California Assemblyman Explains Why He Is Voting ‘Yes’ On Prop. 19

California Assemblyman and Chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), has an excellent commentary today on why Californians should vote ‘yes’ this November on Prop. 19: The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010.

One major reason: Passage of Prop. 19 would bring an end to the majority of the 80,000+ marijuana arrests (61,000 for simple possession) that continue to take place annually in California under so-called ‘decriminalization.’

Really, folks ought to read the entire commentary here. Below are some highlights:

What if California could raise hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue to preserve vital state services without any tax increases? And what if at the same time, we could, without any new expense, help protect our endangered wilderness areas while making it harder for our kids to get drugs?

That is precisely what the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 initiative slated for the November ballot would do. This measure, building off the legislation I introduced last year, is the logical next step in California’s and hopefully the nation’s public policy towards marijuana.

The costs of modern prohibition continue with more than 61,000 Californians arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession in 2008 alone. That same year, about 60,000 violent crimes went unsolved statewide, yet we continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars and countless law enforcement hours arresting people for low-level marijuana crimes, further overburdening courts and prisons. Jail beds devoted to marijuana offenders could be “used for other criminals who are now being released early because of a lack of jail space,” the state Legislative Analyst’s Office wrote.

Black-market marijuana is also a main source of revenue for the vast criminal enterprises that threaten peace on our streets and weaken national security on our borders. According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Mexican drug cartels get more than 60 percent of their revenue from selling marijuana in the United States.

The simple reality is that resources tied up fighting marijuana would be better spent solving and preventing violent felonies and other major crimes.

… There may be disagreements about what direction to take but it is clear to everyone involved our current approach is not working. Regulation allows common-sense controls and takes the marijuana industry out of the hands of unregulated criminals.

As a member of the State Assembly, I believe we must acknowledge reality and bring innovative solutions to the issue of marijuana, not simply wait passively for the federal government to act. This is how change happens. Californians lead rather than follow, and we can set an example for the nation as we did on medical marijuana by passing the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 in November.

Passage of Prop. 19 would allow adults 21 years or older to legally possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. It would also permit local governments the option to authorize businesses to engage in the retail sale and commercial cultivation of cannabis to adults. Personal marijuana cultivation or not-for-profit sales of marijuana would not be taxed or regulated under the measure. Further, this act does not seek to amend or alter any existing statewide legal protections that are presently mandated under Proposition 215 or S.B. 420 (medical marijuana).

For more information, you can read the Secretary of State’s ballot summary here. Answers to FAQs about Prop. 19, and the initiative’s full text is available here.

34 thoughts

  1. From a purely logical standpoint, after reading and researching the evidence, it seems ludicrous that this country still arrests and harasses the American Public over a plant that is less harmful than every single legal drug on the market. Its absolutely insane.

    I think this is another issue where the American Public are way ahead of the government in terms of what is healthy and what isn’t healthy.

    Its pretty sad to see Pharmaceutical Companies spending Billions to advertise and create their drugs on tv that WILL make you addicted to them, possibly kill you, and wreak havoc on your life BUT the any American citizen will get ARRESTED, FINED, and have a CRIMINAL record for attempting to grow their own medicine that has never killed anyone and done more to ease the stress of more average Americans than all the Pharmaceutical drugs combined.

    Its pretty sad.

    This is one aspect of our Country that I feel should be changed. Hopefully in time our elected officials will come around and do whats right for the right reasons – instead of doing whats right for the PROFITS of the Pharmaceutical companies. Afterall – we the people elect them to represent us and our interests – not the Pharmaceutical companies profits.

  2. Mr. Ammiano you have my YES19 vote, but, I live in the forgotten state of Florida.

    Tell me how can I support you and your effort.

  3. It’s coming! We all have to work very hard from now on to discuss this bill, to inform the public, and to engrain ‘YES to 19!’ into the public consciousness.

    Now the work begins!

    Then the Zeitgiest shifts towards morality and rationality!

  4. I have just finished reading the full version of the initiative and have a question that maybe one of the kind editor’s might be able to answer. The initiative states that it will be prohibited to use cannabis when minors are present. The question I have pertains to the definition of “present”. Does “present” mean in the same room, house, or on the same property? It seems that the ambiguity of that word might allow law enforcement more liberty on enforcement issues while at the same time might be easily misunderstood by we that are not fluent in “Legalize”.

