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. Grandma420 says:

      I hope prop 19 passes. The federal government is going to have to change its laws before cannabis will really be legal and decriminalized.

      As far as all of the discovery that cannabis CAN be used as a medicine, why it is still illegal is a smokescreen to something else behind the feds hidden agenda.

    2. Rhayader says:

      Good stuff Russ. The stupidity coming from the prohibitionists is one thing — who would have expected anything else?

      But for people within the cannabis community to object to this is unforgivable. Essentially what they’re saying is that any specific, tangential concerns they have are more important than basic freedom — as in NOT GETTING ARRESTED — for everyone else in the state. It’s the height of myopic selfishness, and destroys whatever credibility the speaker may have had.

      [Russ responds: One retort I’ve heard to this is that nobody gets arrested for under an ounce – the amount Prop 19 legalizes – they only get a ticket (and a $100 fine, and record of a misdemeanor marijuana conviction – they never mention that) So, uh, I should prefer a ticket+fine+criminal-drug-record to not-a-ticket?

      To this, they respond that California is working on downgrading an ounce from a misdemeanor to an infraction, so no criminal record. Oh, so I should prefer ticket+fine+maybe-not-a-criminal-drug-record to not-a-ticket?

      And growing even one plant is a felony with long prison time. I should choose to keep that over a legal 5’x5′ garden and all the weed I can harvest from it?

      All so I can go spend money to deceive a doctor to get my Prop-215 recommendation so I can smoke pot in public with teenagers at a concert or in front of little kids at my house?

      LEGAL vs. illegal… it’s a really simple choice, California cannabis consumers. This will be a very close vote and if it loses by a margin of “I Gots Mine”-brainwashed young people voting for their own continued criminal status, I will be forced to drive down I-5 and slap you all silly. 🙂 ]

    3. gabriel says:

      nice blog. legalize it, son!

    4. Paul says:

      This is simply propaganda by the conservatives. Don’t worry, all of the people who were going to vote for it are still going to vote for it and those that weren’t wont. This is a stupid attempt to muddy the waters. Thankfully this reeks of desperation and this should e seen as a good sign for us. 😉

    5. Charles Queen says:

      I’m not from CA but from KY whose number one cash crop is what else?marijuana and has been for at least 20-30 years.They have yet to allowe medicinal marijuana much less legalizing it as of yet but it is being pushed.Problem is here that the state county and city governments are strife with corruption,many of them working with the drug cartels in this state,mainly the judicial system abd law enforcement also some DEA agents who are also on the bad side.With their economy as bad as it is one would think they would welocme the tax revenue by making it legal

    6. BusGreg says:

      I moved back to Cali from NC last year, part of the reason was to vote FOR Prop 19 and I will do just that. To oppose this legislation is absurd.
      I have no problem with any of the provisions of Prop 19, if anything, passsage of this bill should permit cops to go after real criminals and reduce much of the back log in our court system as well as get nonviolent offenders out of jails and off tax payer’s dollars.

    7. Bay Boss says:

      I just felt a lil piece of civil liberties come back.. 🙂 .. got a question if any one wants to take a wack at it.. you can have up to a Zip (1 ounce) on you.. but is their a limit on how much i can have of harvested bud in my own home? 2nd questions.. lets say i am in a car.. 4 people over 21.. does this mean each of us is allow to carry ouz personal zip? so we can legally transport 4 zips?? 3 questions, does prop 19, effect how or if .. police can still collect the medical records and finaicial records from MMJ Disperceries.. ?? 4th question, i keep hearin mmj dispence owners talkin bout how they dun want this to pass.. (freaking &^*%$!!) but are their patient out thur opening p.19? now they can use their meds without having to worry about being charge for Child Abuse cuz their a 215 approved.. i only see it adds protection to 215, doesnt take nothing away..

      [Russ responds: Again, I’m no lawyer, but:

      1) You can have as much harvested bud at the site of your 5’x5′ grow as you have harvested from your 5’x5′ grow. How much is that? How much you got? Would 100 lbs be reasonable “personal consumption”? Well, maybe, if you’ve been harvesting a 5’x5′ for ten years and never smoking any. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out, because there is also a line in Prop 19 giving you an affirmative defense if you’re accused of it being more than personal.

