Prop 19: How Legalized Marijuana Could Affect California and the U.S.
For those of you who live in the golden state or are following its many developments, lest you fear you’ll let any of the state’s numerous debacles slip by unnoticed, you’ll know that November elections are closing fast upon California. Furthermore, you’ll also likely know that the reason they’re so fascinating to watch this year is because on top of the usual boring budget and committee proposition, there’s one little proposition that, if it passes, may cause a sudden influx of California residency applications across the country.
Come November 2, if Prop 19 passes in California, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana will be legal in the state. The proposition will essentially legalize recreational use of the drug. However, as you saw in the link above, California voters are still split over the issue. What will happen if it passes? Aside from serving as the catalyst for one of the greatest parties in the world, there are a lot of sociological, economic, and legal ripples that Prop 19 will make across the sunshine state.
First, and most importantly, legalization will generate an incredible amount of revenue for the money-deficient California. According to most estimates, passage of Prop 19 would mean the state would earn up to $1.3 billion a year in tax revenue, if not more. Considering the fact that the medical marijuana industry accounts for California second largest cash crop at $14 billion dollars a year, that revenue estimate isn’t as crazy as it sounds. If anything it’s probably a conservative one considering all the people who want to use marijuana now, but don’t because they don’t want to register publicly as a medical marijuana user. All this added revenue will mean better equipment, training, facilities, and programs for public services. Schools, police, firefighters, public housing and so forth, all stand to benefit monetarily from legalization. Most importantly, passage of the proposition will help eat away at California’s current $19.1 billion budget deficit.
However, money aside, the more drastic and interesting aspects of legalization are the potential effects it may have on California, its residents, and the rest of the United States.
The most pronounced possible effect legalization will have is on drug culture itself. The illegal marijuana market is made up of numerous suppliers that span from small growers here in the States to large scale Tony Montana style cartels originating from Mexico and the rest of the Americas. There are also traffickers who transport the illegal goods to local drug kingpins and other small dealers across California. It’s estimated that there are thousands upon thousands of people involve in the illegal marijuana trade. The thought is that legalization could potentially eliminate all of this, since, like the end of prohibition, a legalized good can no longer sustain a black market. And along with the end of this market will come an end to all the violence and deaths that once stemmed from the illegal marijuana trade.
However, the truth is that this effect may not be so concrete. Like with the mob, the end of prohibition didn’t end their existence. Instead, it forced the mob to move into other criminal areas or focus more on the ones they were already in. Similarly, larger drug cartel function much like large corporations and like all good corporations, diversification is key to remaining successful. Therefore the violence stemming from them likely won’t be curbed by much. But where violence will decrease is for marijuana users here in the states who buy from local dealers. Not only will they no longer have to deal with shady characters that may hurt and/or rip them off, the dealers themselves will have to become more reliable and kinder in order to stay in the game. Either that or get a legal job or diversify like the larger cartels.
Furthermore, those convicted of marijuana possession now may be released. However this would require legislators to apply the law retroactively, which may or may not happen.
But as wonderful as this speculation is, it may be all for nothing as the legal weed party may only be a brief one. There are rumblings around the beltway that the federal government could sue California if Prop 19 passes. Like Arizona’s recent reform to their state’s immigration law, if Prop 19 is found in the courts to be preempted by the federal government, the law may be repealed (much to the dismay of every Cheech & Chong fan in existence).
Though if the proposition passes, it could help spark a trend that may ripple across the U.S., North America, and potentially the international community, especially if it ultimately solves California’s budget crisis. Who knows, soon pseudo celebrities everywhere may be able to check off one less item to be arrested for at the airport.