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On Marijuana Legalization, California Voters Didn’t Just Say No, They Protected a Thriving Industry

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Posted on November 4 2010 10:00 am
Walter Hudson is a political commentator and co-founder of Minnesota's North Star Tea Party Patriots, a statewide educational organization. He runs a blog entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of Minnesotan conservative commentary. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

The prohibition of marijuana for recreational use shall continue in California. Voters in that state rejected Proposition 19, a measure on the ballot which would have legalized and regulated the substance. At face value, its easy to assume a majority of Californians oppose marijuana use. However, the truth is a little more nuanced.

… in a sign of what a tough sell it was, the measure lost in the state’s vaunted marijuana-growing region known as the “Emerald Triangle” of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties. Many in the region feared the system they created would be taken over by corporations or would undercut a cornerstone of the local economies by sending pot prices plunging.

Those most anxious about the economy were not convinced that legalizing pot was worth the potential tax revenue or jobs created by a newly legal marijuana industry.

A Los Angeles dispensary manager said the proposition was a step in the right direction, though its failure wasn’t necessarily bad.

The fact it didn’t pass is not really so bad for us because it keeps the status quo for dispensaries and collectives that are already operating,” said Tim Blakeley, 44, who manages Sunset Junction Organic Medicine.

While there is no way to quantify precisely what motivated voters to cast their ballot against Proposition 19, its quite clear some did so in defense of their economic self-interest rather than from a philosophical stance against the use of marijuana. This should not surprise us, as it follows the model of prohibition established in the last century with alcohol.

HBO’s Boardwalk Empire dramatizes the economics of prohibition well. The series premiere opens with Steve Buscemi as corrupt county attorney Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson addressing the Women’s Temperance League on the eve of Prohibition. While publicly appealing to the ladies’ regard of alcohol as the devil’s mischief, Thompson privately meets with business and political conspirators who are set to laugh all the way to the bank as the price of their product shoots through the roof.

Whether you happen to think marijuana ought to be legalized or not, it is fascinating to speculate whether these pro-marijuana opponents of Proposition 19 decided the question. The proposition failed by a mere nine points. The question I would ask California voters who are philosophically opposed to marijuana is: how does it feel to share a bed with growers and purveyors whose prices were just propped up by your vote?

Walter Hudson is a political commentator and co-founder of Minnesota’s North Star Tea Party Patriots, a statewide educational organization. He runs a blog entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of Minnesotan conservative commentary. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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