The Yes on Proposition 19 campaign today welcomed a petition by more than 65 law professors–including six who blog at the Volokh Conspiracy, and other notables such as David Friedman, Erwin Chemerinsky, and Nadine Strossen–urging a "wholesale rethinking of marijuana policy in this country," and a yes vote for the popular and much-maligned proposition. Excerpt from the open letter:
For decades, our country has pursued a wasteful and ineffective policy of marijuana prohibition. As with alcohol prohibition, this approach has failed to control marijuana, and left its trade in the hands of an unregulated and increasingly violent black market. At the same time, marijuana prohibition has clogged California's courts alone with tens of thousands of non-violent marijuana offenders each year. Yet marijuana remains as available as ever, with teens reporting that it is easier for them to buy than alcohol across the country.
Proposition 19 would remove criminal penalties for private use and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana by adults and allow California localities to adopt—if they choose—measures to regulate commerce in marijuana. Passage of Proposition 19 would be an important next step toward adopting an approach more grounded in reason, for California and beyond.
Our communities would be better served if the criminal justice resources we currently spend to investigate, arrest, and prosecute people for marijuana offenses each year were redirected toward addressing unsolved violent crimes. In short, the present policy is causing more harm than good, and is eroding respect for the law.
Moreover, we are deeply troubled by the consistent and dramatic reports of disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws against young people of color. Marijuana laws were forged in racism, and have been demonstrated to be inconsistently and unfairly applied since their inception. These are independent reasons for their repeal.
Especially in the current economic climate, we must evaluate the efficacy of expensive government programs and make responsible decisions about the use of state resources. We find the present policies toward marijuana to be bankrupt, and urge their rethinking.
This country has an example of a path from prohibition. Alcohol is subject to a regulatory framework that is far safer in every respect than the days of Al Capone. Just like the State of New York did when it rolled back Prohibition 10 years before the nation as a whole, California should show leadership and restore respect for the law by enacting the Tax and Control Cannabis 2010 initiative this November.
Amen to that. At the Volokh Conspiracy, signatory Ilya Somin adds this wisdom:
[P]assage of Prop 19 would be a major political setback for drug prohibition. A victorious Prop 19 would likely be imitated in other states with referendum initiative processes. That in turn would put the federal War on Drugs under increasing stress. If several large states withdraw state resources from marijuana enforcement, the feds would either have to massively increase their own enforcement efforts or consider giving up the fight.
Meanwhile, California's second-largest daily, the San Jose Mercury News, has joined the newspaper consensus against, as have the Daily Breeze, the Stockton Record, Santa Maria Times, and Christian Science Monitor. The Economist is in favor, though.