Prop. 19 claims to do two things for recreational cannabis consumers: allow possession of 1 oz. or less and cultivation in a 5’x5’ space. But read the initiative and you’ll see these rights are not guaranteed, and come with conditions that render Prop. 19 largely ineffective at achieving either of those aims. Still, supporters of Proposition 19 argue that it’s a baby step in the right direction. If the right direction is toward increased prohibition, unlimited taxation (even on cultivation for personal use), the demise of Prop. 215, the corporate cartelization of cannabis and an expanded black market, they’re right. We’ve come a long way from the days of speculation about what could happen under Prop. 19. Now we have our first examples of what will happen. In spite of what it claims to do, this initiative is a Pandora’s Box of unintended consequences whose effects will be extremely difficult to undo if we vote yes on Prop. 19.

Prop. 19’s main objective is to remove the criminal-record stigma of marijuana possession. But in October, California’s recreational pot smokers scored a huge victory. Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a bill that downgraded the status of possession of 1 oz or less from a “non-arrestable, non-jailable misdemeanor” that was punishable with a $100 fine to a mere “infraction”--like driving above the speed limit--which carries with it no criminal-record stigma. That means Californians may now possess up to one ounce without getting arrested, without going to jail, without getting a criminal record, and without being excluded from federal student aid and other government programs. So, of Prop. 19’s two objectives, California has already independently achieved one.

However, voting yes on Prop. 19 would actually create new prohibitions on possession, whereas the new infraction status does not. This is because Prop. 19 wouldn’t legalize possession outright. Instead it would make some cannabis “lawful” and other cannabis “unlawful,” depending on where you buy it. The new infraction status does not make such distinctions; it doesn’t matter where you buy it, if you have 1 oz. or less, it’s not a crime. So, by prohibiting possession of marijuana that was not “obtained lawfully,” Prop. 19 would actually be more restrictive than the infraction law would be.

Section 11301(g) states:

Prohibit and punish through civil fines or other remedies the possession, sale, possession for sale, cultivation, processing, or transportation of cannabis that was not obtained lawfully from a person pursuant to this section or section 11300.

(The key words being, “[c]annabis that was not obtained lawfully…”)

According to the initiative, a person who can “lawfully” provide cannabis is “a person pursuant to this section or section 11300.” And who is “a person pursuant to section 11300?”

Section 11300 (i): ...a person who is licensed or permitted to do so [sell marijuana] under the terms of an ordinance adopted pursuant to section 11301.

Thus, the initiative’s exact words—“prohibit and punish... the possession... of cannabis that was not obtained lawfully... from a person who is licensed or permitted to do so”—mean exactly this: It will be against the law to possess marijuana that was purchased anywhere other than a licensed dispensary—effectively making it illegal to buy from the black market, even though that is not against the law now. Believe it or not, it is not a crime to buy marijuana in California. Your dealer could get busted for selling it, but you couldn’t get busted for buying it. You can’t even get busted for having it as long as it’s one ounce or less. But if Prop. 19 passes, possessing marijuana you bought off your dealer would make you a criminal.

Given the small cultivation space allowed and the high taxes you could be required to pay to have it (see Rancho Cordova below), coupled with the fact that countless cities would opt-out of legalization and not allow legal outlets for you to buy weed, it is highly likely that the vast majority of cannabis consumers would continue buying from the black market. By prohibiting the purchase of black-market marijuana, not only does Prop. 19 set the industry up to be monopolized, but it sets most of us up to run afoul of the law—even though currently there is no law on the books in California that prohibits buying cannabis. Will you vote to make yourself a criminal under legalization?

The other objective of Prop. 19 is to allow anyone 21 and over the right to grow in a 5’x5’ space (per residence, not per person). But by leaving taxation up to local governments, it could have the unintended consequence of rendering even personal home cultivation inaccessible.

