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Davis, California

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Proposition 19 is fatally flawed

Proposition 215 of 1996 is perhaps the pivotal measure of national drug reform policy, catalyzing popular laws in many other states, impelling unprecedented adjustments to federal enforcement policy. Yet, due to legislative failures and various other factors, it remains largely unimplemented – despite being very widely popular.

  In the midst of this brutal, over decade-long train wreck of Proposition 215 policy, Proposition 19 is spawned, a cynical and dangerous hoax upon the people of California, an imposter attempting to usurp the cause of genuine cannabis legalization – contrived by what amounts to the OPEC of Pot in Oakland.

  The real nature of Proposition 19: pseudo-legalization, and therefore also pseudo-prohibition.

Proposition 19 allows adults to carry around an ounce, currently a $100 legal infraction in California, not a felony. No big change here, but a clever charade, nudging prohibition just far enough for industrial-scale cannabis producers to purvey their wares, by the ounce, but not far enough for ordinary cannabis consumers to reliably supply themselves, thus inclining them to subscribe to this new retail market.

  Proposition 19 permits only 25 square feet of space per dwelling/parcel in which to cultivate cannabis, obviously not enough for most situations. Self-reliant, sustainable cultivation requires three distinct plant phases: propagation, vegetation and reproduction, and this latter phase must be separated from the prior two phases. A mere 25 square feet of space simply cannot regularly accommodate this diversity of essential activities.

  Proposition 19 only slightly shifts current law, largely maintaining existing prohibition with arbitrary, unreasonable suppression of the scope of activities of individual cannabis consumers of California — so that an entrenched and maximized retail market for industrial-scale producers can become established.

  This initiative authorizes local governments to approve and zone commercial cannabis production and distribution facilities. As witnessed with Proposition 215 policies, however, only a small minority of jurisdictions will likely participate by approving and regulating these enterprises, despite potential tax revenue.

  California will soon become a crazy quilt of “dry or wet” jurisdictions, similar to eastern states’ zoning of alcohol. Faced with traveling long distances and paying a lot for only an ounce of weed, other options will arise.

  Plainly, the black-market will continue to thrive and even expand within such a setting of slightly diluted prohibition.

The obvious question: Who will police this pseudo-prohibition? Permitting personal cultivation but attempting to specifically yet unreasonably restrict it to only certain physical contours, appears to be an infeasible enforcement policy, swapping the simplicity of a sheer ban for prosecuting over inches.

  Policing this vast and weird scene will likely cost much more than present prohibition, while also being inadequate for most cannabis consumers. New criminal penalties will exist regarding juveniles.

  Racially disproportionate enforcement and prosecution will persist, simply shifted from one criminal scenario to another, which is much more difficult to fairly police.

  Jurisdictions (likely the majority) which don’t sanction industrial production and/or retail distribution of cannabis will certainly experience much greater enforcement issues and challenges attempting to successfully police the size of numerous cultivations where found. Black market activity will diminish only where lawful means genuinely exist for convenient cannabis access.

  Patchwork policy of Proposition 19 effectively fragments California into provinces of pot, amidst a remaining countryside of percolating quasi/de facto criminality. Even within these pot provinces, due to infeasibility and inadequacies, criminality persists.

  Depending upon legislative amendments to fix serious problems of a fundamentally flawed format is quite unwise. Proposition 19 will become more legally complex than prohibition, installing a whole new regime of criminal litigation to clog our courts.

  California needs consistent statewide policies on such matters, not the strange landscape of unreasonable, infeasible, adversely segregated and imbalanced consequences of Proposition 19.

BOBBY HARRIS, a resident of Woodland, innovated local governmental implementation of Proposition 215 in 1997.


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