Prop 19 Aims to Legalize Pot in California

The question of whether to pass California Proposition 19 — and effectively legalize marijuana use, cultivation and transport within the state — is steadily coming to a front as Nov. 2 draws near.

The state proposition would allow anyone over the age of 21 to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use, consume marijuana in a non-public area and grow up to 25 square feet of cannabis in a residential space. Known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, the proposition would also enable local governments to institute taxes and fees — as well as authorize criminal and civil penalties — related to marijuana use in their principalities.

Currently, medical marijuana cultivation, use and transportation are legal in the state under Proposition 215, passed in 1996. More recently, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed SB 1449 on Oct. 1 this year, which renders the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a civil — not criminal — infraction starting Jan. 1.

However, under federal law marijuana is a Schedule I banned substance.

Acclaimed as one of the nation’s foremost experts in issues of medical marijuana, drug abuse and prevention, Dr. David Bearman in Goleta has over 40 years of professional experience as an advocate for responsible marijuana use.

According to Dr. Bearman, Prop 19 broaches a nearly century-long conflict between corporate interest, unfounded medical assumptions and marijuana allies.

“It’s certainly not a perfect proposition,” he said. “What’s going to happen [should it pass], is this is going to put an enormous amount of pressure onto the federal government to correctly interpret the 4th and 10th amendment of the constitution.”

Proponents of Prop 19 extol the fiscal benefits that would come from taxing marijuana and the progress it would make toward alleviating the state’s jammed penal system. Moreover, some recent polls have shown that close to 70 percent of youths ages 18 to 34 would support its passage.

“There hasn’t been a better time for the legalization of marijuana,” Kathryn Frazer, a second year sociology and religious studies major said. “It could help stimulate the economy … the government could better control usage.”

Furthermore, Bearman said, health risks associated with marijuana usage are insignificant.

“The American Medical Association testified [in the 1950s], saying that they had found no adverse effects of cannabis on health,” Bearman said. “The main health effects of using marijuana would be cough and increased sputum production — but that’s only if you smoke it.”

Antagonists of legalized pot have voiced fears that Prop 19’s legal wording allows for loopholes and uncertainties. The No on Prop 19 campaign professes, “It’s a Jumbled, Legal Nightmare!” as its slogan.

Additionally, many caution that Prop 19 may usher in health and safety concerns. Deborah Fleming, associate dean of Students, Community Life & Special Programs at UCSB, said marijuana has a reputation as a gateway drug, besides already being widespread.

“My concern would be that we’ve already got a lot of use of marijuana in Isla Vista — something like 39 percent of UCSB students have reported use in the last 30 days. It’s higher than the national average. We’re significantly higher than the rest of the nation,” Fleming said.