    Thank You in Advance for any Clarification

    [Paul Armentano responds: Having not authored the initiative language I can not answer your question directly, though the intent of the language was to prohibit the exposure of minors to second hand smoke. I do not believe that there will be vigorous enforcement of this clause (or even how practical such enforcement could be), or if the penalties would raise to the level of a criminal offense. Right now the bulk of the 61,000+ criminal possession arrests in California involve possession of the drug on one’s person, and these would be eliminated under the initiative. Also, presently any cultivation in California is classified as a felony (20,000+ felony marijuana arrests in California annually), and the measure’s amendment to the state cultivation laws would undoubtedly decrease this total significantly as well.]

  5. Go California, knock over the first domino that leads to nation wide RE-legalization!

  6. FTW

    you must vote YES do it opens the doors for other countries to follow this fine example. NORML COME TO THE UK

  7. Mr Armentano,

    I completely and whole heartedly support California Proposition 19 for those reasons you mentioned in your commentary as well as several of my own. That being said it will probably not do as much good as most of us would hope when this bill passes, assuming it does of course.

    I am afraid we will become mired in the ambiguity of the wording of this bill the same as we have become mired in that same abiguity regarding Prop 215. It simply isn’t well enough defined to placate our states drug warriors.

    There are small problems that will be cultivated into something that seems like huge issues. One of these problems will be the square footage that people are allowed to grow for personal, non-commercial use. The bill sets a 25 square foot grow space for personal gardens, but it does not define if that space is one small 5 foot by 5 foot area or if that space could be spread out over several locations on a person private residence.

    I fully support the bill as I stated earlier but you have to believe that our state and federal drug warriors will re-define teh wording of the bill in such a way that they are able to basically continue on with business as usual.

    [Editor’s note: You’re worried about supporting a legalization initiative because the definition of 25 square feet of grow space is ambiguous in your mind? OK…no doubt…let’s keep arresting, prosecuting, jailing hundreds of thousands of cannabis consumers because the square footage to grow plenty-of-cannabis is either confusing to some or insufficient for their commercial purposes. Let’s not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good when it comes to cannabis law reform.]

  8. The government only controls substances that are traded legally like alcohol. Illegal substances are controlled primarily by organized criminal gangs. Who do you want controlling cannabis? Don’t you agree that law abiding citizens and companies should be given control of product safety and distribution. It’s very nice to see a politician with a little common sense are the courage to face reality.

  9. it’s the government, they won’t and aren’t ready to change there ways. alcohol is legal so should pot be, but because anyone came grow it and the government doesn’t make any money of it things will stay the same. hopefully not for long but it’s already been too long. remember “just say no” lol, what a joke. vote the bumbs out of office.

  10. I hate to be a pessimist on this one (being that I’m all for Prop 19) but this has no shot of passing this Nov. The all powerful drug companies, and the cronies that work for them (politicians) are and will fight this harder maybe than any issue ever.

    It will not happen, at least not this time around. It is a huge step however just to get it on the ballot. I’m not just talking out of my ass here either people. I know several lower level lawmakers in Cali. that have this fact on pretty “good” word.

    Peace to all of you.

    [Editor’s note: Thankfully your pessimism is not warranted…the current Field Polls in CA indicate 56% support legalization. Positivism begets positivism…negativism begets negativism.]

  11. I hope the good people of California have thought through what is going to happen if Prop. 19 passes. Are they really ready to handle all the tourists? Are there enough hotel rooms and restaurants? What about the influx of people moving to the state for jobs when the unemployment rate drops to virtually nothing? What about property values, they’ll go through the roof! What will the quality of life be like when law enforcement is freed up to deal with crimes where there are actual victims? There is a lot more to this than simply complying with God’s will for people to live in freedom with liberty as acknowledged and cited in the Constitution of the United States.

