This November, Californians will have the opportunity to vote on an historic proposition. If passed, Proposition 19 would spurn federal law by permitting recreational use of marijuana in California.
Prop 19 has sparked furious debate on both sides, and it has also caught the attention of young voters, Andrew Boydston reports in The Collegian at CSU Fresno.
“Prop 19 caught my attention and made me want to vote this year,” said Kevin Chan, a kinesiology major. “I did a term paper my senior year in high school on how marijuana is less harmful than tobacco and alcohol. You can overdose on alcohol and tobacco. It’s been proven it’s physically impossible to overdose on marijuana.”
According to Chair of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union Drug Task Force, Paul Hager, in order to overdose on marijuana a person would have to smoke 40,000 times the amount of marijuana a normal smoker would to overdose, by which point a person would have succumbed to asphyxiation. The ratio to overdose with alcohol varies between one to four, and one to ten, by comparison.
For years, the legalization of marijuana has been a topic of great debate. In 1994, Californians decided to legalize cannabis for medicinal use by passing Proposition 215 .
“I believe that legalization should be allowed,” said a social worker major who wished to remain anonymous. “As a patient with a medical card and numerous back surgeries, I have experienced the healing effects of marijuana.”
“[Since I’d like to] work as a state employee, I now have to take four medications to suppress the pain and deal with side effects as opposed to the natural pain relief I received from marijuana years ago.”
An opponent of Prop 19, California public school superintendent John Snavely, warns that the legalization of marijuana could cost K-12 schools as much as $9.4 billion in federal funding according to the Voter Information Guide.
“Supporters say it would provide money for the state, but it would still require money for regulation, and I don’t believe it is ok to legalize a substance that alters your mind,” said Kirsten Primrose, a liberal studies major.
Another argument against the bill is that the California Highway Patrol would not have the ability to administer a drug test until after an accident has occurred, according to the Voter Information Guide, causing the organization called Moms Against Drunk Driving to oppose the measure.
Prop 19 supporters say billions of dollars in revenue will be generated to help decrease the state deficit.
“It makes sense to help the economy, but I don’t think the sacrifice of human health is worth the risk,” said Alyssa Hudson, a biology major. “It’s an addictive drug and once it’s readily available to the public it will be too widespread.”
Prop 19 also states that the regulation of marijuana will be similar to alcohol, requiring a 21 or older age limit for purchasing.
“With restrictions similar to alcohol like the 21 or older policy, I believe it will keep marijuana out of the hands of minors more so than if we continue prohibition against it,” said Bridget McClain, a business major. “A lesson from history shows us how well prohibition worked out before [with alcohol]. I think it’s better to take regulation from the hands of drug cartels, and help the state deficit.”
Supporters of the bill state that California’s number one cash crop is marijuana. According to drugscience.org, marijuana production and sales generated close to $14 million last year.
“I like the fact that Prop 19 decriminalizes marijuana and frees up police to make arrests for serious and violent crimes,” said Andrew Flores, a double major in biology and business administration.
At Fresno State’s University Student Union, 150 random students were surveyed to find voting patterns on marijuana policy. Over this two-day process, 84 students who were polled believed that marijuana should be legalized, making up 56 percent of the vote, while 30 students believed it should stay illegal, making up 20 percent of the voters. The remaining 36 students were either undecided at this time or not voting at all, making up 24 percent.
In an ABC7/Survey USA poll issued on Sept. 2, if the election were held today, 47 percent would be in favor of legalization.
“We’re seeing that Californians are ready to embrace some modest, common-sense reforms to our failed marijuana laws,” said Dan Newman, a spokesman for Yes on Prop 19.
“Whether people are for or against this regulation, they should still go out and vote to let their voices be heard,” said Hudson. “I know I will.“