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California’s Prop 19: A Word-for-Word Analysis

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator July 19, 2010

    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.

    113 Responses to “California’s Prop 19: A Word-for-Word Analysis”

    1. toddbass says:

      i want to walk around and smoke weed so legalize it.

    2. Joel: the other Joel says:

      Thanks for exposing the recent replies found on blogs that is trying to cause confusion among voters. It seems odd how it pops up when election day is getting closer as if it is being done on purpose by those who opposes legalization.

    3. Katt13 says:

      To Charles in Ky. I am also from KY. You are absoulutely right about everything! My son just got in trouble, and I learned alot about our system, they are all in it together!!!

    4. Anonymous says:

      prop 19 could be the gateway to legal cannabis worldwide. i am really hoping it passes!! good luck and spread the word everyone. we’ve had enough jailtime and its time we can buy top quality cannabis legally,convinent adn safely

    5. […] California’s Prop 19: A Word-for-Word Analysis By: Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator 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; […]

    6. Rza Goggans says:

      Did you see this article on the front of nytimes.com? http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/20/us/20pot.html?hp

      To what extent is the pro-marijuana force campaigning?

    7. Joel F says:

      Let’s get this info out, otherwise lots of misinformed people will just vote a big fat NO

    8. Vic says:

      The sentence of death can be carried out on a defendant who has been found guilty of manufacturing, importing or distributing a controlled substance if the act was committed as part of a continuing criminal enterprise – but only if the defendant is (1) the principal administrator, organizer, or leader of the enterprise or is one of several such principal administrators, organizers, or leaders, and (2) the quantity of the controlled substance is 60,000 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana, or 60,000 or more marijuana plants, or the if the enterprise received more than $20 million in gross receipts during any 12-month period of its existence.

      Mandatory minimum sentence: When someone is convicted of an offense punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence, the judge must sentence the defendant to the mandatory minimum sentence or to a higher sentence. The judge has no power to sentence the defendant to less time than the mandatory minimum. A prisoner serving an MMS for a federal offense and for most state offenses will not be eligible for parole. Even peaceful marijuana smokers sentenced to “life MMS” must serve a life sentence with no chance of parole.

      To not vote “yes” on prop 19 will make absolutely sure that laws like these never get stripped from the books!

      [Russ responds: Though it hasn’t been used, America is one of the few countries that carries a death penalty for a marijuana crime (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legality_of_cannabis#Use_of_capital_punishment_against_the_cannabis_trade). That puts us in the company of such bastions of freedom and liberty as Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Singapore, and China.

      It would probably be found unconstitutional, though, because SCOTUS has ruled that only murder and treason can carry the death penalty.

      But the most troubling effect of a “No on 19″ vote: Every blowhard anti-cannabis politician ever approached in the future about lowest priority, medical marijuana, decriminalization, or legalization in every other state will be able to say, “Even California thinks that legalization is a bad idea!”]

    9. hoss says:

      Anti-legalization dispensary owners are the new equivalent to the pharmaceutical, alcohol and tobacco industry in California… They want things left the way they are now because if marijuana becomes fully legal, they stand to lose a lot of money. They lack the insight, motivation and vision to turn their medical dispensaries into legitimate weed producers when legalization inevitably happens, so they want the medical system preserved. Arguments about Philip Morris ruining weed? They are just as stupid and outrageous as prohibitionist arguments about marijuana needing to remain illegal because of the violence it causes… Everyone involved in the medical pot industry in California who opposes Prop 19 needs to be smacked in the face. Greedy bastards are now spending their lives practicing the type of BS hypocrisy they used to fight.

    10. Paul Revere says:

      You greedy bastards have a responsibility to set pressident for the rest of the country.

      Fuck you and your millon dollar lined pockets.

      Get out and vote Y E S for prop19 or else you are no better then a Prohib and will set back this movement into our grandkids generation.

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