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You Tell Us: Proposition 19 is necessary for Oakland, California and America

on October 22, 2010

In the build-up to Proposition 19, Oakland, California has become a magnet for possible marijuana entrepreneurs. The city council has approved large-scale industrial production of the plant and Oaksterdam University has been set up in Oakland for the purpose of legitimizing marijuana production and training those who plan to work in the industry in the future.

As of August 2010, unemployment at Oakland is at 10.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The more the prospect of the state moving out of the way on marijuana has been raised, the more excitement has driven up and America’s old entrepreneurial spirit has come back into place.

The last prospect of argument on the side of prohibitionists has not been validated by the facts. Marijuana use went down by 40 percent from 2001-2002 among ninth graders, young people being some of the biggest consumers, after medical marijuana was allowed in California, according to former United States Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders.

Proposition 19 isn’t simply a vote over whether or not to allow a new industry to blossom during a miserable recession, it’s also a vote over what we want California and the country at large to become. The Cato Institute reported that the drug war has been executed in an “increasingly militaristic way,” with approximately 40,000 raids made on homes per year. In California, as the result of a confluence of factors including the unionization of prison guards, prisons receive 11 percent of the state’s budget while public universities receive only 7.5 percent.

While reforming the prison system is a necessary fight for another day, Proposition 19 would nullify the number being shipped away from productive society to languish in a penitentiary. In 2009 alone, there were 17,008 felony arrests for marijuana and over 60,000 misdemeanor arrests.

Unfortunately, legalization may mean progressives fighting their own. Despite promising during his campaign that he would not “use Justice Department resources to circumvent state law on that issue,” Barack Obama’s Justice Department seems set to do just that. In a letter to Drug Enforcement Administration chiefs, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Obama Administration “strongly opposes” Proposition 19 and would “rigorously enforce” federal drug law despite how Californians vote in November. Bay Area Democrat Dianne Feinstein has also come out in opposition of ending prohibition.

Oakland, like most of the Bay Area, came out for Obama in 2008. To have such a swift stab in the back from an administration that came in to office promising “change we can believe in” is disillusioning but only makes the case for self-governance all the strongest. Oakland, and California, know what is in their own best interests better than bureaucrats in Washington D.C. No matter how the federal government responds, voting for Proposition 19 will be voting for freedom and prosperity.

Michael Orion Powell is a soon-to-be graduate from California State University – East Bay. He can be found on Twitter at


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  1. OakGirl on October 25, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I voted for Obama, and on this point he is correct. The benefits you think you are getting from legalization are not the benefits you are getting.

    We prefer people not smoke cigs around children but they do. You are now about to give people license to smoke pot in their home around children, babies, infants with small developing brains. If you think the problems in education are bad now, then wait until you have a bunch of pot exposed developmentally behind children in the classroom.

    • Flick Fandango on October 26, 2010 at 11:25 am

      Oakgirl, your argument is factually incorrect. Prop19 does not “give people license to smoke pot around children.” In fact, the proposed law specifically forbids it. HS 11300(c)iv: “Personal consumption shall not include, and nothing in this Act shall permit, smoking cannabis in any space while minors are present.”

      • OakGirl on October 31, 2010 at 10:27 pm

        With all due respect, pot smokers are relatively safe from the law within the walls of their own home. So while the law may prohibit smoking around minors, there is absolutely no way to prevent ne’er-do-well adults from getting stoned in front of and with their children. Stoner kids in school, assuming stoner parents get kids to school, do not learn.

        • OaktownBoy on November 4, 2010 at 9:10 pm


          I am sorry to say your logic is misguided. For starters, ne’er-do-well pot smoking adults are already getting stoned in front of their kids – that ain’t going to stop because Prop 19 didn’t pass. They are also going to be getting legally drunk and beating the crap out of those kids when they get the feeling. Angry Alcoholics are the ones who get aggressive with their family members, often taking their frustrations with life out on them as an easy outlet for their stress. People who smoke marijuana don’t do that. If those alcoholics could use marijuana to deal with their stress, there would be a lot less battered women in the world, same for kids. You need to wake up and smell the coffee.

        • Flick Fandango on November 13, 2010 at 12:01 pm

          So, Oakgirl, your argument boils down to this: The law should not be passed because some people might violate it. If we followed that logic, then no law could ever be passed. Furthermore, just because some people use a product irresponsibly does not mean that it should be banned for everyone. People endanger children with legal products all the time: Alcohol, guns, automobiles, prescription meds, unhealthy foods, etc. Will you ban them all? If not, then why should cannabis be treated differently? Think about what you are advocating. You feel that the freedom of all citizens should be infringed upon because some people act irresponsibly. Again, countless things ought to be banned if you truly believe in this philosophy. Better to let people live free lives, and only punish those who give reason to do so.

  2. babbaganoosh on November 2, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    “Ne’er do wells” are already smoking pot in front of their kids. If they don’t care for their kids before the law they surely wont care after.

  3. norcoaster on November 4, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    OakGirl is correct. I come a small town up north and I can tell you the school systems are a mess because of the extreme “pot culture” handed down by the adults. That said, I am not in any way against adults indulging in the herb. I am against prop. 19 though and I am delighted it failed. I appeared nothing more than a huge money grab by certain proponents, with the eventual corporatizing of this sacred herb. That last thing I want is to throw marijuana into the jaws of unbridled Capitalism. It also snubbed its nose at the north coast folks who kept the dream alive for over 30 years, fighting off the Feds, risking property loss, freedom and sometimes life itself. So now you bandwagon fans from “Oaksterdam” can toss that turkey out the window and write something that’s more compassionate and more inclusive to all.

    • Flick Fandango on November 13, 2010 at 12:15 pm

      You don’t want to “throw marijuana into the jaws of unbridled capitalism?” That’s what exists now. The black market is pure “unbridled capitalism.” The product skirts any kind of regulation and is sold for profit. The dealers aren’t giving it away for free, you know.

  4. vision63 on November 10, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    “While reforming the prison system is a necessary fight for another day, Proposition 19 would nullify the number being shipped away from productive society to languish in a penitentiary. In 2009 alone, there were 17,008 felony arrests for marijuana and over 60,000 misdemeanor arrests.”

    Well, if they weren’t dealing or using dope, that would be 17,008 fewer felony arrests and over 60,000 fewer misdemeanor arrests without changing any laws. That’s the path they chose. I’d rather people hide when they toke anyway.

  5. OakGirl on November 14, 2010 at 9:12 am

    No pot for you.

    As to filling up the jail cells for small amounts of mj, Arnie reduced the crime to an infraction – no different than a traffic stop.

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