For all the punditry surrounding the Democrats’ impending electoral misfortunes, little attention has been paid to a California ballot initiative which, if successful, may foster greater lasting political implications: Proposition 19, or the legalization of marijuana for personal consumption among adults aged 21 and over.
As detailed in Ari Berman’s Rolling Stone piece earlier this month, an ideologically diverse coalition of advocacy organizations, student groups, academics, and politicians have joined forces to support the November initiative. The California NAACP endorsed Prop 19 in July, calling it a “civil rights issue.” Just this week California’s chapter of the SEIU – the state’s most powerful labor union – also threw its support and formidable campaign apparatus behind the measure.
Interestingly, praise for Prop 19 is not limited to what might be the expected left-leaning constituencies. Yes, there's strong student support for the initiative at UC - Berkeley and UC - Santa Cruz, but there's also Jordan Marks, Executive Director of the Young Americans Foundation – the nation’s largest conservative youth activist organization – who sits on the board of the Just Say Now campaign alongside prominent liberal bloggers Glenn Greenwald and Jane Hamsher. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition – a group comprised of former police officers, prosecutors, and judges who oppose current drug policy – have taken to the talk show circuit, assuaging the concerns of those who might assume that only shaggy-haired hippies care strongly about marijuana legalization. Even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, famously fond of the occasional toke during his youth, has cautiously left the door open to backing the measure.
Predictably, the usual suspects have come out in favor of the status quo. Obama Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, joined by five of his predecessors, penned a laughably flawed piece in the Los Angeles Times arguing for the continued criminalization of marijuana. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, long an opponent of drug policy reform, was named chairperson of the anti-Prop 19 campaign. And Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown is also not a backer, despite evidence that Prop 19 could actually help California Democrats by driving progressive voter turnout in November.
From decreasing marijuana prohibition-related violence on the Mexican border, to freeing up space in our prisons for actual criminals, to providing much-needed tax revenue for state coffers – there are myriad of reasons to support legalization. Yes on Prop 19 is currently leading in the polls, but California ballot initiatives are notoriously unpredictable. Do your part by getting involved with the Just Say Now campaign and following @taxcannabis on Twitter.