BERKELEY, CA - MARCH 25: Medicinal marijuana user Dave Karp smokes marijuana at the Berkeley Patients Group March 25, 2010 in Berkeley, California. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen certified a ballot initiative late yesterday to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana in the State of California after proponents of the measure submitted over 690,000 signatures. The measure will appear on the November 2 general election ballot. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Proponents of Proposition 19 are almost giddy about the proposition's promise. The polls show that the proposal has a chance of passing on November 2. This comes after the state legislature passed and the governor signed a new law that makes possession of less than one ounce an infraction equivalent to a parking ticket.
Now comes Proposition 19 which, if passed, would both legalize marijuana and add as much as $1.5 billion to the state budget through its taxation. Talk about having your cake (er, brownies) and eating it, too!
Can this be too good to be true? In a word, yes, and here's why: Management of marijuana falls under the auspices of the federal government. That's because years ago Congress created the Food and Drug Administration which, among other things, has responsibility for determining illegal drugs. Marijuana falls into that category, according to the FDA. Lest you wonder if the FDA has such authority, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled so on several occasions.
So, you may ask, why hasn't the federal government clamped down on medical marijuana? First of all, they have. Canabis clubs have been the subjects of federal raids ever since Proposition 215 passed in 1996. Second, there are those, including respectible medical authorities, who believe some medical relief comes from medical marijuana, leaving the feds a little queasy about spending scarce law enforcement resources on an already gray area.
But this isn't the case with a totally decriminalized marijuana. If Proposition 19 passes, you can bet the feds will sue the state in a nano-second, and the courts will have little choice but to follow established precedent. Simply put, victory will go up in smoke.
The only sure way to legalize marijuana is for Congress to pass a law taking management of the drug away from the FDA. Given the huge issues facing our policy makers and the conservative resistance to any policy easing drug use, the likelihood of that happening is somewhere between slim and none. And you know where slim is....