So goes California, so goes the rest of the country..at least that's what supporters of California's Proposition 19, which seeks to legalize marijuana use, hope. Just a bit more than 75 years ago California was among the first to repeal "The Noble Experiment" and most of the rest of the country and even the federal government would soon follow suit. But will history repeat itself now and will the Golden State become the first to fully allow marijuana use for those over the age of 21?
We had a chance to hear from both sides during a debate at San Francisco's famous Commonwealth Club and it comes at a time when most polls are showing the support for legalized cannabis slipping.
So to begin, the first questions...is increased revenue to help battle California's budget problem a reason to pass it? Will regulating and taxing dope help payoff California's massive debt?
Those in favor say the government already collects $105 million a year from medical marijuana use. If Proposition 19 passes they claim state and local taxes would be instituted right away and they estimate up to $1.5 billion could be brought-in from new sales. Also according to proponents, this possible profit doesn't even count new jobs and revenue from a growing industry.
The opposition argues that many cities, counties and studies question those numbers, especially since people who would grow their own plants at home are not accounted for. The cities and counties would be the first to decide how to institute this law and enforcement costs might also be an issue.
Outside of California there are also concerns that if Proposition 19 passes, it could spill over and hurt surrounding states where using marijuana would still be illegal, thus creating a larger headache.
As to whether or not legalizing cannabis will help the battle against the Mexican drug cartels, no one knows for sure what kind effect it might have. The numbers from various studies vary widely, but if there is a common area, the Rand Corporation for example believes it likely will only make an impact of 4 or 5% of cartel profits. After all, the cartels have drug portfolios. As we have seen with our extensive coverage along the border, cocaine, methamphetamine and even people are bringing organized crime south of the border huge profits.
So why are the poll numbers likely slipping here? Well most every major law enforcement opposes Prop. 19 and since it would still be illegal for people under 21, a black market will still exist. There's also no standards set for drug driving and it would be legal for passengers to smoke inside the car.
Simply put, the initiative many feel is not planned out, or spelled out well. While proponents disagree with that notion, they say even if it doesn't pass now, they'll have a better chance in 2012. What do you think?