How Do We Explain Prop 19 To Our Kids?

As the California election approaches on November 2, 2010, we’ve had a lot of questions about prop 19. Miles To Go tries very hard to not discuss politics and legalization of drugs in the classroom, but we’re overwhelmed with questions about proposition 19, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. Many teachers and parents are confused about what to do, and their students and children are just as confused, so in this blog we will attempt to explain what we know about the proposition. We must urge you, however, to keep this in mind: We are drug PREVENTION specialists, not legal specialists, and WE ARE BIASED.

Proposition 19 wants to legalize marijuana to help with California’s budget problems, and its proponents believe it will cut off funding to violent drug cartels and redirect law enforcement resources to more dangerous crimes. Proponents also say that it will control cannabis like alcohol. The proposition allows local governments to regulate marijuana related activities; it permits local governments to impose and collect marijuana-related fees and taxes; and it authorizes various criminal and civil penalties.

The “No on 19” organization argues that the proposition is filled with gaps and flaws that will cause serious unintended consequences with public safety, in the workplace, and with federal funding since marijuana use remains illegal under federal law. We wanted to give you an idea of who is against this proposition, but the list was so long that is took up over 50 pages, so here is the link: http://www.noonproposition19.com/endorsements/leaders

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana:We often get the question, “Which is safer: driving high or driving drunk?” Of course, neither is safe. Driving under the influence of marijuana is not safe, because a person’s response rates are slower and impaired. The list of Police and Highway Patrol organizations against this proposition is extraordinarily long. Patrol officers lament the fact that there are currently no field sobriety tests that can effectively demonstrate operational impairments caused by marijuana use; and since current drug tests for marijuana only reveal past use, not current intoxication, there will be no way for them to effectively remove stoned drivers from the roads the way they do drunk drivers via the use of breathalyzer testing.

The questions we raise are:
Do you want people under the influence of marijuana driving on the road with the rest of us?”

NIDA link about drugged driving: http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/driving.html
http://www.nida.nih.gov/ResearchReports/Marijuana/marijuana4.html#driving

ABC news and Good Morning America recently put this idea to the test – watch/read the report here:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/driving-high-road-experiment-fuels-marijuana-legal-debate/story?id=11961862

http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/test-driving-californias-proposed-pot-law-legalize-marijuana-car-drive-journalists-11966509

From the NO on 19 FAQ:

The initiative expressly omits any definition of what constitutes being “under the influence” of marijuana. No driver over 21, including bus, taxi, light-rail train operators, and everyday commuters can be required to be drug-free while operating a vehicle. Although the initiative says you cannot use marijuana while driving, it appears completely permissible to use marijuana just prior to getting behind the wheel. This also opens up a tremendous liability question for employers who operate transportation companies or have company vehicles. They will no longer be able to require employees operating these vehicles be drug free.

Marijuana for 21 and older:Proponents of Yes on 19 argue that like alcohol, marijuana will not be available to anyone under the age of 21. We can barely keep a straight face at this argument–we all know that kids can get alcohol!

Yes on prop 19 says in their FAQ’s that “(marijuana) has fewer harmful effects than alcohol and is not physically addictive with no long term effects on the body.” We feel it would be better to say that marijuana has different detrimental effects, as it seems to be a matter of opinion which detrimental effects are worse. Unfortunately, saying that marijuana is not “physically addictive” is nothing more than lying by omission, and a pure misstatement of the science. Marijuana addicts approximately 9% of its users, unless they start smoking in their middle teens, when the addiction rates almost double, to 17%. Whether the addiction is physical or psychological hardly seems to matter if it is your child entering drug treatment for their addiction to marijuana. Finally, “no long term effects on the body” seems to ignore the European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery when it says that “known consequences of habitual marijuana smoking include an increased prevalence of chronic cough, sputum production and wheeze, as well as a higher frequency of acute bronchitis.” We guess that no “long term effects” as it is used here means that if you STOP using marijuana, they will go away, and yet nowhere do they seem to be suggesting that their intention is that people actually stop.

