Prop 19 Ruminations

Various recent discussions have made me want to chat about Prop 19 some more. I’m no expert on Prop 19, and nobody is an expert on exactly what will happen after Prop 19’s passage, but there are some things that are known.

1. Prop 19 is not being marketed merely as a tax income money-maker for the State of California.

I really don’t understand the odd individuals who apparently are getting outraged over what they call dishonest marketing of Proposition 19 as a massive tax income generator. Sure, there have been estimates (official ones by the State’s Board of Equalization) of what tax income could be brought in from Prop 19, based on a whole lot of variables. It would be stupid not to promote those estimates (particularly when the other side is trying to claim increased health costs without any data to support it at all). Often when Congress passes a bill, they have the CBO score it for its costs or revenue, and use those figures to push or oppose the bill (despite the uncertainty of those costs or revenues ever coming true).

Now, if Prop 19 supporters came out and said that marijuana is a horrible and dangerous thing, but at least we’ll make $1.4 billion in taxes off it (when the actual amount of tax revenue was uncertain), then that would be dishonest.

But that’s not the story here.

All you have to do is look at the official ballot statements to see that Prop 19 is being marketed as a whole lot of things, and the tax revenue is merely one of many benefits (and certainly not the most important one).

Read the whole thing again.


Today, hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are spent enforcing the failed prohibition of marijuana (also known as “cannabis”).

Currently marijuana is easier for kids to get than alcohol, because dealers don’t require ID.

Prohibition has created a violent criminal market run by international drug cartels.

Police waste millions of taxpayer dollars targeting non-violent marijuana consumers, while thousands of violent crimes go unsolved.

And there is $14 billion in marijuana sales every year in California, but our debt-ridden state gets nothing from it.

Marijuana prohibition has failed.


Proposition 19 was carefully written to get marijuana under control.

Under Proposition 19, only adults 21 and over can possess up to one ounce of marijuana, to be consumed at home or licensed establishments. Medical marijuana patients’ rights are preserved.

If we can control and tax alcohol, we can control and tax marijuana.


Proposition 19 maintains strict criminal penalties for driving under the influence, increases penalties for providing marijuana to minors, and bans smoking it in public, on school grounds, and around minors.

Proposition 19 keeps workplaces safe by preserving the right of employers to maintain a drug-free workplace.


According to the FBI, in 2008 over 61,000 Californians were arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession, while 60,000 violent crimes went unsolved. By ending arrests of non-violent marijuana consumers, police will save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars a year, and be able to focus on the real threat: violent crime.

Police, Sheriffs, and Judges support Proposition 19.


Marijuana prohibition has created vicious drug cartels across our border. In 2008 alone, cartels murdered 6,290 civilians in Mexico — more than all U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

60 percent of drug cartel revenue comes from the illegal U.S. marijuana market.

By controlling marijuana, Proposition 19 will help cut off funding to the cartels.


California faces historic deficits, which, if state government doesn’t balance the budget, could lead to higher taxes and fees for the public, and more cuts to vital services. Meanwhile, there is $14 billion in marijuana transactions every year in California, but we see none of the revenue that would come from taxing it.

Proposition 19 enables state and local governments to tax marijuana, so we can preserve vital services.

The State’s tax collector, the Board of Equalization, says taxing marijuana would generate $1.4 billion in annual revenue, which could fund jobs, healthcare, public safety, parks, roads, transportation, and more.


Outlawing marijuana hasn’t stopped 100 million Americans from trying it. But we can control it, make it harder for kids to get, weaken the cartels, focus police resources on violent crime, and generate billions in revenue and savings.

We need a common sense approach to control marijuana.

YES on 19.

San Jose Police Chief (Ret.)

Orange County Superior Court Judge (Ret.)

Deputy Chief, LAPD (Ret.)

After reading that, can anyone honestly say “Well, I was going to vote for Prop 19, but now that I hear that it might not bring in the full $1.4 billion in tax revenue, what’s the point?”