  12. Oh man, Mike Stroup – you really crushed it out of the park with your piece #11! I will borrow and paraphrase that statement from now ’till November, because if I could make others feel a “smidge” of what you made me feel, we’ll sail into LEGAL SANITY! Thank you!
    I’m a Nor Cal working musician, and am exposed to crowds weekly, and like Johnny Appleseed (potseed?}I’m spreading the word. I even lost a gig because of non psychoactive “HEMPTALK” over the microphone! Right-wing conservative club owner… WORTH IT!
    I will be “CARE-FULL” of what I wish/work for! I CARE PASSIONATELY! I can see it, taste it, smell it, feel it coming – long needed human freedom and dignity! Thanks, and blessings NORML! LET’S ROLL CALI!!!

  13. Shouldn’t you mention that if Prop 19 passes the police in CA will no longer be able to use the smell of growing or smoked cannabis as probable cause for a search warrant?

    police: your honor, “we think we have probable cause. We smelled the odor of cannabis growing when he opened his front door.”

    magistrate: “so what? 25 square feet of cultivation is legal now because of Prop 19. What probable cause do you have to believe that he has exceeded the limit?”

  14. 50,000 misdemeanor cannabis arrests in noo yawk city, 60,000 in california. To think that these were once liberal states boggles the police state boondoggle.

    looks like nyc is at least twice as bad. that really $ux double extra because if anyone needs to get hi itsa noo yawka.

    what’s the latest in the times square ad and stuff like that?

  15. those who oppose us are very powerful and with EVERYTHING to lose.

    for forty years our legalization DESIRE has been viciously opposed. we have made progress anyway.

    at this point in time, my intuition is that they understand the federal trump card and will use it if they can.

    so …. are we in a chess match of some strange kind?

  16. adhd, thank you for the sentiment. Being a “big fish in a small pond”, my crowd left with me and support me at my other gigs. Karma is a beautiful thing, and I hear that “wine bar” isn’t doing too well on it’s own lack of merit! Speaking of Karma, I believe we (cannabis nation) and literally the cannabis/hemp plant is LONG OVERDUE! Somehow I just FEEL it coming.Don’t you? Stay strong, stay respectful,keep growing, just like the “kind herb”. The truth is surfacing at a furious pace. The lying prohibitionists are trying to stop a flood of truth with a used “handy-wipe”. Resistance is futile…
    CAN YOU DIG IT?!!!

  17. i want to become a member of norml and open chapter here in ky ,anyozation of anyone interested needs to contact me at i need members to support us here and help get our chapter off the ground so we to can work on the legealization of marjuana here in ky lets work together and we can get this done ,i want to support any other state as well going to make history and i would like to be apart of that vote yes to 19,a plant is harmless ,would you say broccaly is harmful ,what about a rose ,it shows love is that harmful,well it could be love that is lol ,hope everyone pitchs in and helps out peace

  18. As long as the lobbies are giving our legislators millions of dollars,they will vote the way they are paid,until they start losing their jobs over it.
    The only way marijuana will be legalized is the way CA is doing it,by taking he decision away from the politicians,until we scare those politicians into action.
    No incumbents in the next election should do that.

  19. #20 Thank you for your efforts in Kentucky. Here in Idaho there is a group over in Boise that has formed the Southern Idaho Cannabis Coalition, and we are trying to get a Norml chapter started. Nation-wide everybody, let’s show our support for California, peace.

