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The Prop. 19 Battle Lines Are Drawn: Will Californians Make the Right Decision and Vote to Legalize Pot?

Prop. 19 would make California the first state to legalize marijuana.

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For Dale Gieringer, long-time head of California NORML, opposition to Prop 19 inside the marijuana community is overstated, but could impact the election result in a tight race. "It's a tempest in a teapot, a minority of a minority," said Geiringer. "But this looks like it's going to be a very close election, so it's possible they could affect the outcome.

Despite the heated rhetoric and venom on display in recent weeks, both sides should treat each other with respect, he said. "There are too many people casting aspersions about others' intentions in this," Gieringer said. "There are good people on both sides of Prop 19. There are some very dedicated supporters of legal marijuana who simply do not like the wording of Prop 19 for one reason or another."

But not voting for Prop 19 is the wrong choice, said Gieringer. "Some will conscientiously not vote for something that's not to their taste, but I don't think that's a wise thing to do in a close election. This election is about do you favor legal marijuana or not, and all the other concerns can be adjusted afterward," he said.

"They don't want to pay taxes, they're afraid it opens things up to big business," said Gieringer. "Others think it doesn't go far enough, and there are medical marijuana people who are afraid this will somehow infringe on patients' rights under Prop 215 and Senate Bill 420. I don't agree with that analysis."

Neither does Americans for Safe Access(ASA), the country's largest medical marijuana defense group, and one deeply rooted in the California medical marijuana scene. As a group concentrating on medical marijuana, ASA is neutral on Prop 19, but, in response to numerous questions from members and other interested observers, ASA has created a Prop 19 FAQ on its web site.

"Does Prop 19 hurt patients?" was the question. "No. While it is possible there will be unanticipated consequences and legal controversy, nothing in the text of Proposition 19 is designed to deny any rights to medical cannabis patients," was ASA's answer

"Does Prop 19 overrule the medical marijuana laws of California?" was the question. "No. Proposition 19 is designed to, among other things, '[p]rovide easier, safer access for patients who need cannabis for medical purposes.' Although a statement of purpose is not necessarily controlling, courts generally look to it in interpreting the statute's language. The purpose of Proposition 19 is not to overturn Proposition 215 or any other state or local medical cannabis law," was ASA's answer.

"Will Prop 19 allow localities to ban medical marijuana dispensaries?" was the question. "Unclear. Currently, there is no legal authority stating that localities must regulate dispensaries under Proposition 215 and SB 420. Proposition 19 allows for local regulation of medical cannabis sales, but also allows localities to ban such activity. If Proposition 19 is adopted, it is unclear how the courts will integrate both laws with respect to dispensaries," was ASA's answer.

It is worth noting that many California communities already ban dispensaries. Other, more medical marijuana friendly, locales regulate and tax them.

"People are concerned when voters are considering something so similar to a right already afforded them and that a new law might somehow restrict those rights," said ASA spokesman Kris Hermes. "There are many questions unanswered, especially around the issue of distribution. We're fighting right now to prevent local governments from adopting bans against distribution. Given that Prop 19 allows for wet and dry localities, and because we haven't completely ironed out the issue of whether local governments can ban medical marijuana distribution, this could infringe on those rights, especially if courts side with law enforcement against having a patchwork of different rules for different counties," Hermes said.

 
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