2. Proposition 19 does not have a built-in $50 per ounce tax.

A lot of people seem to have that mistaken idea. That idea comes from a completely different bill that was proposed that has nothing to do with Prop 19. Prop 19 merely gives local government the power to set a tax and/or license fee. Each local community can decide. It could be $5 per ounce. It could be $50. It could be 0. Any community that sets it too high will likely be undercut by neighboring towns.

It’s actually an ingenious solution. By giving the power to the local communities, various options can be tried and we can learn from them. Yes, finally we can have that laboratory (flawed though it may be with the feds anxious to fight their own citizens) that we’ve been needing in drug policy for ages.

“It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system,” Justice Louis D. Brandeis wrote in 1932, “that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

Prop 19 is one of those fabulous opportunities to actually test legalization in a limited way. Any true researcher should be drooling at the opportunity to see such a reasonably safe laboratory finally answer a ton of questions.

And this delineates the line between the researcher/scientist and the charlatan who is too invested in prohibition to even allow it to be seriously challenged.

3. If you are pro-marijuana but are anti-Prop 19, what are your reasons?

  1. You are a profiteer. Like any major corporate CEO who says “screw the consumer” in order to increase the bottom line, you oppose the regulations that are part of legalization and that will make your job as a drug dealer harder or more competitive.
  2. You are a moron. You believe in some perfect world where marijuana is free for everyone. Cannabis is a gift from God, you say, and to involve taxes and government regulation soils it (as you smoke the moldy crap grown by Mexican cartels). Have you read the papers? Watched cable news? Read any web page on the internet that doesn’t have a cannabis leaf prominently on the top of it? Do you really see this world as one where a hippy nirvana is on the horizon ready to arrive any day now if we just hold off and defeat Prop 19? You are a moron.
  3. You tell me.

4. There are a few things Prop 19 will not do.

  • Prop 19 will not require anyone to consume cannabis who doesn’t want to
  • Prop 19 will not make your brain surgeon, bus driver, or airline pilot suddenly decide to do their job high.
  • Prop 19 will not suddenly turn the highway into a demolition derby.
  • Passage of Prop 19 will not make the opponents of Prop 19 any smarter.
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27 Responses to Prop 19 Ruminations

  1. Scott Morgan says:

    “Passage of Prop 19 will not make the opponents of Prop 19 any smarter.”

    Over time it might. Once their paranoid apocalyptic fantasies amount to nothing, perhaps they’ll gain some perspective.

  2. Pete says:

    It would be nice, Scott. We’ll see.

  3. Drew says:

    If you have any links to the 3-B types, I’d be glad to visit their websites/blogs and see what I can do. Hm, that is if they have any websites.

  4. KBCraig says:

    3.C., since you asked…

    The power to tax is the power to destroy. The entire “War on (some) Drugs” STARTED (on the federal level) by taxing certain drugs. (On the state level, it began by prohibiting certain immigrant groups from consuming certain drugs that were legally available in the free market to everyone else (San Francisco, c. 1875).

    As an aside, the U.S. notion of full majority at the age of 21 is an anomaly, a curiosity in this global world. Setting 21 as the minimum age for anything has no rational basis. It’s an arbitrary number unsupported by any scientific research.

    “Legalizing” cannabis by inviting in the full regulatory and taxation authority of the state, is no different than fixing the “problem” of false news reporting by giving the state authority to tax, regulate, and oversee all blogs and reporters.

    Don’t go down that road.

  5. frijoles jr says:


    That analogy only works if you assume that anyone can already get all the cannabis that they could possibly want and that all prop 19 does is shift around the vendors, so that instead of buying from your good friend or growing it yourself in your closet, you’ll get yours at the Circle K, or grow it in your yard.

    Unfortunately, that is not the reality for many of us.
    Some of us live in places where we don’t have friends who can or will sell, and some of us have reason to be aware of the risks of civil forfeiture and can’t chance growing their own. For people like us, the problem is like a person with no internet access who would very much like to be able to blog, finally getting the chance to do so, albeit on a government taxed and regulated platform, subject to government oversight.

    Sure, the underground bloggers already got theirs in that analogy, so they lose a measure of their independence. But the rest of us who don’t already have ours stand to gain one of the simple pleasures in life.

