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Although Proposition 19 failed during the election, many students think that recreational marijuana will remain readily available. Photo by Scott Bransford.

Students: Failure of Proposition 19 impacts recreational use little

on November 4, 2010

Gabriel Rodriguez sat in a corner of the student center cafeteria at Laney College Wednesday, the day after the legalization of marijuana in California went down in defeat. The 20-year-old, who voted in favor of the initiative, sounded resigned about it all and said Proposition 19 probably wouldn’t have benefited everyone anyway.

“I don’t think Prop. 19 would have helped in every way,” said Rodriguez, a lanky young man who wore an Oakland A’s cap over his long brown ponytail. “Prop. 19 is more for cannabis clubs than for the urban environment.”

Rodriguez, a student in Laney’s culinary arts program, said he also studies at Oaksterdam University. He said he participated this election to vote against Proposition 23, which would have rolled back state environmental protections; and to support Measure L, which would have raised taxes for Oakland teacher salaries.  But mostly, he said, he wanted to vote for Proposition 19.

Marijuana is not something he sees as harmful, he said, but rather an aid to people living with chronic and terminal illness. Making the substance available to the public for recreational use, and taxing it, would have helped the state’s economy, he said.

If Proposition 19 had passed, recreational use of marijuana would have been decriminalized for Californians over age 21. Marijuana growers would have taxed at the state, city and county level. But the initiative failed, with 53.8 percent voting against it.

Alameda County Registrar of Voters spokesperson Guy Ashley, said his office has no estimates of turnouts for young voters ages 18 to 25. “We don’t break out (voters) as far as age or demographics,” he said. Even without an official count, though, young supporters of the measure were visible across the city on Election Day—as campaign volunteers; holding signs of support downtown for Proposition 19; and at Oaksterdam University, making calls encouraging voters to support the initiative.

And in conversations with a few Oakland college students yesterday, all of which said they had voted in favor of the decriminalization measure, their tone was disenchanted, but basically, everything was business-as-usual. Recreational marijuana use will still go on, they said—though the state has missed a chance at a better tax base and more sensible law.

Keneisha Jones, a 19-year-old mother and nursing student at Merritt College, said that she was not particularly interested in the races for Oakland mayor, California governor, or California senator—but that she voted yes on Proposition 19. “Growing up, you get exposed to these things,” she said during a telephone interview. Jones said she doesn’t think smoking or possessing marijuana is something people should be arrested for. Yet she sees it happen to people in Oakland quite often. “A lot of people go down for that,” she said. “ They have it on their record and then they can’t get a job.”

Jones said she doesn’t believe access to marijuana will change with the failure of the proposition. “I know people that have been smoking for years,” she said. “They’re never going to stop smoking.”

Besides, she said, people are still going to have access to the substance by getting patient ID cards. “It’s easy for people to get one,” Jones said. “I heard all you’ve got to do is see a doctor in ‘Frisco who will approve you.” But this is something older people in their thirties usually do,” she said. “I think they get a card because they want to be legit about it if they have jobs,” Jones said. People in their late teens and early 20s usually don’t bother with that process, she said—they have a much easier time buying the substance in their own neighborhoods.

Laney student Jasmine Oliver, 18, said she was very involved in the voting process this year and that the weekend before the election she had volunteered for Rebecca Kaplan’s mayoral campaign. Oliver also voted in favor of Proposition 19. “Yes on 19 was important,” Oliver said. “[Marijuana] helps you heal inside. It’s not even bad. I don’t know why they don’t sell it. I mean, they sell cigarettes.”

Oliver said she wasn’t bothered that the initiative didn’t pass. “Everybody’s going to do it no matter what,” she said. “If you get caught, you get caught.”

Check out all of our Oakland elections coverage on our Campaign 2010 page.

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  1. A on November 4, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    “Everybody’s going to do it no matter what,” she said. “If you get caught, you get caught.”

    This is the attitude which bugs me the most — the point of being able to vote on your own laws is that we can change the “if you get caught” part.

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