CA decriminalizes marijuana possession

Posted on October 2, 2010


California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took the bold step yesterday of reducing the crime of marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to a standard fine, moving it from an almost mandatory court case into a ticketable offense on the level of speeding.

This comes in the face of an upcoming ballot proposition that would completely legalize and tax the sale of marijuana, Proposition 19. The governor’s move may be a preemptive strike against Prop 19 since this move will make pot possession less of a bad thing and make the passage of Prop 19 less of an absolute measure to keep drug regulations within the realm of reason.

I’m absolutely against the legalization of hard drugs like cocaine, heroin, and meth, but the legalization of marijuana I’m ambivalent about. There are legitimate anecdotal arguments regarding its status as a “gateway drug,” and it has effects at least as comparable to alcohol, but I’m uncomfortable sending people to jail on the basis of holding one joint. For me, this isn’t a slippery slope – nothing past pot is negotiable as far as I’m concerned, and there’s sufficient brain chemistry and societal effect data to back me up on the unyielding effects of harder drugs. I don’t want our cities to turn into carbon copies of Amsterdam.

But marijuana, though to those genetically disposed is a gateway, is a milder drug on the order of beer or liquor. Along with scores of other conservatives, libertarians, moderates, and liberals, I think this is the correct approach for now – not outright legalization which send the wrong message regarding national drug policy, but a massive reduction in the enforcement penalty.

We’ll have to wait several months to see the effects of this new change in drug enforcement, but I think it will be a positive one at least in regards to cost. We have spent a lot of money on the War on Drugs, and I think pot is one front where we can afford to step back and regard it as a recreational drug. There are too many societal concerns to even contemplate a similar approach with other harder drugs, but our nation would benefit if other states stepped back from worrying about pot and stepped forward regarding other more harmful drugs.

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