Under Section 11302, cities will be able to adopt ordinances, regulations, or other acts to impose “appropriate” “general, special or excise, transfer or transaction taxes, benefit assessments, or fees,” in order to “permit the local government to raise revenue.” In California, a tax to raise revenue has no limit unless one is imposed by law. Since Prop. 19 doesn’t enact any limit, technically, cities could tax cannabis so high that you can’t afford to get high. And this won’t just apply to cannabis you buy. Even your home-grown could get taxed without limitation—and it would be perfectly legal under Prop. 19. Think that’s a little far-fetched?

In anticipation of the initiative passing, the City of Rancho Cordova has proposed a tax on cannabis home-grown for personal use—be it recreational or medicinal. The city’s Personal Cannabis Cultivation Tax measure, which will join Prop. 19 on the Nov. 2 ballot, would impose an annual tax of $600 per square foot on indoor grows up to 25 square feet, and a $900-per-square-foot tax for anything larger. For the casual toker growing in the 5’x5’ space that Prop. 19 allows (3-6 plants), that calculates to $15,000 per year. A 10x10 space (6-12 plants), which you may need if your roommates want to grow, too, would cost $90,000 per year.

Since Prop. 19 allows cities to regulate and control even medical marijuana cultivation—which they’re not allowed to do under Prop. 215—then for countless patients, this tax would make growing their own medicine impossible. Don Duncan, California director of Americans for Safe Access, the foremost advocacy group for medical marijuana, believes this “will have the effect of essentially banning legal cultivation.” And since that city has already banned medical marijuana dispensaries, those who are ill would have the added inconvenience of traveling to a city that allows marijuana sales for their medicinal needs—and so would you for your recreational needs.

Emboldened by the Prop. 19 rush to tax and regulate, Rancho Cordova recently passed a separate ordinance regarding outdoor grows. In addition to limiting grow space to 5’x5’, it requires that people cultivating outdoors must secure their plants from minors by keeping their grow space separately fenced (and 10 feet away from all other fences—so to grow legally, you must have a fenced cubicle in the middle of your backyard if anyone under 21 has access to it.) And if the branches of your plant extend beyond that 5’x5’ space, it becomes a public nuisance—subject to even more fines (in Riverside, for example, a public nuisance fine is $1,000 per day). Furthermore, Prop. 19 gives cities the power to require renters to get their landlord’s permission, and even building inspections, in order to grow—which landlords may be unwilling to give since it could subject them to forfeiture by the federal government.

Rancho Cordova’s Mayor Ken Cooley says the city is just protecting its interests should Prop. 19 pass. Just as local cities have been copying each other on ordinances banning or calling moratoria on medical marijuana dispensaries (258 cities so far—almost half the cities in the state), no doubt they’ll copy this kind of ordinance, too. How will your city legislate personal cultivation? Even if Prop. 19 becomes law, will you be able to afford to exercise your right to grow in your 5’x5’ space?

Consider the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. It didn’t make marijuana illegal, but prohibited possession of marijuana without a special tax stamp—which the government never issued. So even though marijuana was legal, it was impossible to possess it legally. Prop. 19 would do the very same thing—make it “legal” for you to cultivate marijuana, yet allow cities to make it economically infeasible for anyone to actually be able to grow it. This isn’t legalization; this is back-door prohibition. Will you grow your own, even if you can’t afford to pay the taxes? Will you trade the felony of cultivation for the felony of tax evasion? Will you vote for Prop. 19 only to become a criminal?

Before you decide whether unlimited taxation is a good “baby step,” spark one and meditate on the words of Justice John Marshall in the Supreme Court case of McCulloch v. Maryland: “An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy; because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation.” If the trade-off for legalization must be taxation, then we must see to it that cannabis is not taxed beyond what is reasonable. Giving local governments the power to tax marijuana “without limitation” is no baby step in the right direction, it’s a giant leap down the path of prohibition.