    It saddens me to know you would deny me this simple pleasure to save yourself a hassle.

  6. Duncan says:

    It saddens me to see people like KBCraig spouting nonsense as if it were demonstrable fact. Using precisely the same basis as the prohibitionist that cannabis is somehow special, and deserving of its own little niche set of rules. There isn’t going to be any re-legalization of cannabis without inviting in regulation and taxation. Aside from that there is absolutely no reason why cannabis shouldn’t be regulated and taxed. It’s delusional to believe that there’s even a pie in the sky hope that there will be some exception carved into reality for cannabis as if it were some sort of unique thing with religious properties.

    KBCraig, when you woke up this morning and looked over and saw Calvina Fay in your bed, what did you think? Then when you turned over all confused and saw Skip Miller snoring away?

  7. kaptinemo says:

    Considering myself a realist, this ol’ libertarian knows that The State will always exact its’ demand for a ‘pound of flesh’ in the form of a tax, regardless of Ben Franklin’s warning about the power to tax being the power to destroy.

    I really hate to say this, but true libertarian ideals as espoused by such worthies as Albert Knock are largely the preserve of what Nock called ‘The Remnant’…and will remain so, perhaps for as long as Nock foresaw.:

    From the linked essay:

    “In the year of Uzziah’s death, the Lord commissioned the prophet to go out and warn the people of the wrath to come. “Tell them what a worthless lot they are.” He said, “Tell them what is wrong, and why and what is going to happen unless they have a change of heart and straighten up. Don’t mince matters. Make it clear that they are positively down to their last chance. Give it to them good and strong and keep on giving it to them. I suppose perhaps I ought to tell you,” He added, “that it won’t do any good. The official class and their intelligentsia will turn up their noses at you and the masses will not even listen. They will all keep on in their own ways until they carry everything down to destruction, and you will probably be lucky if you get out with your life.”

    Isaiah had been very willing to take on the job — in fact, he had asked for it — but the prospect put a new face on the situation. It raised the obvious question: Why, if all that were so — if the enterprise were to be a failure from the start — was there any sense in starting it? “Ah,” the Lord said, “you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it.”

    Make no mistake; just about every cannabist is a member of that Remnant. Our stubborn insistence that, in the end, cannabis prohibition is about throttled freedoms being restored once more; about civil society returning to a reliance upon individual liberties being resuscitated after a long coma caused by rampant Statism having bludgeoned them from behind…these are hallmarks of that Remnant of freedom-loving people able to take responsibility for their own actions.

    That our opponents often confuse ‘libertinism‘ (“You just want it legal so you can smoke pot!”) with ‘libertarianism‘ (the expression of Constitutionally-guaranteed personal freedoms, not bestowed by The State, but which you had from the beginning the moment you were born) just goes to show how ignorant so many are of how far astray from the guiding principles of the Founders we have traveled as a people.

    We, who have had the lesson of why you should never entrust to The State any power that you are not willing to take back by force of arms (because The State invariably, inevitably abuses that power) know all too well what true freedom will look like, because we’re aware of what happens in its’ absence.

    We truly are a part of Nock’s ‘Remnant’, and daily, yearly suffer the ‘outrageous slings and arrows’ hurled by those who don’t realize how enslaved they are to a system that cares not one whit for them…and would sacrifice them on its’ altar of conformity without hesitation.

    But those ignorant of how much they’ve lost chasing the government-created chimera of ‘safety’ and ‘security’, those who, like Easu in the Bible, happily gave up their birthright for a ‘mess of pottage’, will always be in the majority. And so, in order to end a gigantic wrong, I am afraid that we will have to accept the much smaller nuisance of taxation to achieve a worthy goal. Bitter as this tastes, as much as it gags this ol’ Libber, it’s better than jackboots and machineguns.

  8. Pete says:

    Good discussion.

    KBCraig said:

    The power to tax is the power to destroy. The entire “War on (some) Drugs” STARTED (on the federal level) by taxing certain drugs. (On the state level, it began by prohibiting certain immigrant groups from consuming certain drugs that were legally available in the free market to everyone else (San Francisco, c. 1875).

