Drug Policy

Medical Marijuana Supporters Against Legalization


A dynamic I noticed while researching my May Reason cover story on L.A.'s war on medical pot is surfacing in the debate over this year's Prop 19 to legalize and tax the weed in California: people happy with the medical status quo reluctant to overturn it with legalization.

Far from the slippery slope its enemies felt medical pot was toward full legalization, medical pot has created a set of entrenched interests happy with things pretty much the way they are, and fearing Prop 19's effects. From Huffington Post:

A coalition of medical marijuana advocates came out Tuesday against a California ballot initiative that would legalize the drug for recreational use and tax its sales.

Proposition 19 would inadvertently harm the most vulnerable patients by allowing local governments to prohibit the sale and purchase of marijuana in their jurisdictions, California Cannabis Association members said.

At a gathering outside the Capitol, the group predicted many cities and counties would impose such bans if voters approve the initiative, leaving local medical marijuana users with few options.

While undoubtedly there will be a lot of legal and political wrangling over the real-world shape of Prop 19 if it wins, proponents of 19 argue that Sect. 2 B 7-8 of the proposition's language keeps existing medical exemptions not matter what localities choose to do. Those sections:

7. Ensure that if a city decides not to tax and regulate the sale of cannabis, that buying and selling cannabis within that city's limits remain illegal, but that the city's citizens still have the right to possess and consume small amounts, except as permitted under Health and Safety Sections 11362.5 and 11362.7 through 11362.9.

8. Ensure that if a city decides it does want to tax and regulate the buying and selling of cannabis (to and from adults only), that a strictly controlled legal system is implemented to oversee and regulate cultivation, distribution, and sales, and that the city will have control over how and how much cannabis can be bought and sold, except as permitted under Health and Safety Sections 11362.5 and 11362.7 through 11362.9.

However, some activists makes the complicated case that various aspects of the Proposition as written may or could or will be interpreted to mess up the medical system. Excerpts:

the only medical marijuana exemptions that the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative actually makes are with regard to possession, consumption and purchase limits, which only ensure that patients would still be allowed to buy medicine at dispensaries. The word "cultivate" is conspicuously absent. Whereas today a person with a doctor's recommendation has the right to grow up to an unlimited number of plants, the initiative would drastically reduce that number to whatever can fit in a 5'x5′ footprint (around 3-6 plants—per property, not per person). This will force many patients to resort to buying instead of growing their own medicine…

The initiative would further impact medical marijuana patients by banning medicating in the privacy of their own homes if there are minors present, as well as in public (currently perfectly legal[18])—an invaluable liberty to those with painful diseases who would otherwise have to suffer until they got home to relieve their pain.

Finally, the medical marijuana laws that are exempted from this initiative apparently only apply to cities. For medical marijuana patients who live in an area that has county or local government jurisdiction, according to a strict reading of the initiative, medical marijuana laws are not exempt.[19]

It is true that those sections quoted above from Prop 19 only mention cities; what mischief that might lead to it's hard to say now. However, if you look at 11362.5, which is part of the existing statutes that Prop 19 explicitly says will still have its content permitted notwithstanding a city's choices under the proposition, it says:

d) Section 11357, relating to the possession of marijuana, and Section 11358, relating to the cultivation of marijuana, shall not apply to a patient, or to a patient's primary caregiver, who possesses or cultivates marijuana for the personal medical purposes of the patient upon the written or oral recommendation or approval of a physician.

And that reads to me, not a lawyer, as if cultivation rights are untouched by Prop 19. Section 11358 is the California code that explicitly states that "Every person who plants, cultivates, harvests, dries, or processes any marijuana or any part thereof, except as otherwise provided by law, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison."

NEXT: Why Isn't the Golden State Having Its Own Fiesta de Té?

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  1. Wait, are these the same medical marijuana users who are already in violation of federal laws, complaining that they may be outlawed locally if pot is made legal?

    1. True. Thanks to Gonzales v. Raich, all this talke of “legalization” and “strict legal control of sales” is meaningless. It is still a federal crime. The effect of this referendum if it passes is to tell Californians they are less likely to get arrested for committing a federal crime than they would have been before the referendum passed.

      My opinion is that supporters would be better off investing their energy in making and winning the intellectual argument for a true overhaul of national drug policy rather than mesasures the state-by-state “legalization” that is not really legalization.

      1. 2, I disagree. How many people were arrested on Federal MJ laws, vs. state laws, in the last ten years in CA? I don’t know the numbers, but I would guess about one in a hundred were arrested by the feds. If prop 19 passes it will do a great deal of good directly for Californians, and it will be a HUGE slap at the WOD statists at the federal level.

      2. That huge slap will be the fact that at least a majority of voters want pot legal.

        Every time it’s legalized somewhere, the case for prohibition is severely weakened. Why? Because just like with concealed carry, the boogie man isn’t really there.

        1. The 2 greatest consequences of being human: 1) Fear 2) Laziness

          1. I was going to post a pithy response, but I’m afraid I’m too lazy.

      3. Nah. This is a totally bottom-up change; the public is way ahead of the politicians at all levels. You can’t attack it by trying to get the feds to overhaul the CSA, or even do something completely uncontroversial like re-scheduling cannabis to Schedule 2. It’s just not gonna happen any time soon.

