I'm 61 years old. Two weeks ago, at an outdoor party, I drank my first beer out of a keg. I had to watch the guy ahead of me to see how he filled his glass. I had no idea how the pump thingie worked.
Yet I went to college from 1966-71 at San Jose State University, which at the time had a reputation as a party school. But during the '60s flower power era -- and the San Francisco Bay Area was the epicenter of it -- a large percentage of students had nothing to do with alcohol.
Like me. I didn't drink a single beer in college.
Marijuana was the high of choice for my social group. So the notion of legalizing marijuana doesn't seem at all strange to baby boomers who had a lot of experience with the herb, with no ill effects.
Next November Californians are going to vote on Proposition 19, which the proponents are cleverly calling "Control and Tax Cannabis California 2010." In a state desperate for money to support public services (what state isn't?), this could be a winning proposition.
Today I came across an AlterNet article, "Will California Legalize Pot?", that thoroughly analyzes the initiative's chances of success. Bottom line: pretty good, but no guarantee.
Polls in April and May found support at 56 percent and 51 percent, respectively. A SurveyUSA poll released this month shows support at 50 percent, 10 points over those against it. A new Public Policy Polling poll found the divide to be even greater, with 52 percent supporting and 36 percent nixing it -- and the campaign says these results are more consistent with its internal polling.
But another poll also released this month, the Field poll, showed that more people oppose the initiative than support it, at 48 to 44 percent. (This contrasts with the last Field poll, conducted over a year ago, which found support at 56 percent.) No matter which numbers you're looking at though, 50, 52 or even 56 percent isn't all that comforting. It's one thing to say yes to a pollster, it's quite another thing to get out and vote that way.
That made me curious to see the status of attempts to legalize marijuana in Oregon. I'd forgotten, or maybe never was aware, that back in 2008 a group called Oregonians for Cannabis Reform 2010 was promoting an "Oregonian Cannabis Tax Act."
Looks like California pot advocates borrowed the campaign focus (tax cannabis) and managed to be successful in getting an initative on the ballot in 2010, while Oregonians will merely be voting on Measure 74, which would allow non-profit dispensaries to sell cannabis to those who have a medical marijiuana card.
But the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act 2012 is waiting in the weeds (so to speak). Organizers enthusiastically say that it will...
Protect children! This is the real Protect Our Children initiative. The Cannabis Tax Act (CTA) will take the lucrative marijuana market off of the black market where children and substance abusers often control it today, and place it in stores, where the age limit of 21 and older is strictly enforced.
Help farmers! Oregon will license farmers to cultivate cannabis for both medicinal and adult private use. Farmers will also be able to grow industrial hemp without a license for paper, fabric, protein and oil.
Allow doctors to prescribe untaxed cannabis through pharmacies, so patients won't have to grow their own or buy medicine illegally.
Raise millions of dollars in new public revenue, lowering the tax burden on all and saving you money. This will take the profit out of crime.
Restore industrial hemp, the most productive agricultural source of fiber protein and oil. Hemp seed oil is diesel fuel. The first cordage, cloth and paper were created from hemp fiber.
Wipe out the black-market. The CTA allows police and the courts to concentrate on real criminals that hurt others, not arrest, prosecute and jail harmless, productive adult cannabis users. Stop our government from tearing families apart. Let's show real family values and end cannabis prohibition.
Sounds good to me.
Today I sent off $25 to support the California Proposition. Prospects for the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act 2012 would be better if we could follow in California's footsteps, rather than blazing our own trail as the first state to legalize marijuana.
Here's an interesting sidelight: the author of the AlterNet article wondered about the broader political effects of marijuana initiatives.
The multi-layered appeal to ending marijuana prohibition even has some expert election observers believing that ballot initiatives legalizing cannabis may be the Democrats' answer to the gay marriage bans that drive Republican voters to the polling places. That theory remains to be tested in November, but what is certain now is that the far-reaching benefits that come with legalizing the marijuana industry in California have attracted a broad coalition of supporters of all stripes.
Well, this assumes that Democrats are higher on marijuana legalization than Republicans.
I'd say that's true, but if many Republicans truly believe in libertarianism and getting government out of our lives as much as possible, they should be on board with letting adults decide for themselves whether to use pot.
Here's another perspective on the issue, "Could Pot Drive Turnout in Key Elections?" I sure hope so.
Putting the question of marijuana legalization on state ballots in 2012 may be one of the most effective ways for a dispirited Democratic Party to get reluctant voters out to the polls. The wild card in the coming midterms and in 2012 will be the "surge" voters -- people who were driven to the polls in 2008 through a once-in-a-generation mix of shame at the outgoing administration and hope in a new, barrier-breaking candidate. Democrats are investing millions in figuring out how to get those voters out, and the marijuana issue is getting increasing attention from political operatives.
Hey, even the Wall Street Journal has noticed.