  20. RAMIFICATIONS FOR POT IN THE ARIZONA ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION LAW BATTLE: The Feds (D. O. J.) have omitted (left out) from their lawsuit against Arizona any mention of “race” issues or allegations that the law could lead to “racial profiling” of innocent people. They have omitted “racial profiling” for not better reason than to guard their own hind-quarters. The reason the Feds aren’t bringing that false notion up, is that the new Arizona law is an exact MIRROR of the long-existing FEDERAL law on illegal immigration. In short, if the Feds call Arizona’s law/policy in any way “racist” it would expose THEM (the FEDS) and the existing Fed law of being precisely the SAME! Then it would be asked why the Feds aren’t attacking THEIR OWN laws first, rather than Arizona’s! Pull the log out of YOUR OWN eye before you go after the splinter in someone ELSE’S eye. Therefore, not wanting THAT hypocrisy exposed, the Feds are only taking them to court with the claim that FEDERAL law “trumps” STATE law; that is, that policing of illegal immigrants is the privilege and domain of the Feds, and NOT of STATE law enforcement agencies. This is not only outrageous, it is just plain WEIRD! Let THIS message go VIRAL. Let it go out to everyone in the United States who would like to see MARIJUANA legalized. The pro-pot masses should rise up and immediately use this Federal case as PRECEDENT and PROOF that it is ILLEGAL for cities, counties, and states all across the U.S. to have any laws against marijuana or to enforce such laws. They assert that FEDERAL laws exist for those purposes, and that since there are FEDS engaged in the enforcement of those laws, and, as the Obama Department of Justice now proclaims, in such circumstances, “FEDERAL law trumps STATE law, and all lower laws and agencies.” By this they argue that the lower states and agencies CANNOT legally themselves enforce the Federal laws. The pro-pot people should announce nationwide, that Obama and the D. O. J. want all non-Fed law enforcement agencies to suspend “acting like Feds” in arresting people under Federal law or “mirrors” of such laws, and that from now on, no state, county or city is allowed to make laws that are duplicates or mirrors of any Federal laws. ALL of EVERYTHING that is encompassed in Federal laws is now to be “HANDS OFF” for states, counties and cities that used to mistakenly think it was a “good thing” to make and enforce laws that were modeled on FEDERAL laws. If Arizona law enforcement officials cannot arrest lawbreakers who break laws that exist at a Federal level, then ALL states, counties, parishes and cities must forthwith be given “halt and desist” orders, that they no longer arrest breakers of Federal laws. If it’s a Federal law, only Feds can enforce it. Thousands of state, county, parish and city laws across the nation, which have previously been seen as “mirroring” and reflecting and agreeing with Federal laws, must forthwith be abolished. If murder is against a FEDERAL law, no state, county, parish or city law enforcement personnel can be permitted to round up murderers, charge them with crimes, and hand them over to be tried. In every jurisdiction, it must be made clear whether any given law is Federal or local. It cannot be both. No state or lower power can mimic Federal law. If smuggling drugs into the United States across our national border is illegal under a FEDERAL law, every border state in the south, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and and in the north along the borders with Canada and the Great Lakes, Montana, Washington, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and, on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, Oregon, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, must all immediately cease and desist all law enforcement against drug smugglers entering by the shores or border of their states. If illegal activity at our national borders is now to be seen as solely the responsibility and domain of the Feds, then so be it. The above-mentioned twenty-six states (and all counties and parishes and cities and municipal jurisdictions within them) must take a “hands off” position regarding drugs being smuggled across their borders. Furthermore, after the twenty-six states withdraw all such operations, either the Federal Government must step up and “fill the gap” and keep drug crimes at the borders at least as low as it presently is, or, all twenty-six states, as well as the several hundred counties entailed, should form a UNITED CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT AGAINST THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT for its failure to enforce Federal laws. Instead of the Fed picking on and suing one solitary state with a low population (a big issue to politicians concerned with votes), it will be twenty-six States, and County Governments, uniting as one, to sue the Federal Government.

  21. And not only will it do the things that was said in the article it could also stimulate a growth of thousands if not millions of agriculture and other jobs that will also boost the state’s economy and as a chef it could if possible to utilize in the way of being able to make it food accessible and also as a spice (because it is not a herb, do to it being a bud( herbs are leaves and spices are everything else on the plant). Now wouldn’t that be f’ing awesome

  22. California citizens can go online to register to vote. Google “california voter registration” to reach the website, download the form, fill it out, and mail it in. Better yet, print off a dozen forms and have your friends fill it out at your next social event. Prop 19 will live or die depending on the VOTE, so get registered, get your friends registered, and make a differnce.

    And while you’re at it, remind everybody to be on the alert for the October Surprise: some trumped-up scare stories the prohibitionists will pull up at the last minute to try to scare the voters.

    Safer than aspirin, less addicitive than coffee.

    Register. Vote Change things.

  23. And citizens of other states with marijuana initiatives, just google your state name and the phrase “voter registration” to see how easy it is to get registered, vote, and make a difference!