    Yes, those taxes in the early days by the feds (before they decided that they had federal police power) were a way to get around the restrictions and stop drugs from being used legally. This potential upcoming tax (and note that the proposition does not mandate a tax) is one to allow people to start using drugs legally. There’s a massive difference between starting a prohibition and ending one.

    As an aside, the U.S. notion of full majority at the age of 21 is an anomaly, a curiosity in this global world. Setting 21 as the minimum age for anything has no rational basis. It’s an arbitrary number unsupported by any scientific research.

    I totally agree. And one of the things I would fight for is the elimination of that age restriction. In the meantime, I’d like to at least stop arresting the people over 21.

    “Legalizing” cannabis by inviting in the full regulatory and taxation authority of the state, is no different than fixing the “problem” of false news reporting by giving the state authority to tax, regulate, and oversee all blogs and reporters.

    Except that writing a blog isn’t currently illegal. I don’t face prison time for writing this blog. And, of course, all the income that I receive from ads on this blog is taxed.

  9. Nz says:

    Meanwhile, there is $14 billion in marijuana transactions every year in California, but we see none of the revenue that would come from taxing it.

    But the DEA and supporting SWAT cops see plenty, after they raid shops and clubs and take everything of value, including the money in the safes.

  10. Rhayader says:

    I think you qualify better for 3B, not 3C KBCraig.

    The power to tax is the power to destroy.

    What’s more destructive: cannabis prohibition or alcohol taxation? That’s the only relevant question here.

    Like Pete went to great pains to point out, we’re not comparing Prop 19 to some free-for-all utopia. That does not exist and never will. We’re comparing Prop 19 to a system that criminalizes innocent behavior and rots the rule of law from within. Compared to that, taxed regulation is like manna from heaven.

    It’s all relative. Proposition 19 is a tremendous relative improvement. Stop the selfish insistence on all or nothing, and realize we have a chance to make things a whole lot better.

  11. frijoles jr says:

    Well put, Kap. Not to take away from your point, but I’ll gladly cop to the charge of libertinism on this point: I do, in fact, want it to be legal so that I can smoke it.

    Since there is nothing wrong with smoking cannabis, I see no shame in admitting to a desire for that particular liberty.

  12. kaptinemo says:

    Frijoles Jr. I share the same sentiment, for obvious reasons. I was pointing out the inherent control-freak nature of prohibs, the same nature that led to temperance movements, denying sensible drug education, seat-belt laws, etc.

    Such people always see themselves as moral paragons endowed by God with a license to tell others how to live…until they eventually fall flat on their hypocritical faces due to one scandal or another.

    Once more, to quote Heinlein:

    “Political tags–such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and. so forth–are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.” (Emphasis mine -k.)

    I know who I want to sit down to table with, and it’s not the sort who talk so glibly about treating their neighbors like germs in need of disinfectant due to their lifestyles…

  13. Maria says:

    I also really do not understand the Utopian ‘cannabis is love, it shouldn’t ever be soiled with taxes so I’d rather it be illegal’ mindset (but it can be soiled with blood and tears and puke just fine?)

    I’ve said this before, not sure if on here, but there seems to be a segment of the cannabis community where their entire identity is wrapped up in being underground and illegal. Fighting the man and makin’ money. Etc. Fine. Ok. Good for you. It’s like the idea that if cannabis is made legal, taxed and regulated it will be like a boring old bottle of beer! That this destroys the mystique of their outlaw persona. In fact, it does. “Weed is legal? Shit, what now??” Well, either you grown your own, buckled down and go pro or find something else to do.

    In a state that isn’t cali I have a friend who’s chomping at the bit to provide additional baked goods in his selection. Why? Because he enjoys them personally and because he knows he can sell them and people will buy them and enjoy them as consumers.

    But that will not happen anytime soon. He’s a business man, he wants legalization because he doesn’t want to lose his entire business and life in fighting ‘the man’ all because he used an additional ingredient and sells to adults. Yet he still ends up risking that life to use a little on his own, all in order to relieve the aches and pains from a demanding life and job. So the taxes thing? Despite how much they are insulting to our liberty, despite how prevalent the, entrenched and evil they can be. It’s not going to sway me one iota.