One goal of Prop. 19 is to limit police interaction with cannabis consumers and redirect law enforcement toward serious crimes. But an unintended consequence of the regulatory nature of the initiative would be increased law enforcement presence.

Law enforcement’s time is freed up by the elimination of prohibition, not by exchanging old prohibitions for new ones. Since Prop. 19 allows cities to tax and regulate cannabis as they see fit, it would indirectly create prohibitions that obligate police to waste time and your tax money enforcing them. And by “your tax money,” I mean yours—that you pay for permission to have your home-grow. Consider what Rancho Cordova spokesperson Nancy Pearl said about that city’s proposed personal cultivation tax: “Our building and safety people, and police and fire, will have to work more to protect the community. And there are costs associated with that.” Indeed, Prop. 19 specifically states that any cannabis tax revenue can be used toward enforcing the new prohibitions it enacts. So, not only does the initiative do little to end the pot war, it apparently taxes the drug to fund the drug war. Is this where you want your tax dollars to go?

Supporters point to the Purposes section of the initiative to buttress their claim that Prop. 19 preserves medical marijuana patients’ rights. Yet by failing to make those exemptions in the ballot argument—the only part of the initiative that would be codified into law—an unintended consequence is that Prop. 19 could override some parts of Prop. 215, reversing patients’ cultivation rights and revoking their right to share medicine collectively (the way patients who don't grow their own currently obtain medicine).

Whereas today anyone with a doctor’s recommendation can legally grow up to an unlimited number of plants, Prop. 19—by failing to exclude patients from the cultivation restrictions it imposes—would limit that to whatever can fit in a 5’x5’ footprint. This restriction will force many patients to resort to buying instead of growing their own medicine, because of the inconvenience caused by producing multiple grows annually rather than a year’s supply at once; not to mention the high tax rate that could make the cost of personal cultivation out of reach if we vote yes on Prop. 19.

The initiative would further impact medical marijuana patients by prohibiting medicating in the privacy of their homes if there are minors present. And although currently it is perfectly legal for patients to medicate in public anywhere cigarette smoking is allowed—an invaluable liberty to those with painful diseases who would otherwise have to suffer until they got home to relieve their pain—Prop. 19 would ban smoking in public, with no exception for patients.

The question of whether Prop. 19 would impact Prop. 215 is undoubtedly the most contentious point in the debate. Will Prop. 19 impact Prop. 215, or won’t it? Let’s ask an attorney.

Letitia Pepper has been practicing law for almost 30 years since graduating from Hastings, one of California’s most prestigious law schools. She has more than 20 years of experience working as a judicial research attorney for the State of California and for the federal district court. So she is well qualified to review Prop. 19. And she had a reason to: She is a medical marijuana patient. After carefully studying the initiative, Pepper concluded:

“Based on my expertise and review of Prop. 19, I can now state, categorically, that if Proposition 19 passes, it WILL affect medical marijuana patients and collectives. It will limit patients to tiny grow areas—one per parcel, not one per patient—and allow cities to legally ban collectives (the current bans are, in my opinion, illegal).”

She goes on to say: “In Section 2 (C), ‘Intent,’ paragraph 1 lists all the existing laws that Prop. 19 is intended to affect, and paragraph 2 lists all the laws it is NOT intended to affect. Here’s the important point: Neither paragraph 1 nor paragraph 2 mentions the Compassionate Use Act [Prop. 215/section 11362.5]… If the Prop. 19 [authors] really did not intend to affect patients and collectives, they would have included section 11362.5 in paragraph 2. They didn’t. … Something sneaky’s going on.”

Add that to the fact that the initiative went through a full 14 drafts before exempting medical marijuana patients from any of its provisions—not the unlimited taxes and licensing fees, not the possession and cultivation limits, and not the prohibitions on smoking in public or near minors—and it becomes apparent that it was never the original intention of the authors to exclude patients from Prop. 19. The amendments that eventually came consisted of adding the phrase “except as permitted under Health and Safety Sections 11362.5 and 11362.7 through 11362.9” to the end of Items 7 and 8 in the Purposes section—which would not be codified into law if Prop. 19 passes. And even those “exemptions” only pertain to patients’ rights to possess and consume—not the right to cultivate.

