Marijuana: Should California Completely Legalize It?


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I am opposed to marijuana for the same reason that I am against alcoholic beverages: they rarely benefit and often they harm. But does it make sense to continue outlawing it except for medical purposes?

California Assembly Member Tom Ammiano doesn’t think so. This is why about a week ago, on February 18, he re-introduced legislation that would completely legalize, regulate and tax the adult use of marijuana throughout the state. This proposal, AB 2254, is similar to AB 390 which Ammiano introduced last year; however, it was not fully considered because time ran out on the legislative calendar.

Meanwhile, efforts have been underway to place the possibility of legalizing marijuana directly to California’s voters in this year’s November elections. Some recent polls suggest that slightly more than half (56%) of all Californians now support its legalization.

Those who propose the legalization of marijuana assert several things: (1) Tobacco and alcohol addict, injure and kill many more citizens each year than does marijuana and yet we don’t outlaw them; (2) Our clogged courts, overpopulated prisons and budget deficits make enforcing laws against marijuana while leaving other more important endeavors under-funded a mistake; (3) With revenues of fourteen billion dollars a year—an amount greater than that from California’s production of vegetables, wine grapes and hay combined—marijuana is by far the biggest cash crop in California today and yet its producers and distributors pay virtually no taxes; (4) Current laws decrease the supply and increase the price of marijuana so much that national and international criminals wage ruthless wars over it; (5) We should punish people for destructive behavior whether or not they are using marijuana or any other substance when acting harmfully; (6) Restricting its use it to medical purposes has become an open joke with marijuana stores laughingly alleged to be more plentiful in some places than coffee shops.

Those who oppose the legalization of marijuana have a number of concerns too: (1) Its medical dangers are greater than many might realize ; (3) Those who use it are more likely to move on to more dangerous drugs; (4) Drug users commit many crimes against property and people in order to finance their activities; (5) The likelihood of great revenues to the people of California from taxing marijuana is not great because of conflicting federal laws; (6) it will not be helpful to have giant corporations promoting the adult use of legalized marijuana like they now market alcohol and tobacco; (7) The savings from not having to enforce laws against marijuana are likely to be offset by the increased costs of taking care of the greater number of people who get in trouble using it.

In its own words, the intentions of AB 2254 are:

  1. To regulate marijuana and its derivatives for persons 21 years of age or older.
  2. To remove all existing civil and criminal penalties for persons 21 years of age or older who cultivate, possess, transport, sell, or use marijuana, without impacting existing laws proscribing dangerous activities while under the influence of marijuana, or certain conduct that exposes younger persons to marijuana.
  3. To regulate marijuana in order to more effectively limit access to marijuana by minors.
  4. To deprive the criminal market of revenue derived from the cultivation, smuggling, and sale of marijuana.
  5. To reduce the violence associated with the criminal market for marijuana.
  6. To prevent the environmental degradation that results from the production and eradication of marijuana associated with the criminal market.
  7. To address the overall failure of marijuana prohibition to protect the public health and safety.
  8. To raise funds and to discourage substance abuse by the imposition of a substantial fee on the legal sale of marijuana, the proceeds of which will support drug education and awareness.
  9. To impose a set of regulations and laws concerning marijuana comparable to those imposed on alcohol.
  10. To impose substantial fines for violations of the noncommercial regulations and laws concerning marijuana.
  11. To prevent state and local agencies from supporting any prosecution for federal or other crimes relating to marijuana that are inconsistent with those provided in this bill.
  12. To exclude medical marijuana from the fees and regulations imposed by this act.
  13. To encourage the federal government to reconsider its policies concerning marijuana, and to change its laws accordingly.

As a Christian I believe that we should have as many laws as necessary but as few as possible; therefore, I am in favor of AB 2254 or something like it.

Yet I think that licenses for wholesalers should cost much more—up to 100 times as much, depending on the size of the operation—than the $5,000.00 for the first year and $2,500.00 for each additional ones that AB 2254 proposes. I also think that we ought to have laws that tightly regulate the advertising of marijuana like the ones we have for tobacco. And I am of the view that we need very strong zoning powers that we can use to prevent huge agricultural businesses from transforming many thousand of acres from the production food and fibers such as cotton to much more profitable marijuana crops.

Some might dismiss AB 2254 without even studying it because Tom Ammiano is a homosexual man from San Francisco. But when it comes to legalizing marijuana, people like him are not the ones that worry me.

I am much more concerned about the corporate executives in California’s mammoth agricultural enterprises who will see in the complete legalization of the adult use of marijuana huge opportunities for heretofore unimaginably high profits. Unless they are strictly regulated, their activities could easily drive up the costs of real estate, food and scarce natural resources such as water to the point of crippling California’s already struggling economy.

Because it surpasses the size and economic power of many nations, California’s greater troubles would hurt people in other parts of the world too.

In the long run, a greater supply of marijuana is likely to decrease its profitability and attractiveness to agricultural investors and producers. But this won’t happen over night. This is why I hope that the California legislature will amend AB 2254 so as to address concerns such as mine before giving it final consideration.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/2190