      2) Four adults 21+ = Four people allowed to carry around an ounce on them each.

      3) Prop 19 forbids cops from seizing, destroying, or threatening to destroy your harvested buds and plants for personal use. Cops busting dispensaries is another subject and I don’t think Prop 19 addresses it one way or the other.

      4) What dispensary owner would want adults easy access to their own or their friends’ cannabis when currently they have to go to the trouble of paying the pot doctor for a Prop 215 recommendation and then shopping for buds at $45/eighth at their dispensary?

      5) If you’re a Prop 215 patient who really thinks cops will burst in the door to haul you off to prison for child abuse for puffing on your bong while your kid watches “Veggie Tales”, here’s a simple solution: go in your bathroom and shut the door and puff your bong. Are people in California really believing that we should continue to ticket, arrest, and imprison all healthy California adults for cannabis because we’re not doing enough to protect sick ones with kids in their homes?]

    8. Veronica says:

      Thanks for speaking out :] you have the right idea–“what we have now” is law enforcement CORRUPTION and discrimination against smart, productive people from all walks of life! LEGALIZE!

    9. pakalolopete says:

      REPEAL the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937

      [Paul Armentano responds: Cannabis is illegal federally because it is classified as a Schedule I substance under the US CSA of 1970. The 1937 federal law no longer applies, and was struck down by SCOTUS in 1969.]

    10. Cheebs1 says:

      Great analysis of the initiative. It is a sad state of affairs when cannabis advocates are against what they have been striving for. Apparently ,the advocates that are against this initiative are as guilty as law enforcement, the prison industry, the lawyers, the judges, the treatment clinics, and so on. These advocates are, in my opinion, worse than the prohibionists. These advocates continue to use the quasi-legal of cannabis to benefit themselves by taking advantage of the price inflation caused by prohibition.

      The fear mongering has to stop. The only reason these growers and suppliers are in opposition to this initiative is becuase they are in fear of losing profits. These same individuals will tout that large corporations will come in and ruin cannabis for everyone. They are too blinded by greed to see that if they don’t help to pass this initiative they are as guilty, if not more so, than the prohibionists and the most ironic thing is that they both want to keep cannabis illegal for the same reason. Their livelihoods depend on it.

      Be brave California and help propel cannabis and hemp into the 21st century. We can retuyn to what our ancestors knew and help our planet survive and repair itself. Everything that can be made from petroleum can be made from hemp without poisoning our planet. Imagine actually asking for plastic at the store because the bags will bio-degrade and return to the ecosystem to be used again and again. Imagine growing fuel instead of drilling for it and avoiding any more ecological disasters such as we have in the Gulf.

      [Russ responds: I’m reminded of a time in my club musician days when Karaoke first became popular. We all screamed and cried that Karaoke and the corporations pushing it were putting musicians out of business.

      And indeed, lots of musicians did lose gigs.

      The bad ones.

      All through the Karaoke craze, I managed to keep working as a musician, playing almost every weekend from 1988-2003. But lots of really poor “Takin’ Care of Business” cover bands went out of business.

      I think it will be similar for small-time growers. If you’ve been producing high-quality manicured buds of consistent potency, if you’ve been good to your customers and have charged them reasonable prices, you’ll keep on keeping on. You may have to lower your prices, but if you’re selling illegally, you’re still dodging “the Man” like you always have.

      Also, if you’re good at what you do and your locality allows for sales, you could parlay your clandestine cottage industry into a real above-ground career.

      But if you’re just a guy who cranks out weed without much care for your customers, always looking to make that buck without any concern about using chemicals, overcharging them for weed you know is substandard but, hey, where else ya gonna go?… then maybe you shouldn’t be making a mint off of cannabis consumers any more.

      If you’re still having problems deciding, just ask yourself: do you really want to be voting on the same side of the issue as the cops and the prohibitionists?]