According to a March 25 article of the Los Angeles Times, “an initiative to legalize marijuana [in California] and allow it to be sold and taxed will appear on the November ballot.” Currently, California only allows for the legal sale of marijuana for medical purposes and considers the illegal possession of marijuana a misdemeanor charge with penalties of a $100 fine, a permanent criminal conviction on a person’s record and possible jail time.
If California residents choose to vote for the measure, called the “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act,” this would reverse the ban on marijuana that has been in place since 1937, making it the first state to legalize marijuana. A Reuters article stated “56 percent of Californians surveyed in an April 2009 Field Poll” said “they favored making it legal for social use and taxing the sales proceeds.” The measure would allow for retail sales of marijuana, for those at least 21 to possess up to an ounce and for the lawful growing of marijuana in limited quantities in one’s home for personal use. According to California NORML, a site “dedicated to reforming California marijuana laws,” California could yield $1-$2.5 billion just in tax revenue from the legal sale of marijuana.
When asked about their opinion about the potential to legalize marijuana, college students had mixed reactions and opinions. Junior Isaac Juarez joked that “the recession will be over soon” if marijuana were legalized.
Li Lin, a sophomore student at the University of California at Berkeley, said, “I support this legislation because of the tax revenue it will bring to California. Right now California is a failing state. The University of California system is in shambles. If people have money to buy weed, they should also support the state. If marijuana is legalized, I’m assuming dealers of marijuana will be held accountable; they will be regulated and checked. So many people do drugs now, it doesn’t matter.”
A group of Knox students discussed why they thought marijuana should be legalized. First-year Jake Hawrylak stated California’s potential to “bring in ballz [sic] ton of revenue.” Hawrylak continued, “It doesn’t do any harm. The best argument I heard about it is…[expletive] you, it’s my body. [My body] is no one else’s property.”
The group commented on the criminalization of marijuana and the persecution of its users. Another student cited how it is “ridiculous that there are high tense situations out of nothing” when “legitimate businesses” of marijuana dispensaries are guarded and it is “a waste of funds and effort” to enforce the current ban on marijuana. The same student argued that people are punished for “nonviolent, victimless crimes,” such as possession of marijuana. “It’s not treating a problem.” Another student interjected and said, “The prison system fails to rehabilitate.” The other student continued, saying the prosecution of people for these “nonviolent, victimless crimes” results in an overload in the justice system and “creates permanent second class citizens.”
Junior Devan Bennett, a proponent for the legalization of marijuana, said, “This idea of marijuana as harmful and the idea of it as a ‘gateway drug’ is a manufactured phenomenon, a social construct. Looking back at history, we can use the example of Prohibition to see that criminalizing a substance creates a demand for it on the black market and in fact creates drug crimes.”
Bennett continued, saying, “To me, it is very ironic that marijuana that is virtually harmless and has many medical properties is illegal while nicotine and alcohol, two drugs with no positive effects that kill millions every year, are not only legal but socially accepted.”
While the majority of Californians have shown support for the measure in polls, the nation differs. In an October Gallup poll, only 44 percent of Americans favored legalization.
An anonymous sophomore said, “I think marijuana should not be legalized because allowing something that affects cognition might become the culture or the norm. Once it is embedded into our culture, the consequences of using marijuana will be overlooked more easily.”
Sophomore Juliette Campbell said, “I am opposed to the legalization of marijuana in California. Although legislation would provide an economic benefit through taxation, that fact does not outweigh the negatives.” Campbell cited the dangerous side effects of weed such as impairing learning and judgment as well as memory loss. She also argued about the social costs of widespread marijuana use such as harm from second-hand smoking.
National organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) also said that if recreational marijuana use were made legal, “injuries and crashes will go up.”
Campbell said, “I believe in choice and personal freedom of individuals but I also value the role of government as established in the Constitution to protect the people.”