California’s Prop 19: A Word-for-Word Analysis

I’ve spent the weekend reading various blogs that have sprouted up in opposition to Proposition 19, California’s effort to legalize marijuana this November.  These “Stoners Against Legalization” blogs confound me; they remind me of Sam Kinison’s line comparing “Rock Against Drugs” to “Christians Against Christ”.

Some of these blogs are based on the notion that legalization would be worse than “what we have now”.  The assumption there is that if you smoke marijuana in California, you must already have your Prop 215 recommendation from a doctor, and you’d be losing your rights under Prop 19.

Most marijuana smokers, believe it or not, are healthy and aren’t comfortable spending money for a doctor to give them permission to use cannabis.  Currently we face a ticket, fine, and misdemeanor drug conviction record for possession an ounce or less of cannabis.  That record prevents us from getting student aid and can cost us our jobs, child custody, and housing, or if we’re on probation, our freedom.  (Even if California succeeds at downgrading possession to an infraction from a misdemeanor, a $100 ticket is a lot of money to some people!)  We face a felony charge if we grow even one plant at home.  For us, Prop 19 is much better than “what we have now”.

Another thing that appears in some of these blogs is outright misinformation, such as talk of a $50/ounce state tax (it’s not in the initiative; that was Ammiano’s bill) or that it would supersede Prop 215 (it wouldn’t, and Prop 19 even references Prop 215 in its language, so it couldn’t).  Others play up the “millionaires”, “big corporations”, and “monopolies” that would be created and the earnest Emerald Triangle family growers who’d be put out of business (which amuses me: Prop 19 allows localities to regulate sales, so why wouldn’t Humboldt, Trinity, and Mendocino county residents whose economy depends on pot sales lobby really hard to get legalized pot sales OK’d in those counties and cities within, and regulated in a way that protects the small grower?)

Two notable sticking points have to do with minors below 21:  Prop 19 creates a new crime in being an adult over 21 who gives marijuana to adults aged 18-20 and Prop 19 forbids adults over 21 from smoking where minors are present.  Prop 19’s penalties in the first situation mirror the penalties for giving alcohol to 18-20-year-olds; but, yes, it is disturbing to create a new statute that calls for jail time over marijuana.  It’s also questionable whether an adult should be punished for smoking pot if their child can see them – we don’t even require that of alcohol and tobacco.

But are these reason enough to continue ruining the lives of people 21 and older?  Besides, if you’re over 21 smoking with some 18-year-olds or in front of some minors, and you’re doing it inside your home, who is to know?  And if you’re 18-20, wouldn’t you love being legal in 1 to 3 years?

Because the biggest thing Prop 19 does, the forest that these blogs are missing for the trees, is LEGALIZE ADULT MARIJUANA CULTIVATION AND POSSESSION.

Even under Prop 215, the adult cannabis consumer is guilty of being a criminal unless proven innocent as a patient.  When Prop 19 passes, the adult cannabis consumer is considered innocent until proven guilty.  It is a complete game changer for law enforcement, because:

  • the smell of marijuana on your person is no longer probable cause to search you;
  • that joint in your pocket means nothing;
  • the seizure of stems, leaves, and seeds from your trash is irrelevant;
  • a couple of baggies with weed residue in them are just garbage;
  • the sight of that bong on your table visible through the kitchen window isn’t a “welcome” mat for a police search;
  • your utility bills raising a bit for water and lights don’t matter;
  • your neighbors smelling skunky plants is just a nuisance, not the source for an “anonymous tip”;
  • receipts for lights, soil, fertilizer, ballasts, trimmers, and stuff are meaningless;
  • infrared signatures of your home aren’t evidence of anything;
  • marijuana sniffing K-9 units are out of a job; and
  • pre-employment drug testing programs become harder for businesses to maintain for cannabis.

Basically, one of the simplest tools law enforcement has for harassing cannabis consumers – the sight and smell of cannabis and paraphernalia – is no longer in the tool belt.  As long as you’re an adult, keep your grow in a 5’x5′ area, don’t smoke in front of kids, and don’t leave the house with over an ounce, you are free from police harassment.

And even if you don’t follow the law perfectly, who’s to know?  If you’re pulled over and there’s an ounce and a half in your backpack, how does that cop know?  Does it “smell heavy” in your car?  So long as you refuse a search, how will he know?  The smell of pot isn’t cause for a search; you’re allowed to have an ounce of it.

If you have a 10’x10′ garden, who’s to know?  Is the electric bill that much higher?  Does the garden smell more (probably not at all if you build a good grow room)?  Plus don’t forget that you’re allowed to have more than one ounce, namely, any amount that you grow within your 5’x5′ garden, at the location of the garden.  I think by the time law enforcement came back with a warrant to investigate how big my garden is, three-fourths of it would be cut down and I would suddenly have my 5’x5′ garden and my hanging plants from the last 5’x5′ area I harvested.

