Prop. 19: More Than a Nickel Bag of Opinions

Six leading OC medical-marijuana and pot-legalization advocates leave no turn unstoned in examining the ballot initiative

About the only thing anyone can agree on when it comes to Proposition 19 is that it would allow any California resident 21 years and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes. Of course, that’s not all the ballot initiative would do, assuming its myriad other provisions—like the one saying people can only grow 5 square feet of pot plants or the one providing stiff jail terms to people who knowingly sell weed to kids—withstand post-electoral legislative amendments and court challenges. Depending on whom you ask, Prop. 19 would either send a powerful message to both Sacramento and Capitol Hill that the seemingly never-ending war on drugs has been an abject failure, or it would open the floodgates to a massive epidemic of marijuana use, with stoned teenagers dozing off in class and high-as-a-kite motorists creating carnage on freeways from Eureka to San Diego.

Leaving the doomsayers aside, the more interesting and important debate over Prop. 19 pits advocates of marijuana legalization and drug-war reform against folks who have a vested interest in the 1996 Compassionate Use Act (also known as Proposition 215), which famously opened the door to what’s now a burgeoning industry providing medical marijuana to anyone with a valid doctor’s recommendation. With that divide in mind, we talked to a half-dozen local legalization advocates and medical-marijuana experts to find out what they make of Prop. 19 and how they’ll vote come Nov. 2.


 

Kandice Hawes,
President of OCNORML
Few people are more passionately in favor of Prop. 19 than Hawes. The president of the Orange County chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law) first became an activist when she was arrested in 2003 and charged with felony pot possession during a road trip to Las Vegas. The bust ended the then-Cal State Fullerton student’s government-funded college scholarship. Since then, Hawes has tirelessly worked to end the government’s campaign against marijuana, a crusade she says she’s willing to continue for the rest of her life if necessary.

I think Prop. 19 is the most important issue on this ballot. We haven’t had an initiative like this since 1972—and it was also called Prop. 19, coincidentally. If this doesn’t pass, we won’t have a chance like this for 20 years. We don’t have the fund-raising ability to do it again. We have this chance now. Governor [Arnold] Schwarzenegger recently signed a bill making possession of an ounce just an infraction. He did that so people won’t vote for Prop. 19.

It’s a political move. Even the Democrats are starting to watch this movement and see how it is mobilizing young people to vote, people who are possible Democrats, and they are seeing movement to do this in other states. This will keep people out of jail and save money for our state. And people in the medical-marijuana community are starting to come around and support Prop. 19. They’re worried people won’t want to get recommendations, but people will want to have more than 1 ounce, so the medical-marijuana industry will survive. It’s important for everyone to be open-minded and vote yes on Prop 19.

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Chadd McKeen,
Owner of OtherSide Farms

McKeen, who was the subject of a
Weekly cover story earlier this year (see Matt Coker’s “Growing Pains,” May 21) is one of the most opinionated voices in the medical-marijuana community. He and his wife, Alysha, both of whom are medical-marijuana patients, intended to open a dispensary in Costa Mesa; the city, however, banned such businesses. They opted instead to open a farm inside a former jewelry store, where they teach other patients how to grow their own medicine rather than pay for it, something that hasn’t exactly pleased folks who own and operate dispensaries or medical-marijuana-delivery services.

At first, I was very much for Prop. 19, and then I found out things about how it was written. There needs to be clarification on how it will affect medical marijuana. Then again, it doesn’t matter what happens in California because it’s still illegal under federal law, and that’s why you can only get a doctor’s recommendation because you can’t prescribe a Schedule 1 drug. If you go on the [Drug Enforcement Administration] website, marijuana is up there with heroin. Schedule 2 is crack cocaine, speed, ice, and I don’t care where you come from, but I think you can all agree crack and speed are not safer than marijuana. Did you know you can write a prescription for crack cocaine? Well, according to the DEA, you can. We need to remove marijuana from Schedule 1. If you can write a prescription, you can go fill it, and then marijuana can be sold legally.

Besides, Governor Schwarzenegger just decriminalized marijuana by making it just a ticket for under an ounce, so what’s the point? [Orange County Superior Court Judge] Jim Gray told me, “Chad, the bottom line is, it’s a step in the right direction; we can make changes later on.” I agree with that, but I am fearful that if it does pass, it will get completely out of control. Everyone will want to buy or grow marijuana. It won’t hurt my business; everyone will be in my class. Kids will be growing it. What works well now is that there is still a taboo on marijuana, so it is kept down low, down in your pocket. Now, people will want to smoke out, like walk out of a bar and smoke half a joint, and then throw it on the ground, and little Bobby or Jimmy will walk up and take it. People will be stealing it, jumping over fences and ripping off plants. I’m not sure which way I’m going to vote. It could come down to the wire.

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