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Toking Rights

Pot a Menace to Society?


Call me naïve, but I thought that Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana in California, was going to pass. I couldn’t imagine that there would be overwhelming opposition. Why would there be? It certainly would be hard to find people in Isla Vista who opposed it.

There were, however, tons of people who voted no for a variety of reasons. They questioned how it would be regulated, how much revenue would be produced, and how it would work with federal laws in place that make marijuana possession illegal. Fair enough. I respect those who opposed the proposition for practical reasons, even though I don’t agree with them. But what about all the others who voted no for different reasons?

Cat Neushul

My friends have told me about their relatives who opposed the proposition out of fear. They envisioned a multitude of stoned individuals being let loose in society to wreak havoc. Somehow they thought legalizing marijuana would create a dire situation.

But there are already laws in place to penalize those who drive, or go out in public, high. Also, legalizing pot isn’t going to inspire non-users to light up. You either do or you don’t, and legalizing it isn’t going to change that. Another said they had relatives who opposed legalization because they’d heard it was a “gateway” drug. In this person’s eyes, it’s pot one day, crack the next. It’s hard for me even to address this fear. All I can say is: Really? Do you really think this is going to happen?

If you live in Santa Barbara, San Luis, or Santa Cruz counties you can breathe a little easier. All three of these counties voted to pass the proposition. Some northern counties, including Marin and Sonoma, did as well. You can visit the California Elections Web site and click around on a map to find out how each county voted in the recent election. It is fun to see which counties voted for Prop. 19. In Santa Barbara, the proposition passed by a small margin: 51 percent were in favor, 49 percent opposed.

In I.V. you would expect to hear voices raised in outrage at the defeat of the proposition, because there are quite a few people for whom smoking marijuana is a part of daily life. But I guess whether marijuana is legal or not doesn’t make that much difference. When you are living in I.V. and attending college, marijuana isn’t all that hard to locate.

If you are new to this area, or haven’t ventured into I.V., you might be surprised to find out how ingrained the pot culture is here. It is not unusual to walk into someone’s home and see an enormous bong displayed on living room table as though it were a work of art. (Some of them are in fact works of art.) And don’t expect the occupants to hide it when you walk in. They view it as a normal household item, like a coffee pot or a computer. Now ask the occupants what their dog’s name is; odds are pretty good that it’s something like Rasta, Stoner, or Doobie. Even Gaucho soccer games are not immune to this culture. When it says 4:20 on the clock, the students in the stands celebrate. If you don’t know what 4:20 means, you are not alone. Ask a friend. I did.

It would be interesting to take an inventory of the types of problems that occur in I.V., and see how many can be traced to marijuana use. In my informal information gathering, I’ve found that pot smokers tend to be a mellow, easygoing lot. They are less likely to have a wild party, with several kegs, and start fights. Instead, they might have a party with a reggae band, hang out with a small group of friends, and skateboard afterward.

While the abuse of any drug, including marijuana, has negative effects, the people who voted no on Proposition 19 for fear of the effect this would have on society need to take a second look.

I won’t ever be championing a “make crack legal” group. But as far as I’m concerned, the world would be a better place if we stopped trying to demonize something as innocuous as marijuana. Professors, medical doctors, and many other respectable people smoke marijuana even though it’s illegal. It is not going to be the downfall of civilization.

A law legalizing marijuana would squelch criminal activity and produce additional state revenue. It doesn’t matter whether it turns out to be billions or millions, money is money. Maybe next time a proposition like this is on the ballot, there will be more people who speak out and educate others about the evil caused by demonizing pot.

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