        The local stuff is the only way to put cracks in the wall. The federal government has no ability to put a real dent in state-legal marijuana activity. It is far from “meaningless” to remove criminal penalties for adults using cannabis in one of the world’s largest markets.

        The top-down stuff is a waste of time. Bottom-up all the way.

  2. This is an amusing time in CA.
    The current MM suppliers are current rent-gainers; they want nothing to do with any legal competition.
    Personally, I’m ‘conflicted’ for the simple reason that if it passes, it becomes a revenue source for the government, and history tells me that any new revenue will be spent at an approximate ratio of 200% of income, so I’d rather not hand that over to the government.

  3. Hiya, I’m a cadet libertarian and haven’t been a party animal since the Ford administration. Here is my California question to you:

    What is the correct response when one sees one of those weed-delivery trucks ?the ones garishly painted, like a sports drink advertisement? showing up at a home near your own? Is one expected to feel sympathy for the poor soul within, who presumably has advanced glaucoma or cancer?

    When weed finally IS legal, are these fuckers even going to remember the pathetic deceptions of this summer?

    Party on, Garth… But for fuck’s sake, no tears. If these people had been working with clear heads, this could have been done ?above board? twenty years ago.

      1. I think it hateses the stoners. Or something. I don’t think it’s working with a clear head.

        1. I figured he was a doper. A lot of them have trouble expressing their thoughts coherently.

      2. Exactly!

      3. Sounds like the weed delivery truck was visiting his house.

        1. Why does it take a big truck to deliver 1/8 oz. of Cannabis?

    1. Crid [CridComment at gmail]|9.22.10 @ 9:16PM|#
      “Hiya, I’m a cadet libertarian…”
      FYI, troll /= “cadet libertarian.

      1. Fortran comparison operators FTW

        1. I saw your “artwork” in panther hollow this morning, I had no idea that you were a 14 year old anarchist.

        2. Wait, what happened to .ne.?

        3. FORTRAN NURD

      2. Right, because ANYTHING that interferes with the enthusiasm some feel for weed ?such as, y’know, being honest about what’s medical and what isn’t? well, that’s just trolling!

        Weed, man. Weed!

        1. No one here is arguing that we should be able to smoke weed solely because of the health benefits, we’re saying we should because we have the freedom to decide what to put into our bodies, for whatever reason.

        2. But then again, I guess people just doing things because they want to is GREEDY, SELFISH, and IMMORAL. Right?

          1. When they do so dishonestly, yes, right. Again: Am we expected to feel sorry for sickly neighbors when the van pulls up? Or are we supposed to snicker (in that shallow-chested way of theirs) about how they got away with a fast one? Really put it to the Man, didn’t they? Such cleverness! Pretended to be sick! Stayed home from school to watch game shows!

            But are we supposed to give them any political trust whatsoever in the years ahead?… In matters of health care or anything else?

            I mean, like, Dooood.

            1. Am [sic] we expected to feel sorry for sickly neighbors when the van pulls up? Or are we supposed to snicker… about how they got away with a fast one?

              This just doesn’t make sense. You’re not “supposed” to feel anything in particular. Feel whatever you want. What this has to do with effective policy I haven’t a clue.

            2. I don’t know, folk tales are usually big on people who use cleverness to protect themselves against villains.

        3. Who the hell cares about what’s medical and what isn’t? It’s such a stupid and trivial aspect to focus on. So-called “abuse” of medical marijuana laws has precisely nothing to do with Prop 19.

  4. If these people had been working with clear heads, this could have been done ?above board? twenty years ago.

    Guess I’m not as clear-headed as you, Crid. Please enlighten me. I gots to know how this could have been done.

    1. Starting a civil war would be “above board”, right?

  5. medical pot has created a set of entrenched interests happy with things pretty much the way they are


  6. Threadjack

    Dahlia Lithwick is the dumbest writer in America. Listen to this

    “I have been fascinated by Christine O’Donnell’s constitutional worldview since her debate with her opponent Chris Coons last week. O’Donnell explained that “when I go to Washington, D.C., the litmus test by which I cast my vote for every piece of legislation that comes across my desk will be whether or not it is constitutional.” How weird is that, I thought. Isn’t it a court’s job to determine whether or not something is, in fact, constitutional? And isn’t that sort of provided for in, well, the Constitution?”


    Day one of Constitutional Law, you learn that all branchs of government have an obligation and authority to interpret the Constitution. Indeed, they do it all the time. The Congress has lawyers on staff who give opinions on the Constitution and the President has the Office of Legal Counsel who does the same.

    Seriously is Lithwick really that stupid or does she think her Slate readers are?

    1. I will occasionally peruse Ms. Lithwick’s writings and have found that the stupid is strong in that one.

      John, if you really want to feel superior dig into the archives at slate. Couple of hours there and you’ll feel like Stephen Hawking.

      1. Yeah Lithwick and Rosen are vortex of stupid. Then throw in Saleton for good measure. Emily Yoffe is the only one of the writers there with a tripple digit IQ. And she writes the advice collumn.

