Pot’s On The Ballot In California

It should pass because people shouldn’t be arrested or sent to jail for having marijuana.

I’ve actually wanted to write about this for a while but kept putting it off. Then I read a tweet from a graphic artist/photographer I follow:

Dear California, Legalize Weed and Tax the Profits. You’ll have money after that.

In case you haven’t heard California, where a few hundred thousand signed petitions is pretty much all you need, is putting pot on the ballot. Passage could “turn medical marijuana dispensaries into all-purpose pot stores, and the open sale of joints could become commonplace on mom-and-pop liquor store counters in liberal locales like Oakland and Santa Cruz.” That’s the read from the Associated Press as quoted on Wikipedia.

It’s tough to believe a marijuana tax would bail California out of its budget morass. My Twitter buddy hints at that and many in California openly make the same claim. The state is so deep in the hole there’s little prospect of climbing out in the near term even with $1 billion or more in new revenue some project.

That’s not why this proposition should pass. It should pass because people shouldn’t be arrested or sent to jail for having marijuana. It’s a ridiculous punishment for a fairly benign act.

Back in 1966 I was invited to a friend’s house. As sixteen year old Geoff watched some friends lit up a joint. I started to leave, but not before I told one of my friends, someone I’m still friends with and who will read this blog entry, if I ever heard he was smoking pot I’d call the police!

I was sixteen. It was a dumb thing to say and I didn’t call the police. But what if I had? How would his life changed had he been arrested, tried and convicted as the felon he most certainly was?

Unfortunately, even today, the most likely way marijuana will screw up your life is if you’re caught with it. I sense there aren’t a lot of stoners throwing bricks through car windshields or getting violent because they’re high. My recollection is pot led to music and cookies. The worst part of pot was it made you a law breaker.

As California gets closer to its election it will be interesting to hear the arguments on both sides and the position of the federal government. Possession and sale of marijuana is a federal crime so there is a serious conflict that could nullify a ballot box vote.

For the last 15 plus years I have been a guest speaker for a drug prevention program in Prospect. My views on California are not in conflict with my reasons for going to the Community School every year. Pot, alcohol and tobacco are still a bad mix with kids. They need to learn peer pressure is not insurmountable. You can say no.

When I was in college in the ‘heady’ late 60s I was sure pot would be legal by now. In my 30s and 40s I figured there was no political upside to removing the legal penalties and possession would remain a crime forever. Right now I am just plain surprised it’s on the ballot.

Note: The Connecticut Marijuana tax stamp shown above is real! Though the possession and sale of pot is against the law in Connecticut this tax allows an additional civil penalty to be assessed by the Department of Revenue Services. I don’t claim to understand how it works, how it’s enforced, or whether the state sells any tax stamps as collectors items.