What attorneys consider to be the smoking gun is in the ballot argument itself—the only part of the initiative that will be codified into law:

Section 11301 says: “Notwithstanding any other provision of state or local law, a local government may adopt ordinances, regulations, or other acts having the force of law to control, license, regulate, permit or otherwise authorize, with conditions, the following: (a) cultivation, processing, distribution, the safe and secure transportation, sale and possession for sale of cannabis, but only by persons and in amounts lawfully authorized.”

By using the word “notwithstanding”—which means, “regardless of”—Prop. 19 could easily be interpreted to supersede Prop. 215, leaving all matters of “cultivation, processing, distribution, the safe and secure transportation, sale and possession for sale of cannabis” in the hands of local governments to control as they see fit. Is this legal?

Rick Horowtiz, another California attorney who has studied Prop. 19, explains that under current law it is not legal: “[L]ocal governments cannot effectively eliminate the protections of the medical marijuana laws by passing local ordinances that ‘control’ or ‘regulate’ them. If they did, I think many such ordinances would arguably constitute impermissible amendments to the Compassionate Use Act—something no California government can do.” Proposition 19, however, would allow local governments to do what the Compassionate Use Act currently forbids them from doing. How? Under California law, “amendments to statutes implemented via an initiative can also be amended, or even overruled, by initiatives,” Horowitz explains. And since Prop. 19 is an initiative, it “can amend, or even abolish, part, or all, of the medical marijuana laws, including the Compassionate Use Act voted into place by Proposition 215.”

Still, proponents of Prop. 19 argue that the initiative would preserve Prop. 215, because it implies so in the Purposes section. But, Pepper tell us, “The ‘Purposes’ section will not be codified into law. Therefore, it is not law.”

Horowtiz concurs. “If we’re talking about the ‘Purposes,’ we’re not talking about part of the actual ‘this is what you can/must do’ of the proposed statute. Not everything that is included in an Act has an impact on how the law will be interpreted… The stated purposes of an initiative do not constitute the law. If the law says that local governments can ‘control’ or ‘regulate’ things, then they can control or regulate things.”

Attorney Bill Panzer—who is on NORML-California’s Board of Directors, was named High Times’ Freedom Fighter of the Month, and is the only attorney to co-author Prop. 215—also agrees that it is the ballot argument of an initiative that counts. Panzer cites the People v. Spark case, wherein the language in the ballot argument of the act over-ruled the language in the Purposes section. Therefore—and this comes from one of the most well-respected marijuana defense attorneys in the world—if the language in Prop. 19’s Purposes section says one thing (medical patients are protected) and the ballot argument says another (cities can regulate, tax, and control as they see fit), then it’s the ballot argument that wins.

Horowitz concludes that it is entirely possible that because of the wording of the proposed initiative, “Someone will make a determination with which you disagree. Someone in power. Someone whose interpretation results in the law having consequences the voters did not consider.” In other words, intention is not enough. If the wording is so vague and ambiguous that it’s open to interpretation, then the law could have unintended consequences for the people it was meant to protect. To illustrate this point, Horowitz cites a case in which the judge declared, “At times… the law has consequences the voters did not specifically ‘contemplate.’” It can happen. In Rancho Cordova, it is already happening.

Prop. 19 forces voters to choose between the rights of patients and the rights of recreational users (although we have seen that it will not provide any rights that we either don’t already have, as in the case of possession, or that we can afford to exercise, as in the case of cultivation)—a choice that will inevitably divide the movement. Will you vote yes on Prop. 19 even if it extinguishes the rights of patients—the group of marijuana consumers we should most protect?

