Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Proposition 19, the legalization of marijuana in California

Proposition 19, the legalization of marijuana in California, would allow for the possession, cultivation and transportation of marijuana by those who are 21 years of age or older. Although legalization will result in regulation and taxation, these are necessary in order for the decriminalization of marijuana to occur. Compare this to the prohibition of alcohol – would one rather drink alcohol without taxation and regulation, but subject to arrest, prosecution, jail, and a criminal record tainting your future; or be subject to marijuana taxes and regulations?

Currently, simple possession of marijuana (less than an ounce) consists of an initial detention by law enforcement which could culminate in a variety of additional charges. For example, one is stopped by the police for speeding. “I smell marijuana” says the officer, “everyone out of the car”. John has less than an ounce in his pocket and is given a citation. Bob, Mr. Tough Guy, decides to run, is tackeled, fights back, and ends up in jail for battery on a police officer. Jane has an outstanding warrant and is arrested, and Sue, the driver, has been held at the scene and now is late. If Proposition 19 passes this scenario would not happen unless Sue was under the influence of marijuana and then arrested for a DUI.

The sentence for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana may be a fine and a class, but the criminal record is the real punishment. Employment and other such licensing or educational applications may be affected by what was a “simple” possession. In addition, one plant in your home or garden is a felony without any applicable statute available for misdemeanor prosecution. More than an ounce is also a felony offense. Proposition 19 would decriminalize these fact patterns.

Many defendants who are charged with simple marijuana offenses may find that going to court without a criminal defense attorney is more economical. However, what seems like a simple resolution (a fine and/class) may affect ones future.

How are you going to vote – for or against prohibition?

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