Prop 19 Heating Up Debate On Pot Use

Yes on 19

A federal prosecutor and an out gay legislator joined lawyers and others in San Francisco earlier this month to talk about what could happen if California voters approve a November ballot measure to legalize marijuana.

Proposition 19 – the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 – would regulate marijuana in a way similar to alcohol, allowing people 21 and over to possess and consume small amounts.

At one of the panels, the prosecutor spoke out against medical marijuana – which is already legal in California – and said he thinks Prop 19 will lose.

Based on the comments from panelists, if Prop 19 does pass, it’s not clear what impact cannabis’ status as an illegal substance under federal law will have on California’s pot users and sellers.

In 1996, voters passed Proposition 215, which exempts patients who possess or grow marijuana for medical treatment recommended by a physician from state criminal laws. However, the federal government does not recognize Prop 215 or similar laws in 13 other states and Washington, D.C.

Since Prop 215’s passage, the movement to legalize cannabis for adult recreational use has steadily grown, as more states moved to pass medicinal measures and the drug lost some of its stigma.

On Saturday, August 7, during the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco, Redonna K. Chandler, Ph.D., of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, presented data on marijuana’s impact on the brain. The presentation included data showing that people who smoke pot heavily have smaller volumes of brain tissue.

Joseph P. Russoniello, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, a co-panelist, called the research Chandler presented “pretty powerful.” He expressed disdain for Prop 19 and said he expects the initiative to fail.

Russoniello said there is “no efficacy” in using marijuana. He also said it’s “extraordinary” that people are willing to risk harming youths by legalizing marijuana in exchange for bringing in tax money.

Prop 215 represented a successful campaign by recreational users of marijuana to get easier access to the drug, said Russoniello. He called the supposed benefits of medical marijuana “anecdotal positives,” which he said stand in contrast to the “overwhelming evidence” that pot is harmful.

Some panelists noted that federal officials rarely pursue cases involving possession of small amounts of marijuana.

But Russoniello suggested distributors could still get into trouble. He referred to a proposal to bring in “big box operations” to Oakland. The city council recently decided to allow some large marijuana farms in the city. The city is already taxing proceeds on medical marijuana, which was approved by voters last summer. Those tax rates may increase if voters approve measures on this November’s ballot.

“They can expect to be the objects of federal enforcement,” he said of the proposed big box operations.

While the federal government does not recognize medicinal use of marijuana, the Obama administration has directed federal authorities to back off raids of medical cannabis dispensaries.

Allen Hopper, litigation director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Drug Law Reform Project seemed to take issue with Russoniello’s presentation.

“We could all agree that kids shouldn’t use marijuana. … But many of us would also agree there are some medical benefits that have been shown,” said Hopper.

Among those who use marijuana medically are some people living with HIV/AIDS, who may use it to deal with pain and to increase their appetite.

Speaking at a Voluntary Committee of Lawyers forum on Friday, August 6, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) said marijuana reform is “all about the political will.”

Ammiano, the author of Assembly Bill 2554, which would also legalize marijuana, said passage of Prop 19 would help his proposal.

He said if the ballot measure passes, the “legislature will be a lot more user friendly, pun intended” to his bill.

He indicated that this time, legislators would want to be in line with voters.

Prop 19 reflects an “honest, populist, grassroots attempt” to reform state law, and the Legislature “needs to wake up, and the governor needs to wake up,” said Ammiano.

He expects an Assembly committee hearing on his legislation soon.

Richard Lee, a main backer of Prop 19, has previously said that among the differences between his measure and Ammiano’s proposal is that Ammiano’s bill sets up a statewide system of sales and distribution by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, while the ballot measure starts out by giving cities and counties the ability to tax and regulate sales and commercial cultivation how – and if – they want to.

That opt-out provision may result in “dry” parts of the state when it comes to obtaining marijuana should the initiative pass.

In other news, the San Jose City Council voted 7-4 on August 3, to place a measure on the November ballot that could authorize a tax of up to 10 percent on non-medical and/or medical dispensaries, based on what happens with Prop 19.

The council’s decision will allow for flexibility in setting the actual rate of taxation, according to Sara Wright, agenda services manager for San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

NewsHawk: Ganjarden: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: | The Bay Area Reporter Online
Author: Seth Hemmelgarn | The Bay Area Reporter Online
Copyright: 2005 – 2007, Bay Area Reporter, a division of Benro Enterprises, Inc.
Website:The Bay Area Reporter Online | Prop 19 heating up debate on pot use


  1. I wonder how many other drugs the people in their study were taking.
    I’d like to see data on heavy alcohol users, and compare the results.