Prop. 19 aims to eliminate the black market for marijuana. But it could have the unintended consequence of expanding the black market, because by encouraging exorbitant licensing fees, it would push currently legitimate growers underground.

Currently, anyone with a Prop. 215 recommendation can legally provide marijuana. Under Prop. 19, however, only licensed vendors may distribute marijuana. Although specific licensing arrangements are left up to local governments, Oakland, birthplace of the initiative, has already set the precedent for what other cities will likely follow. Oakland’s licensing process for commercial vending is prohibitively expensive for ordinary citizens. A license costs $60,000 per year—not to mention the application process itself, which is so rigorous that even well-established, law-abiding dispensaries have been denied. Furthermore, Oakland has started a trend that every other city preparing for the possibility of Prop. 19 has adopted—capping the number of licensed dispensaries allowed to operate (in Oakland, that number is four. Conveniently, Richard Lee, the millionaire businessman behind the initiative, owns one of them). A commercial cultivation license is even more prohibitive. The application fee alone is $5,000, a license costs an astronomical $211,000 annually, and only six are allotted. This all but guarantees that average, small-time, legal growers will be shut out of this multibillion-dollar industry and forced underground, expanding the black market that has been consistently dwindling since the passage of Prop. 215 created a legitimate marijuana industry.

These growers, who have invested tens of thousands of dollars creating these presently legal, home-based businesses, are not likely to tear down their grow rooms and apply for a job working the cash register at a dispensary. If they can’t afford the expensive licensing fees that would enable them to participate legally in the green market, it is much more likely that they will take their business to the black market underground, creating the opposite effect of what Prop. 19 intends to do.

Another explicit purpose of Prop. 19 is to limit the viability of Mexican drug cartels. But the reality is that these cartels are already being undermined tremendously, thanks to the legions of small-time farmers growing in California legally since 1996. The Washington Post reports:

“Almost all of the marijuana consumed in the multibillion-dollar U.S. market once came from Mexico or Colombia. Now as much as half is produced domestically, often by small-scale operators who painstakingly tend greenhouses and indoor gardens to produce the more potent… product that consumers now demand, according to authorities and marijuana dealers on both sides of the border. … Stiff competition from thousands of mom-and-pop marijuana farmers in the United States threatens the bottom line for powerful Mexican drug organizations in a way that decades of arrests and seizures have not, according to law enforcement officials and pot growers in the United States and Mexico.”

These mom-and-pop growers don’t fit the stereotype of the gang-war era drug pusher or cartel growing irresponsibly and setting forests on fire. “They are real people, decent people with families to support,” said Steve D’Angelo, owner of Harborside Health Center, the largest and most profitable marijuana dispensary in the world, which buys cannabis from more than 400 small-time farmers. They’re the people you see shopping at your local organic health food store, putting much-needed cash directly into the local economy while the national economy flounders in recession They use the money they earn from providing medicine to finance their kids’ education, help out their laid-off parents and put themselves through school. In some cases, entire communities depend on them.

However, if this initiative passes, these growers that are single-handedly undercutting the Mexican drug cartels would no longer be able to legally operate, and we might end up exchanging one cartel for another—a corporate cartel that would leave a spate of displaced marijuana farmers in its wake. Are corporations inherently evil? No. But if we have the option to keep millions of dollars in our own communities, spread out over hundreds of thousands of people, it hardly seems sensible to outsource this employment to corporations and into the hands of a few. “Why does this whole new system have to be created?” D’Angelo asked at a City Council meeting. “Let’s bring these citizen farmers out of the shadows and into the light and give them a role in this new industry.” But under Prop. 19, the marijuana industry will not be a free market in which everyone has a chance to compete. Instead, it would mark the beginning of the corporatization of cannabis.

