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 http://www.twitter.com/mopowell
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