The questions we raise are:
Will legalization for people over 21 increase the usage rates of people under 21?

Here is a link to Lance Armstrong’s website Livestrong that has a series of simplified articles on the subject: http://www.livestrong.com/article/29994-marijuana-physically-addictive/

NIDA’s series on addiction:Science of Addiction: http://www.nida.nih.gov/scienceofaddiction/

Marijuana Research Reports: http://www.nida.nih.gov/ResearchReports/Marijuana/default.html

Info Facts: Marijuana (scroll down to addictive potential) http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/marijuana.html

Tax MoneyCurrently, the polling shows that most voters are opposed to proposition 19, and the majority of California’s newspapers are against the proposition. The Sacramento Bee conducted an Ad Watch analyzing the current Yes on 19 commercial which concluded that the commercial was “Mostly misleading.” According to the Bee, it would not generate the “billions” of tax revenue dollars claimed because the math was based on inaccurate per ounce tax numbers.

A Rand Corporation study said, “Legalizing Marijuana in California Will Not Dramatically Reduce Mexican Drug Trafficking Revenues.” http://www.rand.org/news/press/2010/10/12/

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, “The federal government will ‘vigorously enforce’ federal marijuana laws and that any retail establishment selling recreational pot would be admitting to a federal crime by the very act of paying taxes.”
‘Let me state clearly that the Department of Justice strongly opposes Proposition 19. If passed, this legislation will greatly complicate federal drug enforcement efforts to the detriment of our citizens.’”
Roger Salazar, No on Prop 19 spokesman stated, “Let’s take stock of where we are:
• No revenue guarantees: The California Board of Equalization says that it cannot determine how much, if any, revenue would be generated by Proposition 19 because it neither establishes a regulatory framework nor does it impose any taxes on marijuana.
• No controls: Prop 19 contains no prohibition against driving after smoking marijuana meaning anyone, even school bus drivers and heavy equipment operators, can smoke up right up until they get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
• No reduction of illegal drug trafficking or violence: The Rand report released earlier this week notes that legalizing marijuana in California would not appreciably influence the Mexican drug trafficking organizations and the related violence.
“This sets up a situation where the Feds could withhold billions in federal education funds while cracking down on California’s marijuana industry. It begs the question: Why would anyone vote for this mess of a proposition?”

    The questions we raise:

Kelly is concerned with the long term repercussions of addiction, brain and lung damage. Who will pay for the costs of health care in the long run? It seems that while other countries have shown successful models for decriminalization and taxation, there are still no long term studies on health care costs. Here are several links to the annual cost of alcohol abuse in California, which runs in the billions of dollars.

http://www.cspinet.org/booze/2005/pdf/Cost_of_Alcohol_Abuse_California_(March_2004).pdf
http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/Controversies/20090505140503.html
http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/alerts/l/blnaa11.htm
http://www.marininstitute.org/site/campaigns/charge-for-harm.html

Jonathan is concerned that Proposition 19 will add to our confusion, not reduce it. The current war on drugs is a money burning mess, but this proposition does nothing to change that. Our ultimate goal is to keep drugs out of the bodies of adolescents and teens, but nothing here will move us closer to that goal. The legalization of marijuana in some form or another is probably a foregone conclusion in the long run, but we worry that it will lessen in the teen mind the perceived risk of using the drug, and further open young people up to the questionable role models some adults currently provide with their unhealthy use of tobacco and abuse of alcohol in front of seriously impressionable kids.

About mtgblogs

Jonathan and Kelly are professional speakers and writers who specialize in drug prevention education for students, teachers and parents. Working from their base in Southern California, they have spent the past 16 years lecturing in the private school community using humor, science and multi-sensory teaching techniques to simplify a complex subject. We have 2 book to choose from: The Mother's Checklist of Drug Prevention: All The Little Things We Say and Do and Not All Kids Do Drugs: Proactive Parenting
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