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A Different Kind of Tea: Some Tea Partiers May Support Pot Legalization

by Leo E. Laurence, J.D. Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010 at 4:46 PM
leopowerhere@msn.com (619) 757-4909

Proposition 19, which would legalize and tax marijuana in California, may have some unexpected supporters in the conservative tea party movement, reports Leo E. Laurence, associate editor of Zenger’s magazine and a former deputy sheriff who's campaigning for the measure as a member of the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (L.E.A.P.).

A Different Kind of Tea

Some Libertarian “Tea Party“ Conservatives May Back Prop. 19

by LEO E. LAURENCE, J.D.

Copyright © 2010 by Leo E. Laurence • All rights reserved

Support for Proposition 19 on the November ballot to regulate, tax and control cannabis (marijuana) is coming from unexpected sources, including activists in the Tea Party.

Recent polls show support for the statewide initiative is growing, and it may pass with a bigger majority than expected.

The glossy, locally published NUG Magazine ran as its lead article in its October issue a story I wrote supporting Proposition 19 on behalf of the international organization, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. NUG is distributed within the cannabis community (and therefore widely read by young people). I’m a former deputy sheriff and once served in the San Diego D.A.’s office.

My article suggested that “the impact of the conservative Tea Party movement is unknown, and could threaten passage. Some [San Diego] City Councilmembers (Todd Gloria, Carl DeMaio) even refused to discuss it, ignoring the hundreds of millions of dollars that could come into our city treasury if Proposition 19 passes.”

“[The] impact of the fiery, neo-conservative Tea Party movement is unknown,” I wrote in NUG.

After that magazine hit the streets, I received a phone call from conservative El Cajon.

“Proposition 19 is not a partisan issue, especially in East County,” said Justin Price, 26, after reading my NUG article.

Price is a Tea Party supporter.

“Conservative support for Proposition 19 might be stronger than you think,” he added.

“There are lots of Republicans and Tea Party activists who are smoking a joint in their home while watching TV,” he believes.

Price works in a convenience store and reported that many of his customers, including conservative seniors, are talking about it and intend to vote for it.

Change in Law

Under current state law, the possession, cultivation or distribution of marijuana is illegal. In 1996, medical marijuana was approved by voters, but recent San Diego City Council restrictions on the location of medical marijuana dispensaries threatened to create a nearly de facto ban on it.

While possession of it heretofore was misdemeanor, the governor recently signed a state law that reduces it to an infraction, similar to a traffic ticket. Unlicensed sales remain a felony.

Under Proposition 19, everyone over 21 will be able to lawfully possess, share and transport up to an ounce of marijuana. Use will be restricted to a residence or any non-public place.

Cultivation of marijuana will be permitted in an area up to 25 square feet per residence or parcel, and possession of any items of equipment associated with those lawful activities will be permitted.

State and local law enforcement agencies will not be able to seize or destroy marijuana from persons in compliance with the state law.

Employers under Proposition 19 will retain exiting rights to address the consumption of marijuana that impairs an employee’s job performance.

Smoking in the presence of minors — anyone under 21 — will be unlawful, as will driving under the influence and possession on the grounds of an elementary, middle or high school.

Existing laws prohibiting penalties for furnishing marijuana to minors under 18 will remain.

Big money for local governments

Up to two billion dollars will flood into the treasuries of local and state governments with passage of Proposition 19. That figure is an estimate by the state’s taxing agency, the Board of Equalization.

That could make a big dent in the huge budget deficit that the City of San Diego is experiencing.

Another state agency, the independent, non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), says, “To the extent that a commercial marijuana industry develops in the state, we estimate that the state and local governments could eventually collect hundreds of millions of dollars annually in additional revenue.”

So why are local politicians (e.g., City Councilmembers DeMaio and Gloria) refusing to even discuss it with the media?

The initiative is carefully worded to insure that most of its money goes to local government, not the state in Sacramento.

Inaccurate Opposition

In a published statement that ran in our local newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune, our district attorney Bonnie Dumanis provided grossly inaccurate facts. Why? Here are some “facts” she wrote:

1. “The truth is, Proposition 19 does not regulate, does not control and does not tax marijuana as its name implies.” FALSE! Apparently she did not read the official state LAO report.

2. “It means zero revenue for the state of California.” FALSE!

3. “The proposition would prohibit an employer from firing an employee who is under the influ-ence.” FALSE!

When I was a deputy sheriff, I would sometimes question a suspect by asking questions, the answers to which I already knew. If they lied on some significant facts, I would question the credibility of all their facts. The same applies to the D.A.’s, inaccurate statements opposing Proposition 19. Why does the opposition have to lie?

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the prohibitions against marijuana have been based on lies ever since the first commissioner of the federal government’s Bureau of Narcotics, Harry J. Anslinger, lobbied Congress to enact them in the 1930’s.]

The Basics

Unlike cigarettes or alcohol, marijuana is not physically addictive. Its use does not lead to heavier drugs.

Legalization will lead to reduced consumption, according to studies made in countries (like the Netherlands) that already made that change.

Marijuana does not make consumers violent, as does alcohol.

Consuming cannabis does not have long-term toxic effects on the body, as does smoking tobacco.

Passing Proposition 19 will hit the Mexican drug cartels hard. An estimated 64 percent of the cartel’s revenues come from marijuana. Its cultivation soared by 36 percent, and is higher than at any time in nearly two decades, according to the U.S. State Department. That’s why former Mexican president Vicente Fox has called on his own government to legalize marijuana.

The U.S. has about 5 percent of the world’s population, yet it has 26 percent of its prisoners; some in prison for possession of a single joint and typically people of color.

More information is available at www.taxcannabis.org

Contact writer Leo E. Laurence, J.D. at (619) 757-4909 or leopowerhere@msn.com

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