Proposition 64, the marijuana legalization initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot, appears likely to pass. Too bad.
Californians suffer from plenty of delusions as it is without additional help from a mind-altering substance, legal or otherwise.
It’s bad enough that Californians believe they can tax themselves into prosperity. A majority seems to think that a state can thrive with a burgeoning population of legally sanctioned stoners. Good luck with that.
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Proposition 64 would legalize recreational marijuana use for anyone 21 or older, as well as tax nonmedicinal pot as much as $9.25 an ounce. Growers and sellers would need to comply with state business laws, no doubt forcing many to flee to economically friendlier climes. Individuals could legally grow six plants (counties may limit that to indoors only) and carry as much as an ounce of the stuff without hassle from the authorities.
If the law is a teacher, Proposition 64 would teach Californians the wrong lesson.
I should say, the law would keep teaching the wrong lesson, because we’ve had de facto legalization for nearly 20 years since voters approved Proposition 215, the medical marijuana law.
Opponents of Proposition 64 are worried about brownies. Pot edibles are very popular and can be potent. A pot brownie looks just like a regular brownie, you know. In Colorado the first year marijuana was legal, hospital visits doubled, many of them children.
Health and safety are important, but the real concern here should be social degeneration. If you think this is just about letting people smoke a joint like they would sip a Napa chardonnay, you really need to get out more.
I was fairly libertarian on the issue until a couple of years ago. I began having second thoughts when I visited a friend in Oakland, which has improved a great deal over the past few years with upscale eateries and cool bars.
Yet Oakland is still Oakland.
Walking around downtown during the day, it’s easy to see the underlying decay: boarded-up storefronts and graffiti on walls, buildings, even city signs and light poles. And, of course, all the able-bodied young dudes lounging in doorways, smoking pot without a care in the world.
I presumed it was “medicinal,” but I didn’t stop to ask. If so, most of those guys appeared to be disabled by the stress of actually living in Oakland. But I’ve seen similar sights in San Bernardino, along with seedier parts of San Diego and Los Angeles.
My libertarian friends would say that the harm of criminalizing a nonviolent activity far outweighs any social ills. After all, they point out, booze is legal and look at all of the damage it does: broken homes and marriages, and drunken-driving deaths.
But consider this: A 2013 study by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy found that 80 percent of the men arrested for crimes in Sacramento the year before tested positive for at least one illegal drug. Marijuana was the most common, found in 54 percent of those arrested.
Does this surprise anyone?
Marijuana alters the consciousness. That’s why people smoke it. But sometimes that consciousness contemplates acts that an unaltered mind would regard as unconscionable.
Backers of Proposition 64 say let’s give people a break by legalizing a drug they’re using anyway. But all we’re really doing is helping make the unconscionable a little more conscionable.
Ben Boychuk is managing editor of American Greatness, a journal of conservative opinion. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.