It’s coming … one of the most important days of the year for us Isla Vistans is rapidly approaching, and no, I’m not talking about our most revered and renowned Halloween celebration. Actually, I’m talking about Election Day. With less than a month to go until the November 7 election, it’s time to start thinking about the politicians, propositions, and proposals we’ll be asked to say yay or nay to in early November.
This year, there are a ton of issues on the ballot that will directly affect those of us residing in I.V. And even though many of us will only be here for four or five years, the decisions we make at the polling places—one of which will be conveniently located at the University Religious Center on Camino Pescadero—could affect future generations of Isla Vistans for years to come. With that in mind, this is the first of a few columns I plan on devoting to decoding the ballot issues and, specifically, discussing how some of the standout issues could affect I.V. Don’t worry, I promise to take a break for some hot Halloween-related article action next week, but in the meantime, let’s explore some election issues with an eye on Isla Vista.
A quick glance at the incredibly informative voter education Web site, smartvoter.org, makes it clear that there are enough local and statewide issues on the ballot to provide plenty of stuff for you to Google while procrastinating on your latest paper-writing assignment. While all of these issues are important, there are a specific few that will definitely have an impact on I.V. and its residents. For this column, I’d like to focus on the hotly debated Measure P. Lots of stuff has been written in local papers, including The Independent, about Measure P. You know the old saying, where there’s smoke there’s fire? Well, where there’s a ballot issue about smoking, people often get fired up, and Measure P is no exception. Essentially, Measure P is an initiative that would make pot possession the lowest priority for the City of Santa Barbara’s law enforcement officials. That means the personal possession and use of marijuana by adults would be considered only a minor offense, so joint-smoking would be the legal equivalent of jaywalking, at least within the city limits of Santa Barbara—which doesn’t actually include I.V. That means that, unless you’re registered to vote as a Santa Barbara resident, you don’t get to weigh in on the weed measure.
However, if you are a registered S.B. voter, you’ll get to get in on the session, so to speak, if you vote in the November 7 election. Here are some things to keep in mind about Measure P. According to the official—and obviously not entirely objective—Web site of the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 1,429 people were imprisoned in California for marijuana and hash possession as of December 31, 2005, as opposed to 1,289 in 2004. Now, I looked and looked and could not locate exact statistics about how many marijuana-related arrests occur in the City of Santa Barbara each year, but suffice it to say that according to the annual Clery Report, drug-related citations on the UCSB campus last year were higher than at UCLA, UC Davis, and UC Berkeley, so it’s not as though our local community is immune to the consequences of the war on drugs.
So the question remains, should smoking a bowl be grounds for spending time behind bars or is it a “crime” that deserves to be decriminalized? At the risk of incriminating myself—let’s hope the IVFP is too busy prepping for the “Halloween offensive” to check out this week’s column—I’ll admit that I have no problem with indulging in a little recreational reefer madness. In fact, I personally think that pot is a lot less harmful to the mind, body, and soul than alcohol, tobacco, or watching bad reality TV—all of which are not only legally sanctioned in this country, but socially sanctioned as well. Since the city profile of Santa Barbara at epodunk.com reports that the FBI says the City of Santa Barbara was home to 562 violent crimes in 2003, I definitely think there are other things the SBPD could be focusing their time, energy, and funding on. Personally, I find it a lot more abrasive to be verbally assaulted by mobs of “macho” guys who drank so much at Sharkeez that they think grabbing my ass is an acceptable form of courtship than it is to see someone smoking a spliff. Plus, despite what those anti-drug commercials where smoking a bowl seems to be an invitation for kids to run under the wheels of your car would have you think, high people are a lot funnier—and generally a lot less likely to commit serious crimes—than drunk people. Who wants to go out and start a fight when you could sit on your couch with a pint of ice cream and reruns of That ’70s Show on TV? Not people who are high, I promise you that. I’m not saying we should make alcohol illegal, but I am saying that we should put pot in perspective. If beer bonging isn’t a crime, why should bong rips be? And let’s not even begin to go into the incredible amount of uses the cannabis plant itself offers as an environmentally sustainable source of energy, food, paper, cloth, and more—all of which could be further explored if more legislation is passed to make growing pot less socially and legally objectionable. Of course, all of this is my own personal opinion and I would love to hear some arguments from those who disagree—that’s why the kind folks at The Independent put that handy little “Comments” section below all my columns.
But, as far as I’m concerned, the SBPD does a great job of dealing with crimes in which the criminal is actually victimizing someone else—rather than their own lungs—and they should continue to focus their energy and attention on those things rather than trying to prosecute peaceful pot-heads. With social scenes ranging from the folks at the Real Life religious group to drunken debauchery on DP, I.V. is definitely a place where the dominant attitude is live and let live. Why shouldn’t we extend that idea to include allowing the City of Santa Barbara’s responsible adults to toke up in peace?
HEMPFEST IN ISLA VISTA: In related news, the Eighth Annual Santa Barbara Hemp Festival is coming to Isla Vista this year, on Saturday, November 4, from noon to 6 p.m. With performances by S.B. hip-hop outfit The Limbz, Chico’s mixed genre masters Pyrx, and reggae stalwarts Cornerstone plus guest speakers, a hemp fashion show, hemp product vendors, and information about hemp and medical marijuana, the afternoon is sure to be smoking. It goes down under the autumn sun in Anisq’oyo’ Park.