The truth is yes, the legalization of recreational marijuana is a good idea, but prop 64 is a flawed plan. It will not accomplish what many voters believe it will. In fact, prop 64 will do more harm than good.
Many of the arguments in favor of prop 64 sound good since tax dollars for schools, health care and state infrastructure is something nearly everyone can get behind. Although many voters believe this is where the tax revenue will go, there is no guarantee any of the revenue will go to these causes. In fact, section 34018 of the prop explicitly states that the taxes are not considered part of the general fund, which is what pays for schools, healthcare and infrastructure.
The claim that prop 64 will reduce drug arrests is another misunderstanding. Prop 47, passed in 2014, has already done most of the work by reducing simple possession of most drugs to a misdemeanor. According to a Washington Post article from October 2015, more than 4,300 prisoners had been resentenced and released. Prop 64 won’t do any more than what prop 47 has already accomplished.
In fact, prop 64 creates new crimes and, in some circumstances, calls for jail time for harmless offenses. Possession of more than one ounce could result in six months of jail time. Those same six months is a possible penalty for those under the age of 21 and anyone who happens to provide for anyone under the age. Get ready to ask for ID before smoking with anyone at a party.
There is another portion of the population prop 64 will hurt. There are over 750,000 medical marijuana patients in California who will face higher prices for their medication due to the taxes levied.
Patients will also see the number of plants they are allowed to grow reduced to six, which will not be enough for many patients. In addition, it will require patients to have a state issued ID card, costing them up to $100 a year.
One of the models for prop 64 is, of course, Washington’s Initiative 502. Proponents of the initiative claimed the state’s medical program would stay intact. As of July 2016, all medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington have closed and patients are forced to pay the 46 percent recreational tax.
This was all possible because Initiative 502 contained a provision that the state legislature could alter it later without voter approval and, you guessed it, prop 64 contains a similar clause. This is a scary thought when it comes to any voter initiative since such a provision takes the power away from the people and gives it all to the legislature.
Farmers will feel the pain of prop 64 as well. Sure, initially their sales and the marketplace will grow, but prop 64 will lead to the monopolization of the industry. It contains provisions to prevent this, but only for the first five years. After that, millionaire investors will be free to drive out the small time farmers for a model resembling that of big tobacco. These small farmers that fuel the medical industry will not be able to compete with large corporations. They will go out of business, and end up causing additional strain on the economy.