California Assemblyman Explains Why He Is Voting ‘Yes’ On Prop. 19

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 1, 2010

    California Assemblyman and Chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), has an excellent commentary today on why Californians should vote ‘yes’ this November on Prop. 19: The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010.

    One major reason: Passage of Prop. 19 would bring an end to the majority of the 80,000+ marijuana arrests (61,000 for simple possession) that continue to take place annually in California under so-called ‘decriminalization.’

    Really, folks ought to read the entire commentary here. Below are some highlights:

    What if California could raise hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue to preserve vital state services without any tax increases? And what if at the same time, we could, without any new expense, help protect our endangered wilderness areas while making it harder for our kids to get drugs?

    That is precisely what the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 initiative slated for the November ballot would do. This measure, building off the legislation I introduced last year, is the logical next step in California’s and hopefully the nation’s public policy towards marijuana.

    The costs of modern prohibition continue with more than 61,000 Californians arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession in 2008 alone. That same year, about 60,000 violent crimes went unsolved statewide, yet we continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars and countless law enforcement hours arresting people for low-level marijuana crimes, further overburdening courts and prisons. Jail beds devoted to marijuana offenders could be “used for other criminals who are now being released early because of a lack of jail space,” the state Legislative Analyst’s Office wrote.

    Black-market marijuana is also a main source of revenue for the vast criminal enterprises that threaten peace on our streets and weaken national security on our borders. According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Mexican drug cartels get more than 60 percent of their revenue from selling marijuana in the United States.

    The simple reality is that resources tied up fighting marijuana would be better spent solving and preventing violent felonies and other major crimes.

    … There may be disagreements about what direction to take but it is clear to everyone involved our current approach is not working. Regulation allows common-sense controls and takes the marijuana industry out of the hands of unregulated criminals.

    As a member of the State Assembly, I believe we must acknowledge reality and bring innovative solutions to the issue of marijuana, not simply wait passively for the federal government to act. This is how change happens. Californians lead rather than follow, and we can set an example for the nation as we did on medical marijuana by passing the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 in November.

    Passage of Prop. 19 would allow adults 21 years or older to legally possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. It would also permit local governments the option to authorize businesses to engage in the retail sale and commercial cultivation of cannabis to adults. Personal marijuana cultivation or not-for-profit sales of marijuana would not be taxed or regulated under the measure. Further, this act does not seek to amend or alter any existing statewide legal protections that are presently mandated under Proposition 215 or S.B. 420 (medical marijuana).

    For more information, you can read the Secretary of State’s ballot summary here. Answers to FAQs about Prop. 19, and the initiative’s full text is available here.

    34 responses to “California Assemblyman Explains Why He Is Voting ‘Yes’ On Prop. 19”

    1. Curtis Howard says:

      From a purely logical standpoint, after reading and researching the evidence, it seems ludicrous that this country still arrests and harasses the American Public over a plant that is less harmful than every single legal drug on the market. Its absolutely insane.

      I think this is another issue where the American Public are way ahead of the government in terms of what is healthy and what isn’t healthy.

      Its pretty sad to see Pharmaceutical Companies spending Billions to advertise and create their drugs on tv that WILL make you addicted to them, possibly kill you, and wreak havoc on your life BUT the any American citizen will get ARRESTED, FINED, and have a CRIMINAL record for attempting to grow their own medicine that has never killed anyone and done more to ease the stress of more average Americans than all the Pharmaceutical drugs combined.

      Its pretty sad.

      This is one aspect of our Country that I feel should be changed. Hopefully in time our elected officials will come around and do whats right for the right reasons – instead of doing whats right for the PROFITS of the Pharmaceutical companies. Afterall – we the people elect them to represent us and our interests – not the Pharmaceutical companies profits.

    2. Nic says:

      Mr. Ammiano you have my YES19 vote, but, I live in the forgotten state of Florida.

      Tell me how can I support you and your effort.

    3. Jimbo says:

      It’s coming! We all have to work very hard from now on to discuss this bill, to inform the public, and to engrain ‘YES to 19!’ into the public consciousness.

