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Davis, California

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Column: Gains among losses

I’m doing a Google search on “Proposition 19 flawed” and I’m scrolling through 815,000 results of opinion columns and newspaper headlines. There are some impressive lines flying at my face.

The Modesto Bee proclaims, “Proposition 19 is poorly drafted and deeply flawed, filled with loopholes and ambiguities that would create a chaotic nightmare for law enforcement, local governments and businesses.”

I’m seeing a lot of similar, nasty phrases and words: “seriously” and “fatally flawed;” “confusion;” an “ambiguous measure” leading to a “legal nightmare.”

A Los Angeles Times/USC poll released Saturday found voters opposing the measure 51 percent to 39, a steep difference from a survey that the Public Policy Institute of California conducted last month, which showed opposition at 41 percent compared to 52. The PPIC’s latest poll notes a similar decline.

As a marijuana columnist who has been discussing the need and greed for weed, this doesn’t make me feel too good.

I have the option of running outside right now, my arms released to the pouring skies, allowing cold bullet-like rain to caress my hot tears. “Mary, I’m sorry,” I want to tell my beloved friend. I’m not sure if this is going to work.

But I won’t do that.

Though I am severely disappointed in Proposition 19’s recent and supposed loss in voter support, I am in no way maimed. Some intensely pro-marijuana friends of mine noted their own wariness of the legislation behind Proposition 19, and I didn’t flinch. The “No on Prop. 19” fliers I saw laid out on a table at a marijuana dispensary last weekend didn’t make me raise an eyebrow.

I have been metaphorically smoking you guys out the past few weeks with my pro-pot dialect, and it hasn’t exclusively been to get you all to vote yes. My college-aged peers don’t worry me, for it’s the majority of you, and the majority of voters under 40 in general, who favor Prop. 19.

On that same note, a Sunday San Francisco Chronicle article by Kevin Fagan points out that most people have made up their mind about marijuana legalization anyway – it’s been in the public discourse for decades.

I will add that many don’t know that a similar marijuana decriminalization proposition has made the California ballot before. In 1972, the California Marijuana Initiative, also called Prop. 19, called to remove criminal penalties for adult possession and cultivation.

Though it failed, it influenced the passage of two groundbreaking bills: Penal Code 1000, wherein individuals could have certain drug offenses dropped if they participated in a drug rehab or education program; and a bill by a State Rep. from Beverly Hills named Alan Sieroty that would have made marijuana a straight misdemeanor, had Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California, not vetoed it. (Reagan has been famously quoted as saying, “I now have absolute proof that smoking even one marijuana cigarette is equal in brain damage to being on Bikini Island during an H-bomb blast.”)

Reagan vetoed another Sieroty misdemeanor bill in 1974, but something tells me that our boy Alan has been avenged with Mark Leno’s SB 1449, signed Oct. 1 by Gov. Schwarzenegger, reducing the crime of possession of less than an ounce to the same category as a freakin’ traffic ticket.

Oh, what amazing strides the troupes of marijuana legalization have gained over the past few decades. Though public sentiment may not be enough to pass Prop. 19, changing attitudes and favorability toward legalization in California history, in both legislative and social forms, have been remarkable.

Even more remarkable, perhaps, is the fact that Prop. 19 is the “lowest-key, highest-interest election issue on the Nov. 2 ballot,” Fagan said.

It’s one of the most recognized propositions this election day, and it’s being watched all over the world (with a special closeness by Mexico, if I may add) – and this is all without any heavy advertising. The Yes on Prop. 19 movement has very much been a grassroots movement, spreading through phone calls, e-mails and the Internet.

And the $2.8 million that Proposition 19 proponents have raised seem shy compared to the more than $22 million raised for Proposition 24, which would repeal legislation that allows businesses to lower their tax liability. Prop. 24 has garnered significant corporate interest, but nowhere near the media attention of Prop. 19.

It’s all quite incredible, really.

If Prop. 19 doesn’t pass, I won’t consider this a failure by any means, for now the issue is larger and more known than at any time before. Marijuana legalization may not happen this year, but all of this interest and debate posits that there will most definitely be a time for it.

Still, I’ll remain hopeful.

MAY YANG bleeds black and orange, and needs a “Let Timmy Smoke” World Series t-shirt. Send your credit card information over to mayyang@ucdavis.edu.


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