  2. decriminalize it period! let us grow and exchange like patients would. no government involved. government just likes to rob us. look at your pay checks. this would just be another federal rob scheme.

  3. Though most growers make large amounts of money due to prohibitions artificially inflated prices, this needs to pass. Its a natural plant, let it grow!!

  4. I find it curiously interesting that they go on and on about the negative effects that marijuana could “possibly” have and yet we feed Tylenol to even our children knowing that Tylenol has hospitalized about 26,000 people a year and KILLS 458! Thats almost 5000 people who have died over the past 10 years from Acetaminophen!

    It seems like their willing to let us buy things that can quite easily kill us but things that cant possibly kill you they feel like we shouldnt have access too.

    If they trust us with things like acetaminophen, Aderal, Ritalin, etc etc (all which kill people) why do they feel like the average adult cant handle a natural plant substance such as marijuana? Just ridiculous if you ask me. Heres the FACTS

    Deaths annually caused by marijuana and other everyday things.

    Tobacco 435,0001
    Poor Diet and Physical Inactivity 365,0001
    Alcohol 85,000 1
    Microbial Agents 75,000
    Toxic Agents 55,000
    Motor Vehicle Crashes 26,347
    Adverse Reactions to Prescription Drugs 32,000
    Suicide 30,622
    Incidents Involving Firearms 29,000
    Homicide 20,308
    Sexual Behaviors 20,000
    All Illicit Drug Use, Direct and Indirect 17,000
    Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Such As Aspirin 7,600
    Marijuana 0

    In other words your in much much more harm getting into your car in the morning than you will EVER be as a marijuana smoker.

    When will politicians stop acting like their doctors. When will politicians stop acting like they know whats better for the us than we do? Give it a rest and legalize it already! We have other more important things to worry about as a country.

  5. It’s all about the money and control of the population. Man made medicine, God made marijuana, WHO DO YOU TRUST ??

  6. Scroll through these archived issues of Time magazine dating back through 1923 –

    Look for the articles PROHIBITION. Quite interesting. I think these old fart legislators are
    still afraid of pot smoking war protesting hippies from the 60’s.
    But they’ll have another martini, thank you.

    We can legally get “effed up” to the point where we don’t know what we’re doing, where we’ve been,
    passed out puking alcohol poisoned drunk, but we adults here in the land of the free must be protected
    from a couple hours of relaxing feel-good from a natural plant. It’s just infantile.

  7. In the article I noticed this:
    “Russoniello said there is “no efficacy” in using marijuana. He also said it’s “extraordinary” that people are willing to risk harming youths by legalizing marijuana in exchange for bringing in tax money.”

    Here in the grand state of Iowa even medicinal marijuana is illegal, for now… But my point with the above is this, it’s already in our schools, it’s on the streets, and ironicly everyone I get mine from is a bit younger then myself. I guess what I am trying to say is, it’s already in our kids hands. If they legalized it with age restrictions like they do for alcohol products, this may change. I cant remember the show I was watching… But they stated marijuana is much easier for a teen under the age of 18 to get then alcohol is. Hmm, I wonder why… could it be because you need to be 21+ to get it?

  8. It’s about time alcohol been destroying life for so long. Alcohol bring violence. Marijuana is a peace state of mind not violence. I had to stop using pain killer they made me sick versus pot made me better and stop the pain. Didn’t made my liver or kidney sick. People who doesn’t know the positive way of smoking is relaxing. Drunk peoples destroy when their drunk, stone peoples talk about life and laugh. Why are they scare from something they don’t no. If alcohol was in prohibition in the 1930 instead of the weed legal imagine the world we will living in peace and love but not war.

    Yes on prop 19 they have my vote

    Spread the news

  9. As someone who dose not have a medicl reason,and hope I never need one,for cannabis I hope this law will pass Sent normal 15 dollars to help and got a bumper sticker to show even in New York people are watching.

  10. I don’t understand. I don’t get it one bit.

    -Possible effects of Alcohol:
    “alcoholism, cardiovascular disease, malabsorption, chronic pancreatitis, alcoholic liver disease, and cancer. Damage to the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system can occur”
    -Possible effects of Tobacco:
    “Tobacco is the single greatest cause of preventable death in the United States”
    “a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and cancer (particularly lung cancer, cancers of the larynx and mouth, and pancreatic cancer).”
    -Possible effects of Cannabis:
    The long term effects are not particularly agreed upon and studies can be biased so I won’t go into them. But what matters is that NO ONE HAS DIED FROM USING CANNABIS. EVER.
    and it’s illegal.

