SkullandChains Report This Comment
Date: November 16, 2010 10:47PM
Proposition 19 in California would have legalized marijuana, but it fell short.
Victory seemed almost a foregone conclusion for many; after all, it is
California. For millions, both in California and across the country, news of
Prop. 19's failure came as a major disappointment. However, it should be
considered a great victory for such a radical measure to get 46 percent of the
vote in open defiance of federal law, especially considering the intense
opposition. Plans are already in the works to put the initiative back on the
ballot for the 2012 election, which is expected to have higher turnout from
young people. But in order for the ballot initiative to succeed, we must first
understand why it failed.
In order to understand the depth and strength of the opposition, it is necessary
to understand what Prop. 19 is really about. This legislation would be in open
opposition to federal law as well as to a United Nations treaty that supports
the drug war. It would be a law passed by the people, not the legislature. Most
importantly, it would demonstrate that in the absence of marijuana prohibition,
society can survive and thrive.
This example would give other states the idea that they could also effectively
repeal marijuana prohibition. It might even create a national effort to repeal
marijuana prohibition. It might even give people the idea to repeal other silly
and harmful federal laws. This would open a can of worms for federal authority
and bring back the idea of a people's nullification.
So as you can see this was a critical victory for federal authority. It is not
just that some potheads forgot to register to vote. Lots of money was spent,
lots of lies were told. This was the equivalent of a goal-line stand for federal
Bruce Yandle created the "bootleggers and Baptists" model of politics
to describe how special-interest groups who normally oppose each other work for
a common goal. With alcohol prohibition, Baptist preachers teamed up with
bootleggers and moonshiners to make and keep alcohol illegal. Today we see the
shared interests of environmental groups and established oil companies, who both
want drilling restricted.
Those opposing Prop. 19 included everyone from marijuana dealers to megachurch
preachers. All the powerful politicians, candidates, pot smokers, and even the
California Beer and Beverage Distributors Association joined the team. The
ancient proverb "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" perfectly
describes the relationship of these seemingly unlikely bedfellows.
Politicians lined up solidly against Prop. 19, as you would expect.
Gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman opposed it. US Senate
candidates Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina opposed it. California senator Dianne
Feinstein opposed it. California representative and speaker of the house Nancy
Pelosi opposed it. Both candidates for attorney general opposed it.
In an attempt to dishearten supporters of Prop. 19, US attorney general Eric
Holder issued a statement that he would vigorously enforce federal law in
California even if Prop. 19 passed. In a similar vein, Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger signed a bill making possession of small amounts of marijuana a
minor violation punishable by a maximum fine of $100. This was a last-ditch
effort to undermine support for Prop. 19 by giving the impression that marijuana
was de facto a legal drug.
Even Mexican president Felipe Calderon and Colombia's Juan Manuel Santos vocally
opposed Prop. 19 — not surprisingly, given that Mexico and Columbia receive a
great deal of money from the United States to fight the War on Drugs, and both
countries generate substantial incomes from the sale of illegal drugs. Legal pot
in California would have been a big blow to both marijuana and cocaine sales
from south of the border.
There is good evidence that those who currently grow and sell illegal marijuana
opposed Prop. 19. The "Emerald Triangle," consisting of Humboldt,
Mendocino, and Trinity Counties, is the major marijuana-growing region in
Northern California. According to Mother Jones, those three counties voted to
defeat Prop. 19:
"There's a large movement up here of people who realize that their self
interest lies in keeping marijuana illegal," says Hank Sims, the editor of
the North Coast Journal, based in the Humboldt town of Eureka. Growers in the
Emerald Triangle's rugged hills and foggy redwood groves are shielded from the
snooping eyes of the DEA, but that advantage would become a handicap if pot
could be openly cultivated in California's warm, flat, agribusiness-dominated
Central Valley. North Coast ganja growers "have got government-sponsored
price control in the form of busts," Sims explains. "So I think a lot
of people kind of cynically voted their pocketbook and voted to keep it
There was even a group called "Stoners against Legalization," but it
turns out that it was headed up by a drug-law attorney who would have lost a
great deal of her business had Prop. 19 passed. Likewise, medical marijuana
shops have come out against Prop. 19 on the ludicrous notion that legalization
would reduce patient access to marijuana.
Segueing from bootleggers to Baptists, we find this headline from the East Bay
Express: Stoners against Legalization Team Up with Ex-Crackhead Priest. Of
course, the priest was joined by fundamentalist Christians as well. The East Bay
Backed by the California Beer and Beverage Distributors, no on 19 group
"Public Safety First" employed the powerful Christian fundamentalist
organization Vision to America. [T]he anti-gay rights group asked its hundreds
of thousands of believers nationwide to "help us get the word out about our
campaign to defeat legalized recreational marijuana in schools."
The California Beer and Beverage Distributors, who would be hurt by lower
marijuana prices, teamed up with church-based Vision to America — talk about
bootleggers and Baptists in action — to raise money, run advertisements, and
mislead the public debate. They claimed that Prop. 19 would lead to allowing
truck drivers, nurses, and students to get high before driving, nursing, and
going to school. The Chamber of Commerce also aired some blatantly misleading
The truth, of course, is that students, nurses, and truck drivers can be
prevented from getting high before showing up, just as they are prevented from
getting drunk. The truth is that businesses can prevent customers and employees
from smoking pot on their property, and insurance companies would not go along
with businesses that let their employees get high and operate heavy machinery or
fly planes. In fact, marijuana is safer than alcohol and is probably only the
10th-most-problematic recreational drug.
Given the powerful forces opposing Prop. 19 — along with their lies and
trickery — the forces of liberty and prosperity should not be disheartened by
this initial defeat. We now have a copy of their playbook — politicians, pot
growers, and medical-marijuana dealers oppose legalization, while Christian
organizations, beer distributors, and drug lawyers spread lies to protect their
Mark Thornton is a senior resident fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in
Auburn, Alabama, and is the book review editor for the Quarterly Journal of
Austrian Economics. He is the author of The Economics of Prohibition, coauthor
of Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War, and the
editor of The Quotable Mises, The Bastiat Collection, and An Essay on Economic
Theory. Send him mail. See Mark Thornton's article archives.
I am posting this because it's an interesting story. You are more than
welcome to post your views on this topic as well. Whether I will chime in or not
with my opinion depends.
Mrkim Report This Comment
Date: November 17, 2010 10:43AM
There will always be a segment of society, all societies, that will choose to
that which is prohibited simply because it IS prohibited. That's one of my
arguments for legalization of all drugs. If that one draw factor alone is
eliminated it would seemingly also take away the "getting away with
something" ideology that leads some people to do anything society/laws deem
To Robs point, if science were capable of making all drugs effects moot, another
group of enterprising individuals would wind up working just as diligently to
undo such results and could possibly even find a way to not only over-ride such
a chemical blocking within the body but also possibly manage to intensify drugs
reactions within a body because of it ..... BONUS
Legalize and regulate ALL drugs. To do otherwise is nothing short of legislating
views of morality and historically that's never been proven to be effective over
the tests of time.
While those who drink alcohol reside all smug and safe in the confines of their
"legal" drug of choice, here's some food for thought, An interesting
article I read some months back pointed out that if alcohol as an intoxicant
were discovered today and the effects of alcoholic beverages on the human body
were as well documented as they are today, it would never have been legalized