Marijuana Ballot Initiatives

Lessons From California's Pending Pot Legalization

Was it really only six years ago when recreational pot got smacked down in the Golden State by a giggling political class?


This photo was A) taken by a friend of mine who used a pseudonym to protect his job, and B) borrowed in a South Park episode. Suck it, New Yorker! ||| Reason

Six years ago, my legendarily goofball home state of California, which introduced the medical marijuana loophole to the world back in 1996, was on the verge of rejecting the first honest-to-goodness attempt in at legalizing recreational weed in the 21st century. In a last-ditch effort to rally the troops, Nick Gillespie and I wrote a piece for The Huffington Post arguing that "Pot Legalization Is the Most Important Issue Before Voters This Election Day," a claim that got me subjected to ridicule (which I think I effectively pushed back on) from Fox Business Network's Stuart Varney. In fact, I think our argument holds up pretty well:

Though limited to voters in a single state, Prop. 19 is the only policy matter on the table with the potential to restructure the lives of virtually all Americans. If Prop. 19 passes, it will force, at long bloody last, an honest reconsideration of failed prohibitionist policies throughout the United States. In fact, given the drug war's influence on our foreign policy in Latin America and central Asia, Prop. 19's reverberations would even be felt far outside our borders. […]

A legalization win in California, or even a close call, will certainly spread to other states, including ostensibly conservative red states. […]

Given marijuana's presence in every part of the country, legalization is not a question of if but when.

Six years later, California is poised to become the fifth state in the country to legalize pot, via Prop. 64, which would more than triple the population of Americans living in recreationally legal states. (For a breakdown of the electoral possibilities, Jacob Sullum's recent post "Where Voters Are Likeliest to Legalize Marijuana in a Month.") On this happy occasion I have taken to the pages of the L.A. Times to celebrate the impending victory, and talk about three broader lessons about policy change we might learn. Excerpt:

1) Push for (and tolerate) experimentation. […]

What's the 2016 equivalent of medical marijuana shops? Charter schools come quickly to mind. Wherever the one size is not fitting all to the end user's satisfaction, there is an opportunity for governmental bodies to allow for some real or metaphorical outside lab work. Beware any entity that would prematurely close such experiments down. […]

3) Endure (or please knock off) the giggling. The great unspoken truth about mainstream politics is that even if a policy is supported by a majority of Americans, if it has for whatever reason become taboo among the political class, those who advocate for it will be laughed at. Scratch that, giggled at. […]

When Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his opposition to Proposition 19, he used a telling phrase: California, he warned, would become a "laughingstock." The Golden State's august newspaper editorial boards, which opposed the initiative almost unanimously, could not resist the most obvious jokes this side of Woody Allen one-liners about Los Angeles.

Check out the whole thing here.

Readers with long memories (or who worked backward from the links in Scott Shackford's recent post about it) may recall my obsession six years ago with pointing out the juvenile pot jokes on all the Golden State's anti-Prop. 19 newspaper editorials ("No to Ganja Madness!" and "One Toke Over the Line" and on and on and on). Well, this year, I'm happy to report, most of the editorial takes—which have been running about 50-50 pro/con—have at least been more sober. But I can't help sharing this recent effort from the prohibitionist Fresno Bee: "Vote 'no' on half-baked Proposition 64." GET IT???

Below watch Zach Weissmueller's interview two months ago with Lynne Lyman, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, about what a victorious Prop. 64 would mean:

NEXT: The Trillion-Dollar Deficit Question

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  1. CA, become, a laughingstock?

    That’s really a fear, Ahnohld?

    1. The joke was on Ahnold. Cali was already a laughingstock.

      1. I so wish Gary Coleman had won that election.

        1. Had to vote Jack Grisham for that one. Cause PUNK ROCK!!!

  2. Nick Gillespie and I wrote a piece for The Huffington Post


    I can’t even.

  3. It’s been legal for years. The only difference will be you won’t have to go to a sleazy “doctor” to get your “recommendation” every year.

    Although I understand that in the national conversation it’s a bigger deal than that.

    1. ^ This. If anything Prop 64 will further restrict the market through taxes and regulations, among other barriers to entry.