  14. claygooding says:

    “Legalizing” cannabis by inviting in the full regulatory and taxation authority of the state, is no different than fixing the “problem” of false news reporting by giving the state authority to tax, regulate, and oversee all blogs and reporters.”

    As long as we can grow our own,they can put all the tax on commercial marijuana they want too. And if they start charging for self grown marijuana,they will have to figure out who is legal and who is growing illegal. I you don’t sell any marijuana to anyone,or flaunt your grow,how would they know?

  15. BluOx says:

    This may have been brought up before, but what of those who have paid the ultimate tax? Those that are sitting in the prisons in CA. for marijane offenses. When P19 passes what about them?

  16. darkcycle says:

    The two cents worth here is that there is a huge difference between a prohibitive tax and a levied tax. The Cannabis Tax of 1937 was modeled on the ‘machine gun tax’. Prior to the MG tax, the United States had never seen a tax designed to prohibit the trade in an artical. Incidently, the prohibitive tax was struck down by the supreme court in the seventies. This resulted in the ‘controlled substances act’. The controlled substances act also rests on constitutionally shaky ground, relying on a sweeping interpretation of the constitution’s “commerce clause”, that the courts so far have upheld. It is no longer possible to levy a prohibitive tax, thanks to the supremes. The tax invisioned will be no different that the tax you pay on a meal at a resteraunt, or the tax on your gasoline. To oppose 19 based on this specious arguement is self destructive. There won’t be legalization without some taxation or regulatory scheme.
    Longishly-short: the tax, when it is applied, will be there to generate income for the state, not to strangle commerce.

  17. Maria says:

    BluOx – That is a really good question. I’d be very surprised if no one’s thinking thinking about how to handle it, especially the lawyers out there. But I have not heard anything about that either. Anyone?

    clay – Exactly, home grown weed shared with friends PLUS farms producing a commercial product sold to the consumer PLUS medical dispensaries PLUS.. etc. All completely different spheres of activity. Once things “normalize” (prop 19 isn’t going to do that, but it’s good step) these spheres will probably be treated quite differently, just like alcohol right now. Home made beer and wine living along side commercial breweries and wineries (and micro breweries, and hard liquors versus ‘soft’ and liquor licenses, and open container laws, etc etc). It’s all going to be hashed out somehow.

    Friend made some damned good dandelion wine once, and I don’t recall the police busting down the door to check if we where going to sell it. Though now that i think about, we got some nice salmon in exchange for a bottle. OMG, a financial transaction!

  18. ezrydn says:

    Prop. 19 suffers from the same problem that the AZ Immigration Law had. No one is smart enough to read the damned things, even though they’re simply worded. People would rather wait for the talking heads to pour their pablum mix into their ears so their minds will absorb the new information, whether it be true or false.

  19. kaptinemo says:

    Blue Ox, I have thought about it…and unfortunately the idea will be considered ‘radical’ .

    Reparations for false imprisonment (based upon all the precepts of cannabis prohibition being bald-faced LIES), such as is provided to the convicted but innocent for their improper incarceration.

    Reparations for lost income for being fired from a job for non-impaired, off-duty cannabis use (only discovered through piss-testing).

    And a blue-ribbon Congressional panel along the lines of the South African Truth and Reconciliation committees to dig out every single damning instance in which a life was destroyed by the lies that comprise drug prohibition…and the severest sanctions possible against those bureaucrats, LEO’s, policy makers of every stripe, who knew the lies were lies but took the money for repeating those lies.

    That would amount to a Hell of a LOT of people facing jail terms. Which is just fine by me, as they can rot in the prisons they built for us because of their moronic viciousness and greed.

  20. Floater says:

    I’m in North Carolina, wathcing this from afar, and I’m truly hoping that this passes. I think it’s coming evetually – it’s only a matter of time – but I hope it’s sooner rather than later!

    It just makes sense.

  21. Ned says:

    Prop 19 was written to legalize in the most minimal way possible. It was surely seen as necessary to have a chance at passing. However certain compromises made are disappointing and because of the nature of direct initiatives could be very difficult to change or improve.

