An announcement Californians and marijuana users around the nation have been eagerly awaiting was finally made this morning. One of three petitions circulating for signatures to put legalizing marijuana on the 2010 ballot has gained enough signatures. 650,000 signatures supporting legalizing marijuana have been gathered, far exceeding the necessary 434,000. Those signatures have yet to be certified by the state, but backers are confident there will be no problem with certification.
Those 650,000 signatures could mark the beginning of a modern day American revolution. If the ballot measure passes, Californians over age 21 would be able to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, and grow their own plants on a plot up to 5 feet by 5 feet large. These guidelines were specifically designed to duck under federal standards for investigating and prosecuting marijuana growers, in an effort to avoid the federal versus state conflict California experienced when it legalized marijuana for medical purposes over ten years ago.
Proponents are confident this measure will allow compliant marijuana users to avoid federal prosecution and pave the way for the rest of the nation to follow in California’s footsteps.
Supporters of the measure often point out that marijuana is considerably safer than alcohol when used in accordance with existing laws. They also point to California’s disastrous budget as a rationale for legalization – legalization would decrease police, prison and court costs, while increasing tax revenues.
Opponents of the measure dispute these claims, and insist legalization will only lead to bigger drug problems. But, in a state seriously hurting financially, the argument of lower costs and increased revenues has a good chance of emerging victorious. And, our terrible economy may have given an unintentional boost to marijuana use, consequently support for legalization, as people seek relief from financially induced stress.
California would not be the first place to legalize marijuana if it passes this bill. In early November, voters in Breckenridge, Colorado overwhelmingly decided smoking marijuana would no longer be considered a crime. The Breckenridge measure easily passed with a 73/27 vote, a feat Californians can probably only dream of achieving. Recent polls indicate that 56% of Californians are supportive of the idea, but of course only a vote will tell with any certainty. Soon it will be up to the marijuana smokers to defy stereotypes, get off their couches, put the munchies down for a minute, and go out and cast their votes for legalization. Let the revolution begin.