Proposition 19

So in a few weeks here there is an election in California, and one of the measures on the ballot is a proposition to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

I might be one of the only college students at this time that will publicly say that I think this is a huge mistake.

It makes sense to me why people who already use marijuana illegally would want to legalize it; what frustrates me is those people who don’t agree with smoking marijuana yet are in favor of Proposition 19.  These people tout the supposed economic benefits of legalizing the drug, the harm it would cause Mexican drug cartels, and the false supposition that it would only effect those people who already use the drug.

But the negative effects far outweigh any positive effects this measure might come with.  Contrary to what your friends might say, marijuana is most certainly physically addictive and does in fact have long-term effects on the body.  The only people I have ever heard argue to the contrary are people who were at the time using and trying to justify with the classic, “I can quit anytime” line.  But just as it is not true for a cigarette smoker, quitting is much easier said than done for one who uses marijuana as well.

Cannabis produces withdrawal symptoms that may be as severe in some cases as those produced by nicotine addiction. These are most assuredly “physical” symptoms. There is no such thing as a distinction between the “physiological” and the “psychological” when it comes to addiction, no matter how much people wish to frame it as such. Drug Addiction Dualism is a denialist position. Full stop. Dependence on a drug is produced because repeated exposure to that drug produces changes in the body. It matters not where those changes are made, they are physical alterations. Unless you believe in some noncorporeal version of the mind or soul that exists independent of the physical matter of the body. And if you believe in that, you have no business making anything that resembles a scientific-sounding claim such as whether or not a drug produces a “physical addiction”.

With this knowledge, I have a problem legalizing the recreational use of such a drug and thereby making it readily available for even more people.  To believe that passing Proposition 19 would not certainly lead to more widespread use of marijuana is as naïve as it is stupid.

What’s Wrong With Marijuana?

In case you weren’t paying attention in Health class when the side-effects of this drug were gone over, here’s a quick crash course:

  • Marijuana side effects include physical problems like breathing difficulties and deteriorating physical abilities.
  • Despite a popular belief, marijuana side effects speed up the heart, blood and breathing rate. The body is taxed more and this speeds up the aging process just like methamphetamines do. The marijuana side effects from this extra exertion on the body include a higher risk for lung cancer, heart attacks and strokes.
  • When marijuana is used habitually, the natural chemical balance of the brain is disrupted affecting the pleasure centers and regulatory systems. The ability to learn, remember and adapt quickly to changes is impaired by marijuana use.
  • People who drive after using marijuana are nearly twice as likely to be involved in a fatal car crash. (Side note: under Prop 19, getting behind the wheel of a car just after using marijuana is perfectly permissible)
  • It is also what is referred to as a “gateway” drug.  The more you use, the more you have to use in order to experience the high.  This often leads people to take up other drugs in order to achieve the high they are no longer experiencing from marijuana.
  • It is not the same as alcohol.  You can drink a little bit of alcohol without getting completely trashed.  The entire point of using marijuana is to get high.

I realize that not everyone who uses marijuana is going to go out and get into reckless car accidents or become a hardcore drug addict.  The point is that this proposition will undoubtedly lead to more widespread use of the drug, thereby putting more and more people at risk for the negative effects.

The Economic Argument:

This initiative on the ballot says it will “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis”.  Sounds positive, right?  However, I don’t think it is that simple.

You would think that a measure titled the “Control and Tax Cannabis Act” would have some sort of tax proposal written into it.  Yet if you read the text of Prop 19, there is no such tax proposal.  Taxation is left entirely to the legislature and local governments, so there are no guarantees about any marijuana taxes or how fair they would be.  If this measure is supposed to help the state economically, there are at present no concrete plans to do so, and any economic benefits would pale in comparison to the social costs of legalizing marijuana.

The Drug Cartel Argument:

I have heard the argument made by those in favor of Proposition 19 that legalizing marijuana will undermine Mexican drug cartels, which supposedly gain a lot of their profit from the illegal sale of marijuana.  There are a few things wrong with this argument…

For one, it is not entirely true.  According to a study by the nonpartisan RAND Drug Policy Research Center

Californians, who make up one-seventh of the U.S. marijuana market, already are farming marijuana at a much higher rate than in neighboring states and tend to buy domestic rather than smuggled marijuana, the study found.

In short, California would have to legalize more than just marijuana to hurt the cartels.

Another thing I find just a little bit ironic about this argument is that it tends to come from people who are in favor of legalizing the drug because they already enjoy the recreational use of it.  This means that they are already buying it illegally and, as far as they know, putting money into the hands of the cartels.  Are we supposed to suddenly believe that these people really care about harming the cartels that they have previously had no problem handing money to if it meant they got to satisfy their selfish desires?  Give me a break.

There is also the fact that since Marijuana will still be illegal for those under 21, there will still be a market for those who illegally sell marijuana to sell to.  So contrary to what proponents tell you, Prop 19 won’t eliminate crime associated with the drug at all.

Naively voting yes on this proposition just because some of your friends told you it would help the economy is just bad judgment and poor research.  I implore you all to do your homework before going into the voting booth.  Proposition 19 is bad for California.