    Is it just me, or does the entire government have down syndrome? Maybe they just don’t give a crap that thousands and thousands of people die each year on the drugs they chose to be legal, whilst thousands more serve prison time for possession of a plant substance that has NEVER KILLED ANYBODY.

  11. Probably the most frequent argument used by cannabis prohibitionists amounts to “Marijuana has negative side effects. Therefore, marijuana should be illegal.”, as if the conclusion follows so obviously from the premise that there’s no need for further comment.

    In fact, the argument is ridiculous. Nearly every drug in existence has side effects, including caffeine and aspirin. The obvious question then is how severe are the negative side effects of cannabis compared to other drugs? The answer is unequivocal: cannabis is far less dangerous than most prescription drugs, less dangerous than many over the counter drugs, and not even in the same league as cigarettes or alcohol.

    The prohibitionist who denies this is either grossly misinformed or so dishonest that there’s no point in discussion. Such people don’t even deserve to vote on the issue.

  12. I defy and cannabis prohibitionist to draw a moral distinction between recreational use of cannabis and the use of cigarettes or alcohol. That is, tell me why one is “wrong” and the others not.

    Many people do undoubtedly sincerely believe there is such a distinction to be made, however those beliefs are not based on knowledge or reason but on decades of propaganda. In many cases the beliefs are accompanied by a hypocritical and vindictive self-righteousness, also produced by the propaganda.

    Ask any prohibitionist why he or she believes cannabis should be illegal but alcohol and cigarettes should not. You will never get a compelling answer because no such answer exists. If the person is reasonable though, and you rebut the typical arguments, (something that’s very easy to do) it might just cause them to realize the baselessness and hypocrisy of their position.

    Point out the extraordinary amount of damage, to individuals, to society, and to our economy that cigarettes and alcohol cause. Point out the immense amount of violence produced by alcohol (700,000 acts of aggressions per year committed against college age women, half of all deaths from automobile accidents, as much as 25% of all violent crime in the U.S.), and its adverse effects on society in general. Point out that no one has ever died from a “pot overdose” because the drug doesn’t affect the limbic system of the brain, which is responsible for automatic functions like breathing and heartbeat. Point out that unlike alcohol, cannabis doesn’t cause people to act recklessly, to lose their moral judgment and do things they’ll later wish they hadn’t, or to make jackasses out of themselves, abuse others, or engage in violent behavior.

    Point out Point out terrible the completely unnecessary harm that prohibition has caused to millions of Americans. If that person has a heart, he or she might just begin to see things differently.

    If the prohibitionist is not a Republican, point out that President Obama used pot in college and that if he’d been unlucky enough to have been caught and prosecuted, he would have a criminal record and because of it would not be our president today. (A typical Republican will say Obama should be in jail, but will turn around and tell you George W. Bush’s cocaine use and alcoholism were no cause for alarm.) And on the subject of Obama, ask the person why the cigarette addiction which will probably eventually kill him if he doesn’t break it should be legal while a drug which would never kill him should be against the law.

  13. Russoniello says marijuana has “no efficacy.”

    I’d like Mr. Russoniello to tell me what medical efficacy cigarettes and alcoholic beverages have.

    They have none, of course. No one in their right mind would argue for “medical cigarettes” or “medical alcohol.” (It’s true that wine has physical benefits but it’s because the grapes contain resveratrol, not because of the alcohol.) Not only do these drugs lack any medical efficacy, the fact that they cause great harm is beyond debate.

    If lack of medical efficacy is a legitimate argument for cannabis prohibition then it is all the more legitimate for the prohibition of alcohol and cigarettes.

  14. Our politicians are the puppets of the pharmaceutical companies and the doctors and hospitals that distribute these toxic drugs. Legal drugs kill.

    Just an example: a 23yr old man who was addicted to OXYCONTON recently burned down a quarter of the Roseville Mall, the second largest in California. He had gone to 2 hospitals prior to this deed to “get help.”

    And yes, Acetaminophen is another killer. It kills liver cells and overuse can cause serious liver disease. Has anyone else noticed the endless flow of prime-time pharmaceutical commercials? Listen to the side effects; nearly every one causes liver damage, which they avoid by saying something generic like, “Your doctor will check your liver regularly.” Meaning, when the enzymes reach unhealthy levels (taking statins, anyone?) they might take you off the drug. Or not; if YOU do not know what high enzyme levels are, you won’t ask. And the damage continues.

    Pharmaceutical Companies are the worst of our corporate killlers. And they won’t make a dime if Cannabis is legalized.