        1. I always liked “Dear Prudence”, also “the explainer” is cool…

          Mickey Kaus and whoever does the XX blog should hang themselves for the betterment of humanity.

          Foreign Policy for the win.

          1. Yofee’s the human guinee pig is pretty good to.

    2. Oh, but her Slate readers are that stupid; most of them anyway. At least she admits to the mindset. This is why I have a hard time getting pissed about “judicial activism”: it is now “activist” to consider Constitutionality necessary.

  7. has the right to grow up to an unlimited number of plants

    Up to, but not more than, infinity.

    1. I have a continuum of plants. Is that illegal?

  8. So many people are being misinformed to believe that Prop. 19 would effect Prop. 215, CA’s medical marijuana law. It would not, this law does not deal with medical marijuana. If you are a medical marijuana patient, nothing would change, you can still smoke in the same places. This bill deals with the possession and use of marijuana for non-medical purposes.

  9. medical pot has created a set of entrenched interests happy with things pretty much the way they are

    If only there were a political philosophy that predicts and explains this phenomenon, whose adherents would have (or could now) argue against all these piecemeal pseudo-legalization rent- and favor-seeking plans.

    On the basis of that philosophy.

    Of theirs.

    That they totally believe.

    And support.

    1. I am interested in your comments and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

      … Hobbit

  10. Americans for Safe Access officially takes no position on Prop 19.

  11. Rent seekers of the world! Toke up!

  12. This is why I vehemently urged people that believed in legalizing marijuana away from the medical debate. I feared that any recreational uses would be sharply critized after the community accepted its medical purposes. Once it is Rx, then it becomes property of the pharmaceutical agencies. If people wanted to use it for recreational reasons, then they should have just admitted so and fought that fight.

    When the government prohibited alcohol, there were protests against it.. their signs simply read, “We Want Beer”. A man wants a beer with his steak, he isn’t worried about how beer in moderation will help prevent urinary track infections and promote good blood circulation.. he just wanted beer.

    1. During prohibition, you could ask your doctor for a prescription for “medical alcohol” and you could get it.

    2. Still, the fact remains that medical marijuana legislation has spurred a rapid and stunning change in the way the public considers marijuana policy in general. It’s a messy and imperfect wink-wink process, but so what? It’s hard to argue that medical marijuana laws have been ineffective in precipitating more widespread shifts in cannabis policy.

  13. YES on Prop 19. Perhaps someone will sponsor a better prop in 2012. As bad as Prop 19 might seem, its defeat would be far worse. The will of the people mandate is too important a resource to let the enemy claim. Success breeds success. Passage of Prop 19 is like a first down and ten. Move the chains and keep the drive alive. The end of prohibition will come later, but passing Prop 19 puts the liberty movement in the red zone. If Prop 19 goes down, we’ll be playing defense. Non-medical users are a long suffering group. Prop 19 is a step towards equal opportunity in labor markets. Only in victory will it become clear that while a lttile liberty is a little good, more liberty = more good. Liberty is a good thing.

    1. Liberty is a good thing.

      Prove it, you sex fiending dopehead. You sicken me.

    2. Only in victory will it become clear that while a lttile liberty is a little good, more liberty = more good. Liberty is a good thing.

      Liberty is scary!

  14. Pot is awesome. Don’t call it black.

  15. Pot is awesome. Don’t call it black.

  16. Alcohol prohibition only lasted 13 years, and required amending the US Constitution to do it! This SHOULD be easier to accomplish, but the right wingers will fight this until they die.

  17. Proposition 19 would inadvertently harm the most vulnerable patients by allowing local governments to prohibit the sale and purchase of marijuana in their jurisdictions, California Cannabis Association members said.

    I might be missing something, but aren’t municipalities and other jurisdictions passing “moratoriums” and such on medical marijuana activity in California and elsewhere, like, daily? In fact, aren’t high ranking officials in LA and at the state level doing their best to prohibit dispensaries of any kind, anywhere?

    Sounds a lot like “local governments” already have the ability to “prohibit the sale and purchase of marijuana in their jurisdictions,” no? How would Prop 19 change the calculus here at all?

  18. Legalized gambling in California would be wicked, evil and anti-Cristian. Jesus is voting NO.

    1. Jes?s and his friends can’t vote, but they would vote yes if they could and then go get jobs in the casino kitchens.

  19. I’m surprised that Obama doesn’t support legalization of marijuana… he obviously hates success… I figured he would want the country to be slow, stupid and hungry.

  20. Jesus said to treat other people the way we would want to be treated. I know I wouldn’t want my college kid to go to jail with the sexual predators, or my parents to have their house stolen by the police, if they used a little marijuana.

    Let’s change the world. Let’s get registered and vote.

    Citizens and college students in California can register at
    w w w . sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm .
    (just fill out the form and mail it in).
    And you can request a ballot by mail at
    w w w . sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_m.htm .

    In other states, Google your state name and the phrase, voter registration. Print off the form and mail it in (or drive it down to City Hall).

    Five minutes. Register to vote. Change the world. Right now.

    Pass it on (Tweet, Facebook, other?).

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