Some say the legalization of a recreational marijuana market is not needed in California; they contend the medical marijuana law is loose enough to protect the interests of everyone wanting to get legally stoned.
But a new study has found that that’s bunk.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, a non-profit organization working toward drug-law reform, despite the California decriminalization law put into effect in 2010, people are still being targeted by law enforcement over a plant that is considered mostly legal.
Just last year, there were around 2,139 people in California sent to jail for crimes associated with marijuana alone. And while this number does represent a 21 percent decline from the 2,665 people imprisoned for weed in 2010, it is evidence, according to the DPA, that more needs to be done to change the state’s marijuana laws.
Proposition 64, which was largely fueled and funded by tech entrepreneur Sean Parker, was designed to bridge the divide on what is considered a marijuana crime by making it legal for all adults 21 and over—not just those holding a medical marijuana card.
Many of the state’s medical marijuana advocates, who oppose Proposition 64 with an almighty passion, have argued there is no need to legalize a recreational sector because no one is going to jail for weed in California. Well, the report suggests that they are sadly mistaken.
“One of the things that we have been hearing a lot in this debate from opponents is that nobody goes to jail for marijuana offenses,” said John Kagia, an executive vice president at New Frontier Data, which conducted the study on behalf of the DPA. “This settles that argument. That is not true. We have the hard data from the counties to prove that.”
But would Proposition 64 eliminate all of the criminal penalties associated with marijuana? The answer is absolutely not.
A recent analysis of the initiative (the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act) conducted by HIGH TIMES finds the law would still allow people to be slapped with large fines, and even sent to jail, for possession of more than the legal limit. Under Proposition 64, anyone caught in possession of over an ounce of marijuana could be fined to the tune of $500 and spend six months in jail – making the “people are still getting arrested for weed” argument contained in the DPA’s latest report a moot point. In reality, a lot of the personal cases used to compile the latest study would likely still result in a conviction and jail under the language of Proposition 64.
Nevertheless, California appears to be on track to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Tuesday’s election. The latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll shows 58 percent of the voters will support Proposition 64, while 37 percent will oppose. These finding are relatively consistent with other polls conducted over the past couple of months.
Our complete coverage of the fight for legalization in California is here.
You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.
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