My mind's been consumed by pot lately.
No, I'm not smoking it, but the conversation around Proposition 19, the initiative to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults, is being debated about, sung about, and questioned enough to ignite and split California voters down the middle.
A SurveyUSA poll taken in early October indicates voters are 48 percent in favor of the initiative, 41 percent opposed. My less-than-scientific poll among Facebook friends produced comments such as, "You Betcha!" (ha ha, it wasn't Sarah Palin), "God's good herb," and, "If we can medicate responsibly." On the other side, I heard, "Conflicted. It has its medicinal purposes but is a gateway drug for some." Only one person was decisively against legalizing marijuana, "I'm voting no. But then again, I would vote to make cigarettes illegal if I had my druthers."
It intrigues me because marijuana use is growing more and more common among the now "older" generation. At every adult social gathering I've been to lately someone whips out some weed. It's as common as cracking open a beer. My friends are the people whom society would deem as successful. They're not lazy, drug addicts, or otherwise corrupted by enjoying a few hits.
The city of Oakland has taken the lead in demonstrating the fiscal benefits of an organized medicinal marijuana trade. Six years ago, Oakland voters passed Measure Z to make marijuana "crimes" a low priority for police; the city actively implemented regulation of marijuana dispensaries; and in 2008, the passage of Measure F made Oakland the first city to tax medical marijuana sales. Marijuana cultivation has attracted an entrepreneurial spirit that some argue is vital to combat Oakland's ongoing budget shortfalls.
However, just over the hill about 15 miles away in the suburban, more traditional cities of Contra Costa County, medical marijuana dispensaries are run out of town before they can even begin to operate. Residents in the area demonstrated the same opposition, if not outrage, when X-rated adult businesses tried to set up shop. The attitude: not in my backyard!
But let's take a closer look at those backyards... in his article "Half Baked," John Geluardi talks about the resurgence of pot use among 50-somethings, "According to a recent study by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, marijuana use among 55- to 59-year-olds has more than tripled, from 1.6 percent in 2005 to 5.1 percent in 2009. The report predicts that those numbers will increase as the country's 78 million baby boomers age."
These are people who smoked marijuana in college, went on to establish careers, buy homes, and raise children. Now that they are financially stable and the kids are off to college, they enjoy a few hits along with their glass of Pinot Noir. But not all of their neighbors may not be so relaxed. Susie Socialite and Sally Soccer Mom think Prop. 19 will corrupt children and make it easier for them to score a stash. These soccer moms, Geluardi contends, comprise the swing vote. Makes sense, they are relatively young, educated, and I would venture to say, don't like messin' with the status quo. I can say that because I was a soccer mom, if Wikipedia's definition is correct.
Me? I'm not against pot, I'm just not into it. I ask my kids not to use it. However, as any parent can tell you, marijuana is already readily available to middle school students, if not younger ones. If we're really concerned about children, the permissibility of alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription drugs in our society is hypocritical. No changes will be made to those industries, there's too much money to be made.
Prop. 19 is also about money - not medicine or morality. Prop. 19 will hurt the dealers, whereas cities such as Oakland and its growers are salivating at the prospect of new revenues and profit.
One could argue that when local economies benefit from Prop. 19, there will be more money for police to enforce Prop. 19 penalties that are designed to protect children:
• Every person 18 years of age or older who hires, employs, or uses a minor in transporting, carrying, selling, giving away marijuana, or knowingly sells or gives away marijuana to someone under the age of 14, shall be imprisoned in state prison for a period of three, five, or seven years.
• Every person 18 years of age or older who knowingly sells or gives away marijuana to someone older than the age of 14 but younger than 18, shall be imprisoned in the state prison for a period of three, four, or five years.
• Every person 21 years of age or over who knowingly sells or gives away marijuana to someone older than the age of 18 but younger than 21, shall be imprisoned in county jail for up to six months and fined up to $1,000 per offense.
Last week the US Attorney General confirmed that the feds will continue to "vigorously enforce" the federal ban on possessing, growing or selling marijuana. Whether Prop. 19 passes or not, no doubt, the Ed Rosenthals and Angel Raichs of the world will continue to fight for marijuana.
When you clear away all the smoke, for me, it's like gay marriage... why not?