Proposition 19 would make California the first state to fully legalize marijuana. Supporters sound persuasive with talk about weakening Mexican drug cartels and helping state revenues with taxes on pot. But their arguments don't hold up.
California voters are considering a ballot measure that would make their state the first jurisdiction in the nation – and the world – to fully legalize marijuana.
This is not a “first” that voters should support.
Proposition 19 would legalize marijuana for recreational use for people ages 21 and older. It would also allow local governments to tax and regulate commercial production and distribution – not just retail sale, as in the Netherlands.
Proponents argue that treating pot like alcohol and tobacco will increase revenues for the cash-strapped state and decrease violence and the profits of the Mexican drug cartels. All along, supporters of legalization have maintained that pot is harmless.
Whether Californians are buying this sales pitch is unclear. A September Field poll finds that 49 percent of likely voters say they’re inclined to support Proposition 19 and legalization, while 42 percent are inclined to oppose it. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Oct. 5 shows the opposite: 53 percent of voters are against it.
Evidence, reason, and values should dissuade people from the legalization pipe dream. Here’s a look at why the arguments of the well-funded “pro” side don’t hold up:
Not much impact on drug cartels. Legalizing marijuana in California “would not appreciably influence the Mexican drug trafficking organizations and the related violence,” according to Beau Kilmer, lead author of a report released this month by the RAND Corporation.