Prop. 19 prohibits smoking marijuana “in any space while minors are present.” Although this is an entirely reasonable restriction, designed to protect children from the dangers of second-hand smoke as well as appeal to more conservative voters, the vague wording of this prohibition carries with it great potential for unintended consequences.

The wording, “in any space while minors are present,” is problematic because it is vague. What exactly is meant by “space” and “present”? If you light up on your back patio and the neighbors’ kids start playing soccer next door, are you in the same “space” while minors are “present”? Is “present” the same house? The same room? Wafting distance? While it may be perfectly logical to prohibit smoking cannabis “in any space while minors are present,” it seems far less logical to vote in an initiative that’s unclear about precisely what that restriction is. Not only does Prop. 19 leave this up to the interpretation of judges, but since it does not define a penalty for this new prohibition, it empowers local governments to do so. For anyone living in the same home or in close proximity to minors, this should be cause for concern, especially for those dealing with custody issues. How harshly will your government punish you if someone snitches on you for smoking in the same “space” while minors are “present”? Would you rather wait and find out, or just vote no?

The initiative doesn’t mention decreasing the cost of cannabis among its goals, but it’s a widely held belief that legalization will result in lower prices. However, by restricting the availability of cannabis to licensed dispensaries—thereby severely limiting competition in the market—an unintended consequence could be an increase in the cost of marijuana.

The Rand Corporation’s July study, which found that “most of today’s pot costs are actually risks to growers, distributors, and sellers who face arrest and jail time,” has been used to argue that the price of marijuana will drop under a legalized model. It concludes that because the risk factor would be removed for corporate/commercial “legal” growers, there would be no need for inflated prices.

While it’s true that these risks would no longer be a factor in pricing marijuana, it’s also true that we live in a free market economy. Not having to pay for a middle-man and the associated risks of black market transactions simply translates as a higher profit margin for corporate growers. To expect that dispensary owners—who already know that you’ll pay $300+ for an ounce, and who, in the case of Oakland’s four licensed dispensaries, currently enjoy combined gross sales of $28 million a year—will pass that “savings” on to you is unrealistic at best.

Indeed, AgraMed, the cannabis corporation that was recently awarded Oakland’s first commercial cultivation license (and whose president, Jeff Wilcox, sits on the steering committee for the initiative), has already let the smoke out of the bong regarding how much marijuana could cost under Prop. 19. By AgraMed’s own estimation, in order to make their projected $59 million a year off 58 pounds per day, they would have to charge $175 per ounce wholesale—and that’s if they produced 58 pounds 365 days a year. If they produced that output only 5 days a week, that price would leap to $245 an ounce (about $3900 per pound)—wholesale. With shelf-prices often set at double the wholesale price—not to mention the compulsory tax estimated to range from $50-$70 tacked on to every ounce—the price of marijuana could potentially be higher under Prop. 19 than in our current market, in which the price of a pound has fallen to $2,000, according to a National Public Radio report (a direct result of stiff competition, not its opposite).

A major selling point of the initiative is that it will keep people out of jail for marijuana. But the initiative actually creates more prohibitions than it eliminates, and much of what it would legalize are already not arrestable offenses. By creating prohibitions where there are none now and turning non-arrestable offenses into arrestable crimes, Prop. 19 could end up sending more people to jail for pot.

Misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests in California reached 61,388 in 2008—and under Prop. 19, those same people would still be arrested. That’s because this statistic does not refer to any arrest demographic that Prop. 19 would protect. This statistic refers to possession of more than one ounce, DUI-drugs, possession by minors and possession on school grounds—offenses that the initiative will not legalize. It does not refer to arrests for possession of one ounce or less, because marijuana is already decriminalized, and is not an arrestable offense. Therefore, the initiative would have no impact on reducing these arrests rates. Conversely, given that so many people toke in public—which Prop. 19 would prohibit—it could dramatically increase arrest rates. Prop. 19 will also take a very common and very public non-arrestable offense—sharing a joint among young people aged over 21 and under 21—and turn it into an arrestable offense—punishable by six months in jail and a $1,000 fine (a significant increase in punishment, considering that the current penalty for sharing marijuana between adults is only a $100 fine.) It’s difficult to see how the government would save on prison costs if the initiative merely shifts arrests from one demographic to another. Ironically, Prop. 19 would expand the pot war it’s supposed to end.

