Part 2: Arguments against Marijuana Legalization in California

Two marijuana plants growing in a cage outdoors.

Opponents of the California marijuana legalization measure would prefer that crops such as this were not legal. Image from Flickr.

California’s Secretary of State has certified that the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis act in California has received enough voter signatures to be considered on the ballot in November. To see a full rundown of the voter initiative and arguments for marijuana legalization, see The California Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act: Part 1. While polls show a 59 percent majority of California voters have decided do support the marijuana legalization measure, there are detractors of the voter initiative that say the tax pay day is not worth the problems the act will create. These opponents fall into two major camps – those who believe the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis will cause medical or crime problems, and those who believe it will hurt the quality of marijuana.

The medical argument against legalizing cannabis

While the medical uses of marijuana are under debate, many doctors agree there are some medical uses for the drug. However, the legalization of recreational use could lead to many negative health effects.

Marijuana is mainly ingested through smoking, and the smoking of any substance, especially long-term, can seriously damage a person’s lungs. It has also been shown that frequent heavy use of marijuana can permanently impair short-term memory and reaction time. These opponents argue that legalized recreational marijuana would increase the use of marijuana, which would be a danger to public health.

The crime argument against marijuana legalization

The California Peace Officers Association, among many others, has spoken out against the initiative intended to legalize marijuana. John Lovell, who lobbies for the association went on record against the bill, saying “We have enough problems with alcohol and abuse of pharmaceutical products. Do we really need to add yet another mind-altering substance to the array?”

Detractors also point out that, no matter what California voters pass, marijuana remains a Schedule I illegal substance, federally. Federal law enforcement officials have not been prosecuting small medical marijuana dispensaries or users, but large-scale production and distribution still remains a serious federal crime. If marijuana were to be legalized in California, it could draw organized crime and drug cartels to the state.

The quality argument against legalizing pot

While many marijuana smokers and growers usually stand at odds against those who want to keep marijuana illegal, a small coalition is emerging. In Humboldt County, many growers and distributors of gray or black market marijuana fear that legalized pot could be economically and socially damaging. Economically, growers fear that legalized marijuana would significantly reduce the sales price of their cash crop. This would put their livelihood and the economic base of much of Humboldt county at risk, sending many of them to credit counseling. Additionally, many growers are concerned that if marijuana does become legal, large corporations would move into the market. Like many other small-scale growers in America, the growers would be forced to compete against agribusinesses, which could drive up the cost while driving down the price of their crops.

There are many arguments both for and against the passage of California’s Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis act. The debate about legalization has been raging for over a hundred years, and when California voters go to the polls in November, the result will be closely watched and hotly debated for a long time to come.


Business Week
Seattle Times
Time Magazine
California NORML

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