      Now the work begins!

      Then the Zeitgiest shifts towards morality and rationality!

    4. Cheebs1 says:

      I have just finished reading the full version of the initiative and have a question that maybe one of the kind editor’s might be able to answer. The initiative states that it will be prohibited to use cannabis when minors are present. The question I have pertains to the definition of “present”. Does “present” mean in the same room, house, or on the same property? It seems that the ambiguity of that word might allow law enforcement more liberty on enforcement issues while at the same time might be easily misunderstood by we that are not fluent in “Legalize”.

      Thank You in Advance for any Clarification

      [Paul Armentano responds: Having not authored the initiative language I can not answer your question directly, though the intent of the language was to prohibit the exposure of minors to second hand smoke. I do not believe that there will be vigorous enforcement of this clause (or even how practical such enforcement could be), or if the penalties would raise to the level of a criminal offense. Right now the bulk of the 61,000+ criminal possession arrests in California involve possession of the drug on one’s person, and these would be eliminated under the initiative. Also, presently any cultivation in California is classified as a felony (20,000+ felony marijuana arrests in California annually), and the measure’s amendment to the state cultivation laws would undoubtedly decrease this total significantly as well.]

    5. Dirty D says:

      Go California, knock over the first domino that leads to nation wide RE-legalization!

    6. adhd says:


      you must vote YES do it opens the doors for other countries to follow this fine example. NORML COME TO THE UK

    7. Cremater says:

      Mr Armentano,

      I completely and whole heartedly support California Proposition 19 for those reasons you mentioned in your commentary as well as several of my own. That being said it will probably not do as much good as most of us would hope when this bill passes, assuming it does of course.

      I am afraid we will become mired in the ambiguity of the wording of this bill the same as we have become mired in that same abiguity regarding Prop 215. It simply isn’t well enough defined to placate our states drug warriors.

      There are small problems that will be cultivated into something that seems like huge issues. One of these problems will be the square footage that people are allowed to grow for personal, non-commercial use. The bill sets a 25 square foot grow space for personal gardens, but it does not define if that space is one small 5 foot by 5 foot area or if that space could be spread out over several locations on a person private residence.

      I fully support the bill as I stated earlier but you have to believe that our state and federal drug warriors will re-define teh wording of the bill in such a way that they are able to basically continue on with business as usual.

      [Editor’s note: You’re worried about supporting a legalization initiative because the definition of 25 square feet of grow space is ambiguous in your mind? OK…no doubt…let’s keep arresting, prosecuting, jailing hundreds of thousands of cannabis consumers because the square footage to grow plenty-of-cannabis is either confusing to some or insufficient for their commercial purposes. Let’s not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good when it comes to cannabis law reform.]

    8. Jed The head says:

      The government only controls substances that are traded legally like alcohol. Illegal substances are controlled primarily by organized criminal gangs. Who do you want controlling cannabis? Don’t you agree that law abiding citizens and companies should be given control of product safety and distribution. It’s very nice to see a politician with a little common sense are the courage to face reality.

    9. dave says:

      it’s the government, they won’t and aren’t ready to change there ways. alcohol is legal so should pot be, but because anyone came grow it and the government doesn’t make any money of it things will stay the same. hopefully not for long but it’s already been too long. remember “just say no” lol, what a joke. vote the bumbs out of office.

    10. Tom says:

      I hate to be a pessimist on this one (being that I’m all for Prop 19) but this has no shot of passing this Nov. The all powerful drug companies, and the cronies that work for them (politicians) are and will fight this harder maybe than any issue ever.

      It will not happen, at least not this time around. It is a huge step however just to get it on the ballot. I’m not just talking out of my ass here either people. I know several lower level lawmakers in Cali. that have this fact on pretty “good” word.

      Peace to all of you.

      [Editor’s note: Thankfully your pessimism is not warranted…the current Field Polls in CA indicate 56% support legalization. Positivism begets positivism…negativism begets negativism.]