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Proposition 19 is Flawed and Takes California in the Wrong Direction

Created: 15 October, 2010
Updated: 13 September, 2023
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4 min read

   The State of California has one of the best economies in the world. However, the state has a 19 billion dollar budget deficit, a high unemployment rate and a dysfunctional legislature. California’s legislature is so dysfunctional that the state budget was passed 100 days after the mandatory deadline. California’s government is so dysfunctional that interest groups with money can place a proposition on the ballot without thinking of the negative effects. This November 2nd, Californians will have an opportunity to vote for or against Proposition 19 which would decriminalize the possession and recreational use of marijuana that may have negative consequences on Californians.

   On September 30th, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a piece of legislation that downgrades the penalty for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction punishable by a fine of $100 which is the equivalent of getting a traffic ticket. The bill will take effect on January 1, 2011. Under current law, the penalty for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of no more than $100.

   Senator Leno authored the legislation, Senate Bill 1449, that was signed by Schwarzenegger to downgrade the penalty to an infraction. According to Senator Leno “the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is a fine of $100, with no jail time. If the penalty is $100, with no jail time, that is an infraction. That is not a misdemeanor.” Senator Leno goes on to state that “as the number of misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests have surged in recent years. Reaching 61, 388 in 2008, the burden placed on the courts by these low level offenses is just too much to bear at a time when resources are shrinking and caseloads are growing.”

   Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger opposes proposition 19 because he thinks that “it is a deeply flawed measure that, if passed, will adversely impact California’s business without bringing in the tax revenues to the state promised by the proponents.” According to the governor, he signed SB 1449 because “in this time of drastic budget cuts, prosecutors, defense attorney, law enforcement, and the courts cannot afford to expend limited resources prosecuting a crime that carries the same punishment as a traffic ticket.”

   The California Judicial Council who supports the downgrading of the penalty state “that the appointment of counsel and the availability of a jury trial should be reserved for defends who are facing loss of life, liberty, or property greater than $100.”

   Proposition 19 is full of flaws that will have severe negative effects. If passed Proposition 19, it will allow people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. The proposition will also permits local governments to regulate and tax commercial production, distribution and sale of marijuana to people 21 years old or older. The proposition will prohibit people from possessing marijuana on school grounds, using it in public, or smoking it while minors are present.

   Supporter of Proposition 19 argue the legalization of marijuana will potentially save several tens of millions of dollars annually to the state and local governments on the costs of incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders.  However, under SB 1449 the state will already save the money because of the penalty downgrading. Proposition 19 will no longer save the state money because there will not be a need to prosecute offenders.

   Proposition 19 is full of flaws. For instance, Proposition 19 does not prevent adults from smoking in their houses in front of their kids. Today, many people are aware that second hand smoke can have severe negative consequences on children. Proposition 19 allows for there to be marijuana second hand smoke which will introduce kids to the drug.

   Currently, drivers under the influence of alcohol are a threat to the lives of many Californians. By legalizing marijuana, the number of drivers under the influence of marijuana will increase.  In addition, studies that indicate that marijuana is addictive and has long term negative physical effects are being ignored by proponents of proposition 19.

   Supporters of Proposition 19 argue that “there is $14 billion in marijuana sales every year in California, but our debt–ridden state gets nothing from it.” Supporters argue that California needs to gets its share by taxing the sale of marijuana. Proponents do not realize that there are not laws in place that will dictate how taxes will be collected. In addition, Proposition 19 goes against Federal law that prohibits marijuana use. If Proposition 19 passes, the federal government will likely sue the state to overturn Proposition 19. Not only will the federal government sue the state, but the state can lose federal funds. 

   The ballot initiative has led to the adoption of laws that have had negative effects for California. On November 2nd, Californians have the option to vote no on Proposition 19 to prevent for California to keep going in the wrong direction. California already has many problems; legalizing marijuana will only further California’s problems and affects families in a negative way.