Marijuana, Proposition 19

Proposition 19’s Precedents

In the Spring of 2010, I researched the historical precedents of California’s “Control and Tax Cannabis 2010” initiative, which would appear on the state’s ballots that year as Proposition 19.

Going into the research, I expected to find that western states like California – relatively young states settled by those with pioneer spirits – had always been more liberal and relaxed about drugs than their eastern counterparts, and that leading the charge on cannabis legalization comported with the West’s (and specifically California’s) reputation of being relaxed and trend-setting.

To my surprise, I found that while the Western states were indeed pioneers in drug legislation, it was by being the first states to prohibit certain drugs (e.g. marijuana, alcohol, opium and peyote) rather than by liberalizing drug laws. These early prohibitions in the west stemmed from political, religious, or economic motivations, and many of them were explicitly racist laws. Almost none of these laws appealed in any way to a moral duty to not alter one’s consciousness.

Since my research seemed to show that most drug law is formed and reformed for reasons outside of simple morality, I looked at the state of California in Spring of 2010 – budget deficit to overcome, proximity to a marijuana-cartel-fueled drug war in Mexico, frontline of an ideological right-left political tug-of-war in the country – and wrote a paper accurately predicting that such a climate in the state would lead to the passage of Proposition 19, legalizing Cannabis in California.

Then, November 2010 rolled around and Californians, against my accurate prediction, inaccurately rejected Proposition 19.

They were the ones who were inaccurate, not me.

As a native Californian, I have to say that I’m disappointed in my people for not understanding the value of a historical model.

In any case, here is a .pdf file of this paper, dated argument and all.

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