21 October 2010

Are You Propositioning Me? (Part I, Props 19, 20&27)

California voters are expected to legislate, since our legislature isn't up to the task. This election there are a nine statewide measures up for vote. Here are my opinions regarding three of them.

Proposition 19: Duuude, let's get stoned! (VOTE YES)
There are many reasons to vote no on this proposition, you may have a moral objection to the weed, you may think that the current medicinal marijuana laws are sufficient to supply people who have a use for the stuff (or perceive themselves as having a need) are covered. Or you may worry that passing such a law would set up an unwarranted conflict between state and federal law enforcement agencies. For me personally, that's the biggest reason to vote for this law. First off, prohibition doesn't work, substance use, and abuse, is part of human nature. Get enough people together and a certain percentage are going to want to get high on one thing or another. Criminalizing that doesn't prevent it, and seems to only make the trade in the substances more violent, militarizes our police forces, and in a perverse way, makes the drugs more glamorous. Pot would be that boring drug that old baby boomers smoke if it were completely legal. Take money out of the pockets of Mexican drug cartels, and put some of it into the state's coffers in the form of taxes on legitimate growers and sellers. Also, given that AG Eric Holder has already said he's against it, that's enough reason to be for it. At some point, the federal government needs to be challenged on this issue. I believe there is no legitimate basis for federal preemption with regards to any of the current drug laws, it's time for the states to step up and take on their proper role under the federalist system we have in place and assert the right of nullification under the 10th amendment. Nullification got a bad name when southern states tried to use it to get around Brown v Board of Ed, but the rulings against nullification were very narrowly defined, and cited other parts of the constitution (14th amendment, mainly) for justification. There is no constitutionally defined federal right to drug enforcement, so it would seem if this matter were brought up to the Supreme Court, California law in the wake of passage of Prop 19 would nullify federal pot laws within the state (the federal government could still retaliate using the power of the purse by withholding DEA funds, but the revenue from legal pot could be used to pay for enforcement of other drug laws, so that's not a problem).

Prop 20 & 27: Gerrymandering, it does a (political) body bad! Yes on 20, No on 27
Often, during the initiative process, when it looks like something that might seriously mess with the way the legislature does business might make the ballot and look attractive to voters, they use their ability to vote stuff directly onto the ballot that is similar enough to the citizen generated initiative as to cause confusion and possible preemption. When two initiatives attack the same issue, should they both pass, the one with the higher vote total is the one that becomes law. 20 and 27 are bound in this way, both are being sold as reforms to the process of redistricting. Prop 11 in 2008, which passed narrowly, was almost identical to Prop 20, with the only difference being that Prop 20 also extends to US Congressional redistricting. Prop 20 keeps the responsibility for redistricting to a 'non-partisan' panel, in the hopes that our districts will reflect geography and demography rather than the political interests of incumbents. Prop 27, in the name of 'cost-savings' does away with the panel and gives the job of redistricting back to our corrupt, ineffective, and Democratic Party dominated legislature. While the citizen panel lead redistricting may not end up giving us perfect districts, we can be assured that if our current legislature were given the power to draw up the next decade's worth of political boundaries, that the districts they draw will be perfectly terrible (from the voters standpoint, anyway, from an incumbency protection standpoint, they'll be perfect). If neither pass, Prop 11 will still be law, so an argument against voting again for a law that has already passed would be reasonable, but because Prop 27 is on the ballot, and because if it wins more votes than 20, it would preempt the better law, that reality forces voters to vote again for something they already voted for. Have I mentioned that this process really sucks sometimes?

And, here's a song some folks put together (with BANJO!) explaining each measure (without editorial comment of any kind).


chickelit said...

I think 19 will fail because:

(1) The Governor just decriminalized private possession.

(2) Jerry Brown is against it, and Meg Whitman isn't talking about it. There is no voter impetus behind it.

(3) The language is vague. It uses the term "cannibis." Does that mean THC? Will THC distribution and dosing methods be legalized as well?

(4) I think the whole Mexican drug war thing is overblown. Pot is a weed that grows practically anywhere, and while there may be variants grown in CA which are superior to Mexican versions. in the end, American pot farms and farmers will be outdone by imports from Central and South America via Mexico. We'd have to erect trade barriers or subsidize the production here to compete in the long run.

(5) The real drug war is over cocaine and methamphetamine, and that is not likely to lessen to go away by Prop 19.

XWL said...

It's the constitutional matter that interests me most. The drug war isn't supported by the constitution, so individual states have the right to opt out. Any first step away from that idiocy, is a good first step, in my opinion.

As to your points,

1) Decrimininalization of a thing isn't the same as legalization, which will allow taxation, and more sensible regulation.

2) I don't know that there is a large number of people who care what Jerry Brown thinks (even amongst those that will vote for him).

3) The prop is vague, true, but I think defining how the market would develop is a task for local, state governments, entrepreneurs to work on. And unless this law passes, it will be the black market alone that gets that power.

4) The cartels will be hit in the pocketbook should this law pass, in a Rand Org study otherwise against Prop 19, is this nugget, "We believe that legalizing marijuana in California would effectively eliminate Mexican DTOs’ revenues from supplying Mexican-grown marijuana to the California market. As we elaborate in this chapter, even with taxes, legally produced marijuana would likely cost no more than would illegal marijuana from Mexico and would cost less than half as much per unit of THC (Kilmer, Caulkins, Pacula, et al., 2010). Thus, the needs of the California market would be supplied by the new legal industry. While, in theory, some DTO employees might choose to work in the legal marijuana industry, they would not be able to generate unusual profits, nor be able to draw on talents that are particular to a criminal organization."

5) The money spent on the war on pot would be better spent on 'harder' drugs. All prohibition is self defeating, in my opinion, but at least giving up on the war on pot should free money for a better targeted war on stimulants.