    2. It really opened my eyes to the glaucoma epidemic amongst young men.

    3. yeah it’s legal, the wrinkle comes in if you wish to exercise your 2nd amendment right and someone figures out you have a MMJ card. With this legal I don’t need some stupid card that will no doubt be on a registry somewhere

  4. “Jerry Brown Opposes Legal Pot Because ‘We Need To Stay Alert'”
    “”The problem with anything, a certain amount is okay,” Brown said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “But there is a tendency to go to extremes. And all of a sudden, if there’s advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?”…..85455.html

    1. We owe it to the ruling class to get drunk instead. National dignity is our common duty.

    2. “how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?”
      I don’t know, but I’m willing to do my part to help find out the answer

  5. California’s correctional officers hardest hit.

  6. Beware any entity that would prematurely close such experiments down. [?]


    State Supreme Court says no ? again ? to Washington charter schools

    The Washington State Supreme Court announced Thursday that it will not reconsider its September decision declaring the state’s voter-approved law establishing charter schools was unconstitutional.

    1. The Statist/Progressive/Elitists must be getting desperate. Colleges all over are in trouble, on the brink of having somebody really LOOK at their value. Pot prohibition – which allows them a lot of control of the Lower Orders – is collapsing, and there really isn’t a replacement bogieman drug nearly as widespread. And ‘Gun Control’, which they thought would let them disarm the masses, is having to fight a rearguard action almost everywhere.

      Then there’s the spectre of Trump. Sure, he’s an authoritarian jerk who will steer money and power to his cronies, but HIS cronies aren’t THEIR cronies. And he’s a symptom. If they defeat him they are al,ostmcertainly going to have to deal with some other populist jackass in four years.

      It’s almost as if THEIR elitism had no firmer basis than the ones that have gone before…..

    2. They’re still public schools. Stop with the fetish for charters. They steal public money.

  7. Serious question, so I don’t have to go read initiatives, what powers are delegated to the state in running the market? Since we’ve got ample evidence that nothing can be “legalized” by way of cutting government, something John Oliver giggles at, this could go through if it creates a massive soviet-style bureaucracy that allows state actors to dictate supply chains, pricing, THC content, storefront location and limit the number of licenses to a small number of insiders with state connections. If Prop 64 contains this stuff, I’m optimistic on its passage.

    1. if it creates a massive soviet-style bureaucracy that allows state actors to dictate supply chains, pricing, THC content, storefront location and limit the number of licenses to a small number of insiders with state connections. If Prop 64 contains this stuff, I’m optimistic on its passage.

      Then rejoice, as it contains each and every one of those things, in addition to restrictions on who can grow how many plants and where, and what kind of containers it can be sold in.

      Passage is nearly certain, and CA will finally have criminal pot users to go after again.

  8. In the video at about 0:37 his says Colorado legalized it, however on their map they highlight Wyoming. This is why we need to have weed illegal and everyone who uses it locked up for decades. People will work high like this guy. Actually pretty much everyone will be in danger. As soon as it is legal it will look like the zombie apocalypse. So much for your son becoming a doctor. Now he’s just going to smoke and watch TV, and probably die because a high driver will plow through the side of your house.

  9. Tim Kaine’s regressive and repressive views and votes on marijuana recently earned him into a “hall of shame” over at Just last month, they consolidated NORML’s congressional scorecard, and displayed the names of 26 current US senators to whom they have given an “F” rating. Unsurprisingly, only four were Democrats; unfortunately, one of those four prohibitionists is Tim Kaine. He said: “I wouldn’t vote for a law at the federal or state level that would decriminalize marijuana.”

    Source:, “Prohibitionist VP”: 2016 Veepstakes , Jul 23, 2016

  10. That’s not the reason for the giggling. The giggling is because matters of someone’s sheer enjoyment, which is what pot’s about in most cases, are not considered fit for serious political consider’n.

    1. The War on Pleasure is srs bzns.

      1. That enlightenment thing was nice while it lasted. Now, back to the dark ages.

  11. Leave it to Commifornians to screw this up again.

    That being said, even it it passes, it won’t effect the FED at all. They’ll double down on prohibition. It’s what they do. Otherwise, there fiefdom may fall down, we can’t have that.

  12. I enjoy your prose Matt Welch

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