    The drafters seemed to think the finer points mattered immensely and went out of their way to have the proposition be extremely mild. I don’t think such concessions were necessary in advance however because there is little debate about the specifics. It’s all just about whether to legalize or not.

    The one oz possession limit is absurd and seems to make no difference to opponents. The lack of any mandate to release current prisoners or erase records is a glaring omission. The provision that localities can decide on most of the specifics also seems to impress few opponents and will create a messy patchwork of regulations that will be good for some areas and terrible for others.

    As far as taxes go, legal pot is/was always going to be excise taxed. Anybody expecting that it wouldn’t/shouldn’t be isn’t living in this reality. The true success of cannabis legalization is going to depend on establishing a paradigm of production taxation distribution and regulation that let’s normal forces of a marketplace find the right overall balance. Legal retail prices of commercial quality ozs are going to have to be low. So low that any reason to skirt the legal system is eliminated. The kind of low that only properly scaled producers can deliver profitably. If legalization is implemented in a way that attempts to constrain use through manipulations such as high taxes and limited high cost production, it won’t succeed at eliminating the black market and garnering tax compliance.

  22. Nz says:

    Fighting the man and makin’ money. Etc. Fine. Ok. Good for you. It’s like the idea that if cannabis is made legal, taxed and regulated it will be like a boring old bottle of beer! That this destroys the mystique of their outlaw persona.

    Punks that want to be kingpins and kingpins that are destined to be punks. They have no imagination and very low IQs.

  23. Tony Aroma says:

    “Prop 19 will not make your brain surgeon, bus driver, or airline pilot suddenly decide to do their job high.”

    I predict now that medical cannabis is legal in DC, that the entire DEA and our Drug Czar himself will be high on the job all the time. After all, what’s to stop them now?

  24. darkcycle says:

    Even after the repeal of prohibition, some moonshiners couldn’t give it up, they just moved deeper into the hills. There will certainly be vestages of the old cannabis community unable to adjust to the new scheme. That’s no reason to change course. Or to even consider it. Countless outlaw growers and distributors stand to lose here. Rice bowls will be broken. (when do we see this on wall st.?) Be reassured: the new, above ground economy will absorb those who will be able to adjust, plus some. We need to think of the social consequences we’re seeing right now, look at the prison system. Know that RIGHT NOW, in Texass (intentional) some poor guy WITH a California medical reccomendation is facing LIFE IN A TEXAS PRISON for just over an ounce of weed and few grams of Hash. SERIOUSLY! Go to [] and read about it. The status quo is intolerable…it must end any way we can end it. Period.

  25. Dano says:

    What gets me are the medical marijuana outlets that are telling their patients this will destroy their access and urging customers to vote NO on prop 19! It’s just pure greed if you ask me. I don’t have too much trouble with someone making money through selling marijuana, even for medical use, since the corner drug stores sure make a good profit. What I do object to is people that want to keep their market closed and prices high so that they can make even more money on the backs of medical users.

    If we can just get people to put the weed aside for 1 day when the election comes around and vote we’ll all have the ability to get marijuana at even lower prices and cut most gangs out of the trade at the same time. If taxes become a burden, as some areas are likely to try, you’ll still be able to grow your own legally! And tax free at that!

    At the local Borders bookstore I noticed there is a shelf about 3ft long all dedicated to growing marijuana. Big books, little books, picture books, they probably even have an audio book available too. Even a book about growing 8oz for less than $100 – sounds like a bargain to me!

  26. Guy#1 says:

    There is no other option, no legislature is going to pass this even in California. Lets stop arresting people for it then we can worry about the details.

  27. c.lee says:

    a yes vote on prop 19 is a yes vote to starve to death millions.mostly in africa.put your self in the farmers place grow friuts or veggies get$1 to $2 dollars per pound grow marijuana get$1000 to $2000 per pound.the world depends on californias agriculter with out it many will die every day!furthermore millions are colleted every year from marijuana sells in california!this is one of the most harmful yes vote you will ever make.

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