Pot Legalization Linked to Political Paranoia


If people are allowed to make their own decisions, how can politicians control them?

In today's Los Angeles Times, Joe Mathews, co-author of California Crackup and an essential commentator on Golden State politics, uses this year's slate of ballot initiatives to demonstrate his view of what's broken.

Mathews' diagnoses are always worth a look, though I agree with few of his recommendations, and I think one claim here—that the 2/3-vote requirement to pass a budget leads to "minority rule" by the Republicans—is strong evidence of cranial-rectal inversion syndrome. If you believe the Republicans (who control 27 out of 80 seats in the Assembly and and 14 out of 40 seats in the Senate) have too much power (at least relative to the Democrats), well, you're smoking something.

Speaking of which, dig Mathews' strange case against Proposition 19, the initiative to legalize and tax cannabis:

Proposition 19, unlike many initiatives, includes special provisions that permit the Legislature to make some changes to the measure (as long as those changes further the purpose of making it easy to sell weed). The measure also grants local governments discretion in regulating cannabis.

But Proposition 19 also establishes a specific method for legalizing and taxing marijuana that, under California's Constitution, can't be altered without another vote of the people.

This is problematic when it comes to legalizing marijuana, because if California were to become the only state to legalize the drug, there undoubtedly would be a host of new issues that might require altering the fundamental structure of Proposition 19. And that would require more action by voters. If the Legislature had created the underlying law, it would be easier to make changes.

And if a frog had wings he wouldn't bump his ass a-hoppin'. The legislature will never create the underlying law, any more than it would have approved medical marijuana in 1996. Prop. 19 is on the ballot because it has no hope of getting through the legislature, because the major organs of the political and cultural establishment can't treat seriously the idea of not imprisoning people for consuming a naturally occuring variety of produce, because popular will is once again being thwarted by government. That's not the problem with the initiative process; it's the whole point of the initiative process. If California's ruling class had shown any seriousness on this issue, Prop. 19 would not exist.

Mathews' argument against 19 is a more informed version of the "Legal confusion is worse than criminalizing non-violent personal activity" sections Matt Welch includes in his extensive catalogue of anti-19 scaremongering. Mathews concedes that 19 is more reasonable than the average initiative in defining a regulatory role for politicians, but then objects that that role isn't broad enough. Why is a guy with extensive knowledge of the state's gruesome political class afraid of placing constraints on the authority of the state?

This is a goofy attitude for free people anywhere, but it's especially odd in California, where we now get annual demonstrations of state paralysis, with no ill effects. Long delays in passing a budget have occured in all but five of the past 30 years, and during those delays the state government effectively goes into sleep mode: reduced hours and limited public services, furloughs and layoffs of government employees, hiccups in corporate and personal welfare payments, delays in paying contractors. And you know what impact the annual government shutdown has on working Californians? Bupkes. A temporary reduction in government services is a small price to pay for keeping power out of the hands of politicians. In fact, it's no price at all.

L.A. Times extra: George "I Thought He Died Years Ago" Skelton objects that legalization will make California a "laughingstock" and could allow "folks" to "make millions" (as opposed to letting other folks make tax-free billions, as the situation stands now).

NEXT: What's Wrong With Woodrow Wilson?

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  1. Our current marijuana laws are the result of a national paranoia that was created years ago to enrich a few fat cats. The difference today is that it’s different fat cats who want to keep the paranoia alive. The ability to create paranoia has political value and it doesn’t matter what the issue is, only that it has paranoia value. If there is paranoia value in an issue you can bet your last ounce that some politician will exploit it. Paranoia is just part of their stock and trade.

  2. California has been a laughingstock for all of my 49 years, at least, and anyone who lives there should be allowed to smoke or ingest any substance at all that lets them forget it for a few hours.

  3. The truth is that marijuana legalization will lead to a multi-billion dollar a year industry similar to the alcohol industry with all the power in our government that the alcohol industry has to lower their own taxes, and with all the marketing and media influence to glamorize and popularize marijuana among our youth. Marijuana is substantially more concealable than alcohol, which is the reason it is so much more prevalent in our high schools than alcohol. Legalizing it and allowing it to be marketed will increase youth marijuana use beyond that of youth alcohol use, but alcohol use will not decline as a result of it. National marijuana use and national alcohol use do not move in inverse directions, but more in unison with each other. There will be increased substance use influencing the brain development of our youth; development that peaks during adolescence.

  4. I hope Prop 19 passes.

  5. Governor Schwarzenegger effectively decriminalized marijuana when he signed SB 1449, so that gives California voters the opportunity to write a better law than Proposition 19, which proposes to enslave marijuana to huge indoor grows, and not even solar light. There’s nothing green about the business when it comes to the environment. Let’s not forget, many of those who wrote Proposition 215 went to prison, some died. Proposition 19 is another bad law that will imprison and kill many good people who sacrified their lives in working out the details. Can’t our generation do better than the Proposition from 40 years ago? Voting Yes on 19 says NO, prooving the dumbing down of Americans is working.

  6. “Voting Yes on 19 says NO, prooving the dumbing down of Americans is working.”


    “Prooving”? (Ha, Ha, snork!) I think your post proves that the dumbing-down of Americans is working!

  7. Cannabis is less physically addictive than caffeine, while the so-called “gateway drug” theory is a complete fantasy, and it was just recently called “half-baked” as a result of a scientific study. CNN reported that Cocaine use has dropped sharply, by 30% since 2002, which is really good news. I worked in addiction medicine for years, and this is what I can advice on the matter: Any suppression of Cannabis use will be immediately followed by an increase in alcohol/hard drug/prescription drug abuse! You don’t believe me? Then maybe you will believe the Big Alcohol lobby that is financing the Cannabis Legalization opponents for exactly this reason. Right now Cannabis is just simply perceived as a much safer alternative to alcohol/hard drugs, which is precisely how it should be perceived. To have a society in which there is NO psychoactive substance use is an illusion, and it will be good for our government to realize this. So then, it becomes a matter of “safer choices”, just like with the sex education. And Cannabis is, without a shadow of a doubt, a much safer choice than alcohol or hard drugs! Just very recently a research study in addiction medicine has determined that Cannabis may actually serve as an “exit” substance for recovering alcoholics/hard drug addicts! And there is another extremely important property of Cannabis that the prohibitionists would love to keep secret: Cannabis use suppresses violent urges and behaviors and, as one prestigious textbook says, “Only the unsophisticated think otherwise” Then, of course, there is a potential of Cannabis in chronic pain, where other drugs may be ineffective (or physically addictive), with very important potential consequences for our wounded veterans, many of whom have chronic pain. It is also worth noting that Cannabis may have certain preventative value for such devastating conditions as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. And all this comes with no danger of overdoses or induction of a physical dependence! Let’s be very happy that the cocaine abuse rate is dropping. Let’s not interfere with these dynamics, and then we can possibly achieve what has already been achieved in the Netherlands where the drug overdose rate is 85%(!!) lower than in the US, and that is with much more liberal Cannabis possession laws than in this country! Maybe it is time to give up “dogma” about Cannabis, and to start listening to the experts, if we really want to lower the alcohol/hard drug use in this country, and the accompanying dependencies and overdoses!?

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