn’t take any pictures, because what I was doing was perfectly legal. (Prop 19 also has a nice affirmative defense to claim the marijuana in your home was for your personal use. These blogs never seem to notice that.)
So on The NORML Stash Blog I’ve decided to write a word-for-word analysis of Prop 19, mainly because it seems like many of the people against it have never read it. Standard disclaimer: I am no lawyer… hell, I’m not even a college graduate. Click here to read my Word-for-Word Analysis of Prop 19. July 19, 2010