Tag: proposition 19

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s days as governor of California are almost over—so he made a stop at one of the late nite shows and made news by saying, “You want to smoke pot?  Who cares?”

Well, Mr. Governor, as you well know, it is a federal crime to smoke marijuana.  People get arrested and jailed for smoking marijuana.  And you, Mr. Governor, could have done something about the war against cannabis because there was this ballot initiative called Prop. 19 in your state that would have made it legal for adults to smoke marijuana in private.  Instead of fighting for Prop. 19, you opposed it!  Apparently, you have decided to place yourself on both sides of the marijuana question—preserve penalties for use, but proclaim your opposition to penalties.  Clever. 

For that and his other forgettable deeds as California governor, one can conclude that Schwarzennegger was a political wimp.  In sharp contrast, Governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico really fights for reform.

Hispanics And Proposition 19

Polls suggest that Hispanics in California are largely opposed to Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana in that state. This is unfortunate since Hispanics have historically been disproportionate victims of drug prohibition.

Earlier this week, David Kopel wrote a historical analysis in Encyclopedia Britannica of the racist origins of marijuana prohibition, which targeted Mexicans in particular. Back in the 1930’s when the federal government started cracking down on marijuana consumption, officials openly worried about the effect of the drug on “degenerate Spanish-speaking residents … who are low mentally, because of social and racial conditions.”

Some people might claim that even though racial profiling certainly was behind marijuana prohibition, its current enforcement affects all racial groups alike. However, a recent report from the Drug Policy Alliance shows that Hispanics are still overwhelmingly targeted by the police for marijuana offenses. The report states, “From 2006 through 2008, major cities in California arrested and prosecuted Latinos for marijuana possession at double to nearly triple the rate of whites,” even though surveys show that young Hispanics use marijuana at lower rates than young whites. Hispanics are still victims of racial profiling due to marijuana prohibition.

It is not surprising that a socially conservative electorate such as Hispanics would oppose marijuana legalization. Unfortunately, many misconceptions about  drug legalization still abound and are magnified by opponents of the measure. Thus, it is important that Hispanics keep in mind that:

  • Legalization doesn’t mean endorsing or consenting drug consumption.
  • There is an important difference between drug consumption and drug abuse, just as there is a big difference between alcohol consumption and alcoholism.
  • There is also a critical distinction between the negative consequences of drug abuse, such as family disintegration, health problems, loss of workers’ productivity, etc., and the negative consequences of prohibition, like crime, violence, corruption, and high mortality of users due to overdoses, etc. Many people, when arguing against legalization, bring up scenes of violence and crime, when actually these problems would greatly diminish once the illegal black market for drugs is legalized.

Hispanics should also take note of what Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has said about Proposition 19. The war on drug has been wreaking havoc in Latin America, and it’s increasingly threatening the institutional stability of Mexico and Central America, where many Californian Hispanics come from. Santos has signaled that passing Proposition 19 would force his government to push for a “world-wide discussion” on drug policy. Marijuana legalization in California could thus trigger a global debate on ending the war on drugs, which has cost Latin America dearly for so many years.

Hispanics in California have many reasons to favor the end of marijuana prohibition. They would be doing themselves a big favor if they vote yes next Tuesday.

Santos: ‘Proposition 19 Could Change Colombia’s Drug Policy’

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has stated that if Proposition 19 passes next week in California and marijuana is legalized in the state, it could force his country to rethink its drug policy.

“Tell me if there is a way to explain to a Colombian peasant that if he produces marijuana we are going to put him in jail… [while] the same product is legal [in California]. That’s going to produce a comprehensive discussion on the approach we have taken on the fight against drug trafficking,” said Santos, who, a couple of months earlier, endorsed the call for a debate on drug legalization made by Mexican president Felipe Calderón. However, Santos has also said that he believes that legalization will increase drug consumption, a presumption that has been rebutted by evidence in countries with liberal drug policies such as Portugal.

Today, in his opening remarks at a Latin American presidential summit held in the Colombian city of Cartagena, Santos brought up [in Spanish] the subject again : “If we don’t act in a consistent way on this issue, if all we are doing is to send our fellow citizens to jail while in other latitudes the market is being legalized, then we have to ask ourselves: isn’t it time to review the global strategy against drugs?”

Santos’ statements have been backed by his Minister of Foreign Relations, who even said in an interview with El Tiempo, Colombia’s leading newspaper, that the country’s new seat on the UN Security Council could be “a good place” to start a “worldwide discussion” on the way that the war on drugs is being conducted.

It’s ironic–and gratifying–that the president of Washington’s closest ally in Latin America is the leading voice in the region questioning the wisdom of the war on drugs. It shouldn’t be a surprise, though. Back in 1998 Juan Manuel Santos signed a public letter to then Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan denouncing the war on drugs as a “failed and futile” experiment, and calling for drug policies to be based on “common sense, science, public health and human rights.”

Even though the impact of Proposition 19 in California and the United States could be limited, Juan Manuel Santos’ statements show that its reverberations in Latin America could be significant.

Law Professors Say: Yes on 19

A number of Cato friends – including senior fellow Randy Barnett, former tech policy director Tom W. Bell, David Friedman, Nadine Strossen, and Erik Luna (Lindsay Lohan’s favorite law prof) – have endorsed California’s Proposition 19, which would decriminalize and regulate marijuana. Also among the 65 signers of the petition are some professors with whom we have disagreed, such as Erwin Chemerinsky.

It remains to be seen whether a group of the country’s smartest legal scholars will be any match for the combined weight of the Obama administration, the leading Democratic and Republican candidates for office in California, and almost all the major newspapers in the state. Reason editor Matt Welch, who has been monitoring newspaper editorials, tells me that all of the 21 largest papers that have editorialized on Proposition 19 have opposed it.

That’s about as overwhelming as the editorial opposition to Proposition 13 back in 1978. All major papers except the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner opposed the granddaddy of tax-cutting initiatives, but it passed with 65 percent of the vote. Perhaps Proposition 19 will be equally successful as a way for voters to thumb their noses as the political establishment.

As Welch says:

I’ll reiterate and update my previous pitch: If Dianne Feinstein, Meg Whitman, Jerry Brown, Barbara Boxer, Dan Lungren, Steve Cooley, Lee Baca, 49 California congresspeople, the California Chamber of Commerce, the Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Dean Singleton’s MediaNews empire are against it, the vote-yes commercials write themselves.