Prop. 19 allows for limited amendments to be made (including the unusual provision of allowing the legislature to amend it without voter approval). But by creating monopolies that owners would fight to protect, an unintended consequence could leave voters powerless to amend the initiative or vote in a better one later.

Any problems that come with this Proposition will take another proposition to fix. Dale Sky Jones, wife of Jeff Jones, co-sponsor of the initiative, told an audience at Dr. Greenthumb’s Spring Gathering that Prop. 19 could always be changed in the future to make it better. “But what she failed to mention,” Attorney Jennifer Soares said, “was that it would cost someone millions of dollars to do so, making it extremely unlikely to happen.”

Although 2012 will offer us a “full legalization” alternative with the California Cannabis Hemp and Health/Jack Herer Initiative, the more likely scenario is that if Prop. 19 passes, then by that time, big cannabis corporations will have all the money, power and influence necessary to thwart any challenge to their monopoly. What do you suppose are the chances of voting in an initiative like CCHH—that emphasizes individual freedom over corporations—after big cannabusiness just spent two years multiplying their millions legally under the monopoly Prop. 19 creates, keeping everyone else out of the market, and making it illegal for you to buy your weed from anyone but them? “If this is the case,” Soares concludes, “another proposition will only get on the ballot if a very independently wealthy cannabis activist can fund the proposition. And even if there is such a person, the extremely wealthy license holders will campaign with all their wealth and might against it.” This is not our only chance to vote yes to legalization. But it may be our only chance to vote no to the corporatization of cannabis.

The long-term effects of passing Prop. 19 are not worth the immediate problems it could temporarily alleviate. Why risk making an initiative like Prop. 19 permanent? The entire cannabis community, recreational and medical consumers alike, will be better off if we learn from the mistakes found in Prop. 19 and vote for a better initiative in 2012.

For all of its good intentions, Prop. 19 seems destined to do the opposite of all it claims to do. Supporters want us to vote yes and ignore the details. But the devil is in the details, and those details will make us criminals even under legalization. Should we support an initiative that forces us to sacrifice the rights of our comrades in the medical marijuana movement for our “right” to pay thousands of dollars for tiny grows and “freedom” to buy only from the dealers who wrote the initiative? Should we vote in an initiative that creates more problems than it solves? And since “the world is watching,” is this the sort of precedent we want to set for the rest of the nation—“Legalize it, tax it beyond reason and feasibility, and make criminals out of those who can’t afford to pay”? Is a $15,000-tax on personal cultivation something we should unite in favor of? Or is this the very thing the marijuana movement should unite against?

A vote no is a vote against unlimited taxation. A vote no is a vote to preserve the hard-won rights of medical marijuana patients. A vote no says you refuse to remain a criminal under legalization. A vote no is a vote to protect college students from jail sentences for simply smoking a joint with other adults. A vote no is a vote for legalization in 2012. If after 73 years of prohibition, you’re willing to vote in an initiative that reverses the rights of the sick, taxes you to the point that you can’t afford to grow legally, and makes you a criminal for possession even though current law does not, I’d sincerely like to know what you’re smoking.

It’s not now or never. It’s now or 2012. Both NORML and the MPP have suggested we hold our ground until then. If we wait for a perfect initiative we will wait forever. But if we wait for an initiative that gives us the rights we’ve been fighting for, we will have an unprecedented opportunity to inspire the world to join the movement to legalize marijuana.

Learn more about the CCHH initiative at

~ Special thanks to David Malmo-Levine for his research assistance and tireless support of the movement against Prop. 19.