  24. Legalized marijuana will never happen for a simple reason.. There is too much money being made from illegal weed. If pot started being legal tomorrow alcohol sales would go down 20% instantly losing millions everyday for bars and restaurants.. 1 million or more less marijuana cases in the courts, arrests by law enforcement, jail stays, prison sentences would lose states billions of dollars from fines, federal block grants etc and loss of personel to enforce marijuana laws ( how many real cops show have you seen them doing sting operation using 10 cops to bust $5 bag dealers ) Alcohol makers are big donation givers to law makers and they would lose billions if pot was legal… they are not going to lose that income without a fight. Lobbists for the alcohol industry,for the restaurant and bars, for mini marts and even walamart will be fighting to keep weed illegal because of the vast amounts of money they will lose from less alcohol sales plus DEA would lose personel, clinics would lose money from less drug testing and most of all.. legal drug makers would lose billions of dollars in sales and folks that ain’t going to happen any tine soon. In the USA a 21 year old person can go into most walmart and other stores all across America and buy the 3 most dangerous products ever produced by man, Gun Alcohol and Cigarettes (combined they kill or injure over 800,000 Americans every year) and get a thank you come again from the clerk but can’t smoke a joint in their own homes for fear of going to jail it doesn’t make sense.. The simple answer is.. marijuana will never be legalized because there is more money in illegal weed than legal weed. the few billions marijuana may bring in by way of taxes is a small drop in a 50 gallon bucket compared to how much money is being made from marijuana being illegal.

    [Paul Armentano responds: You’re right. Marijuana prohibition won’t end if the majority of us advocates embrace this sort of self-defeating rhetoric. ‘They’ won’t change marijuana laws, but ‘we’ will — and we have a major opportunity to do so in November in California.]

  25. Everyone, Please Vote this November to Tax and Regulate Cannabis.
    Prop 19 will free up Law Enforcement to go after the real criminals and leave us Peace and Freedom loving citizens to follow their pursuit of Happiness. Mean People in law enforcement can go after the real bad guys and kick their assess, now that they have hurt peaceful people for all these years, I forgive them, It’s a shitty job!!! Come November, Sick em boys!!!!

  26. This is Bullshit. Make more laws, increase my taxes and take money away from schools ? UH,NO THANKS !!! The city will “TAX” the fuck out of your grow space. Look at what Rancho Cordova is trying to do. $600.00 per sq. ft. indoors. When you give EVERY city this power, they will ALL do the SAME !!! $100.00 ounces ? HA !!! Jeff Wilcox already said it will cost $175.00 an ounce to produce. You think you’ll get it at cost ? YOU ARE STUPID !!! More like $400.00 +, for Mass Produced Crap Weed !!!!! I get AAA FIRE Meds for $250.00 an ounce now,. I and EVERYONE I know would be Completely STUPID to VOTE YES !!!! FUCK PROP.19 !!!

    [Paul Armentano responds: Legal commodities are regulated in America, like it or not. If cannabis is to be a legal commodity, then it will be subject to regulations and retails sales will be subject to taxation. Compared to most commodities, the regulations on marijuana under 19 are minimal. Or I suppose you can just stick with the status quo — under which nearly 80,000 Californians are prosecuted for cannabis offenses annually. Is that really better in your opinion?]

  27. I have read that the 25 sq. ft. grow space can be taxed but I don’t see how that will be enforced. A grower would have to be very stupid to report their operation to local authorites knowing that they would be taxed for it, right? Is anyone else confused about this one?

    Additionally I think that the medical marijuana scene has been taken advantage of and abused by people that are perfectly healthy. Lets legalize the herb so that responsible adults can benefit from the plant we call Cannabis. thanks everyone

  28. My setup produces a constant supply of herb and cuttings and it costs about $250 a year to keep running. I have more cannabis than I need and that is for organically grown herb grown indoors. In my opinion it is stupid to pay one cent for an ounce herb. Learn how to grow and teach others, once prop 19 passes the world will be a much happier place and I only see positive things to come from it.

  29. One last thing I want to say here. To anyone that thinks they are getting a good deal when they pay $250 per ounce for their gear; while you have been paying for your ounces, my friends and I have been giving them away for free to our friends and family. And I want everyone else to be able to do the same.

    I just wanted to post this point view beacause some people might find it interesting.

    thanks again and YES on 19

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