Suppose there is four pounds of marijuana at my house.  Why, officer, that’s the results from my last legal 5’x5′ personal garden harvest.  What, you don’t see any 5’x5′ growing space?  Well, I used to grow, but I took down my garden and sold my equipment after my last harvest.  Why, yes, they were some pretty big plants.  No, I didn’t take any pictures, because what I was doing was perfectly legal.  (Prop 19 also has a nice affirmative defense to claim the marijuana in your home was for your personal use.  These blogs never seem to notice that.)

So on The NORML Stash Blog I’ve decided to write a word-for-word analysis of Prop 19, mainly because it seems like many of the people against it have never read it.  Standard disclaimer: I am no lawyer… hell, I’m not even a college graduate.  Click here to read my Word-for-Word Analysis of Prop 19.

113 thoughts

  1. I am old,…and very sick. I realize that my “future” is gonna be quite limited. I smoke to relieve my pain. Anybody that doesn’t like it can KMA. I remember a strange event that happened a few years back. I was watching Channel 5, a San Francisco tv station. The news was on at 11 p.m. A man appearede in a white lab coat. He said he was part of a research project. He indicated that they had found an “ELEMENT” in marijuana that “stopped breast cancer, in its tracks”. That is a verbatim quote. ( My memory still works exceptionally well). The very next sentence was. “the benefit CANNOT be derived from SMOKING pot”. It would have to be administered in pill form. Gee, who makes “pills”.? Could he be referring to the pharmaceutical companies ? Us Americans are mere worker ants, funneling the fruits of our labors to the big corps, i.e. pharmaceuticals, big oil, banking, insurance companies, etc.etc. OOOPS, let’s not forget BIG GOVERNMENT. Our country has been LOOTED, by all the above, without firing a shot. The biggest robbery in human history. You steal a pack of gum = 1 year in county. Steal a trillion $$ and you get a BONUS ! Yet the Fed wants me and others to suck it up, suffer in silence, and give them what little we have left. @#(* them !

  2. I fear that passing Prop 19 will be, at best, a short victory. If the GOP wins in 2012, the new “conservative” president will undoubtably want to send CA a message: We control Marijuana laws- not you.
    Increased federal arrests and seizures will result, and the whole damn thing goes back to the stone age.

    [Editor’s note: There is no doubt that who controls the federal branches of government can help dictate how aggressive the fed’s reaction will be to states changing their cannabis laws. However, the states have great autonomy in America’s federal system and there is not that much the feds can do to overturn the popular will of a state’s voters and/or legislators when they’re prescribing greater rights and freedom to their citizens (as compared to retarding rights under ‘Jim Crow’ laws in the South, where the feds stepped in to enforce the US Constitution).

    When a legalization initiative passes in CA, there is a possibility that even the Obama administration may try to seek an judicial injunction against the implementation of Prop. 19. However, that is absolutely no reason not to vote in favor of this important and historic legalization initiative. If anything, the louder the people’s voice in CA in favor of legalization the better the chance the feds will be deterred from interfering with the will of the voters–from the most important state in the union–and may see the vote as a bellwether portending a national trend in favor of legalization that politicians need to heed.]

  3. the bigest problem with prop 19 is the law is only for dose not adress how reduction in state and local budgets will create savings. but it dose say it is likely to redirect their resources. no redution…


  5. Pingback: NO! On Prop 19
  6. “# Paul Says:
    July 19th, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    This is simply propaganda by the conservatives. Don’t worry, all of the people who were going to vote for it are still going to vote for it and those that weren’t wont. This is a stupid attempt to muddy the waters. Thankfully this reeks of desperation and this should e seen as a good sign for us. ;)” I am a conservative, a real conservative and I believe it is no more my business what you do in your own home and to your own body then it is any of your business what church I go too. Do not group me into that stereo type. I am a Ron Pauler!

  7. Prop. 215 did something that not a single voter realize. It made marijuana legal for medical use, and took control of it from state hands to federal hands. It made marijuana a controled substance. Just like oxyi-contin, cocaine, morphine. These drugs have a potienial for abuse, just like marijuana. That is why the federal drug enforcement officers can, even if prop 19 passes, enforce federal laws. Eric Holder who is U.S. Attorney General, has promised a vigorous enforcement of federal drug laws if 19 passes. So just a word of warning, I wouldn’t get to involved until the federal government has its day in court with the appeals. See I think that calif. is putting the cart before the horse so to speak. They should fight the DEA in a court room first and then put it on the ballet for popular vote. Untill the DEA is out of the picture you will still face federal charges if you engage in prop.19 behaviors. Not to be a stick in the mud, just presenting facts.

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