Weed Weirdness: Pot Legalization Measure Creates Strange Alliances in California
San Francisco – Two friends debated the merits of California’s pending referendum on pot legalization as they smoked marijuana through a hi-tech electric pipe while sitting inside a swank house where floor-to-ceiling windows artistically framed the glittering night skyline of this city known for its iconic Golden Gate Bridge and its libertarian attitude towards lifestyles.
Both friends vigorously oppose America’s pot prohibition condemning it as ineffective and fiscally wasteful. Prohibition nationwide costs billions of dollars per year for just enforcement which in 2008 produced 872,721 arrests, with most of those arrests (89 percent) being for mere possession.
However, these friends hold sharply different opinions on California’s Prop 19 with one firmly supporting this ballot measure to legalize possession of an ounce of pot for personal use among adults while the other strongly opposes it.
The supporter sees Prop 19 as reducing government intervention in his life while his friend fears increased government/corporate entanglements with his favored intoxicant.
If approved by voters during the November 2010 election California would become the first state to fully legalize marijuana for recreational use among adults. California and over a dozen other states currently allow medicinal use of marijuana with authorization from a doctor.
The differing opinions among those two pot smokers – both professionals, one owning two cutting-edge software development companies – highlight interesting dynamics swirling around Prop 19.
“In urban areas like Los Angeles, Sacramento, SanFran/Oakland, etc. support is overwhelming but in many Republican countries like San Diego and Ventura there is no support,” said Ed Forchion, a veteran cannabis activist in Los Angeles who owns the Liberty Bell Temple, a lawfully registered Rastafarian religious facility that also serves as a medicinal marijuana dispensary.
“Then there is the third position, the position of the growers and the benefactors of the multi-billion dollar (marijuana) black market in counties like Humboldt and Lake who oppose Prop 19 as cutting into their business with taxation and lowering prices,” noted Forchion.
“I support Prop 19 but I think it’s going to fail. I’d much rather see taxation instead of incarceration,” continued Forchion, whose legalization advocacy once prompted an unlawful imprisonment by New Jersey authorities that ended with harsh criticism from a federal judge whose ruling strengthened First Amendment rights.
The odd alliance that links illegal pot growers with traditional anti-drug advocates in opposition to Prop 19 is matched by an equally bizarre teaming up by some of the supporters for this controversial measure.
Supporters include mainstream proponents like California state legislators who are pushing Prop 19 as a means of generating more than one billion in new tax revenue for California’s cash starved state and local governments while saving over $200-million now spent to enforce prohibition.