Stirring the pot: Prop. 19 marijuana legalization debate heats up in Auburn

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Is the Proposition 19 pot initiative going to harm or help California? Proponents like Dale Sky Jones, executive chancellor of Oakland’s Oaksterdam University, contend passage of the proposition will save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars now wasted on enforcing the failed prohibition of cannabis. But Sacramento attorney John Lovell, whose current clients include the California Police Chiefs Association, points to a coalition of law enforcement organizations and argues that the threat of losing significant federal funding should be a deal-killer in itself. And Bishop Ron Allen, CEO of Sacramento’s International Faith Based Coalition, says he fears that passage of the initiative will create more young addicts because of the strength of today’s pot. The three were in Auburn for a recent debate organized by the Auburn Democratic Club. Prop. 19 is on the Nov. 2 ballot. According to Yes On 19, which is backing the proposition, it’s carefully written to control marijuana like alcohol, allowing adults 21 and over in California to possess up to an ounce. Pot could be consumed at home or in licensed establishments while the new law would give state and local governments the ability to tax its sale for adult consumption. Jones, whose school teaches medicinal marijuana cultivation, said California’s current policy has failed. “The free-for-all is now,” she said. “We have an opportunity for safe communities. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are wasted enforcing the failed prohibition of cannabis.” Lovell told an audience of about 50 on Thursday night that the proposition’s language is so poorly worded that voters don’t even need to get to the philosophical arguments of pot to be against it. Of particular concern to organizations like the California Chamber of Commerce is language that could circumvent employers being eligible for federal contracts worth an estimated $31 billion and schools losing $9.4 billion. Lovell said language in the proposition would leave California employers no longer eligible to receive federal government grants. But Jones said that threat does not exist. Allen, a self-professed recovering crack addict, said that pulling back the threat of consequences for smoking marijuana that are now enforced won’t solve any problems. “This is not about medical marijuana – that’s another debate,” Allen said. “This is about just for fun and getting high. How do you educate an intoxicated mind?” With alcohol, people can self-regulate with a drink or two in a social setting but with marijuana, the intent is to get high, he said. “We need to have jobs and more education – not legalize another dope in the community,” he said. But Jones said children are already getting as high as they want on marijuana and because it’s unregulated, it’s easier for them to get than alcohol. “It’s already more accessible than any other drugs,” she said. Audience members said they appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Prop. 19. “It was a very healthy discussion,” said Auburn’s Joe Marman. “I think legalization will cause a more sensible measure of control of the use of marijuana.” Heidi Van Zant of Auburn said the turnout showed people cared about the issue. “It’s certainly a passionate and personal issue,” she said. “I’m still making up my mind and learning more about the proposition.” Auburn’s Larry W. Smith said the community needs more discussion’s similar to Thursday’s. “People were civil,” Smith said. “I’m in favor of legalization. There are concerns but as she (Dale Sky Jones) said, the present policies are nothing short of insane.” ------------------------------------------------ No on Prop. 19’s list of supporters includes: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the California District Attorneys Association, the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Police Chiefs Association, Attorney General and Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, Association of California School Administrators and Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman. Source: No on Prop. 19 ------------------------------------------------- Yes on 19’s endorsements include: National Black Police Association, retired U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Berkeley City Council, Oakland City Council, West Hollywood City Council, California NAACP, California Young Democrats, ACLU of Northern and Southern California, Placer County Democratic Party, Latino Voters league, California Council of Churches IMPACT. Source: Yes on 19 ------------------------------------------------