Mariellen Jurkovich: Read Flawed Prop 19 For Yourself And Decide – July 21, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I am continually being asked by the press, my patients, and community members how I feel about California’s Proposition 19, also known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. The questions range from: How will it affect medical marijuana? Will it save California’s incredible budget woes? How will it impact our county? Will it get rid of cartels? Will it be dangerous for my children? What are the pros and cons of this initiative? How should I vote?

These are all valid questions and concerns. My first suggestion always is for anyone interested in this complex subject to read Proposition 19. Know that this is a voter-driven initiative which cannot instantly or easily be changed without a vote from the people or by statute passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor… so, in other words, know who the shareholders are and where personal agendas lie, read between the lines, review your own values and concerns, be careful what you vote for, and in short, become informed.

I took my own advice and read Proposition 19 and did some of my own research.

First, I want to address that this act will allow people 21 years of age or older to possess, cultivate or transport marijuana for personal use. There are restrictions on the amounts that one can possess (1 oz.) and the square footage one can grow in (25 square feet). Many people recognize that the “war on drugs” or prohibition on cannabis for non-violent offenders is not really working.

To allow and limit the amount would, hopefully, eliminate some of the burden and money woes put onto the legal and prison systems. Since, I, personally, feel that too much taxpayers’ money is being spent on prosecuting and imprisoning marijuana users, this seems like a positive move.

It also addresses commercial grows in that they will need to be licensed and regulated by the area they are situated in.

This initiative has excited some because of the prospect of helping California climb out of its deficit problems by promising jobs and a huge tax revenue to the state. Some estimates are that the taxes on cannabis sales could generate billions of dollars in revenue.

The backers of Proposition 19 also feel that millions will be saved by not arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating non-violent cannabis users. This would open up resources and time to combat the dangerous criminal elements that we fear. It is also thought by some that the cartels and dealers will no longer be doing business in an accepted, legal and controlled cannabis industry.

This is all theory, and only time will tell. How is this envisioned? By allowing outlets for sales and commercial growing, cities are allowed to regulate control and tax cannabis. Oakland is a good example. Oakland has been very pro medical marijuana. This city is looking at possibly approving a seven-acre parcel that would make available 371 union jobs, pay an average salary of $53,700 a year, produce 58 pounds of cannabis a day and generate 59 million dollars a year which the city could heavily tax.

This could be the wave of the future. Cities that want to increase revenues may take this model to heart. There is also the possibility of cities and counties encouraging hemp production since this seems to be allowed under Proposition 19. Fear that Marlboro or RG Reynolds could move in and take over are probably premature. This product is still federally illegal and considered a schedule 1 drug by the U.S. Government.

In order to cover public concerns, the writers of Proposition 19 have included the right of cities to tax and regulate cannabis within the city limits. They have also given cities control over cannabis through land use. It would still forbid driving under the influence, disallow interstate or international transportation, retain employers’ rights to not allow cannabis consumption that would affect job performance and medical marijuana laws would remain intact.

This initiative has some positive concepts and ideas. We do need a way to save our fiscally strapped state and stop needless prosecution. I am not sure, though, if this would be the solution and what kind of negative impact could come from the passage of this initiative. I do know that, on one hand, the writers of this initiative pride themselves on having recreational users protected from arrest and prosecution.

What it does not do is protect our young adults. The harsh penal sanctions put on our youth are the reason why I will personally vote NO ON PROPOSITION 19. Only adults who are 21 years or older are allowed to be covered and protected under this initiative. If anyone 18 years or older furnishes a minor with cannabis, they “shall” be punished by imprisonment in state prison for a period of three, five or seven years.

That means that if your 18-year-old is at a party and smokes with a 17-year-old then he or she could be in jeopardy of losing part of their youth in prison. Sending our young adults to prison for three to seven years for cannabis use, in my opinion, is dangerous to our youth and not good for our society. This initiative also states that you cannot use cannabis in front of children. You can smoke and drink alcohol, which are far more dangerous. What happens if you do smoke in your own home in front of children? Can they be taken from you?

There are some good points in this initiative and if these specific points were different, I might be able to support it. This, of course is only my opinion.

I encourage everyone to read The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, also known as Proposition 19. Reach your own conclusions and go out and vote. This is a historical moment in time that you do not want to miss out on.

Mariellen Jurkovich is director of the Humboldt Patient Resource Center, a medical marijuana collective in Arcata.

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