Part 2: Arguments against Marijuana Legalization in California

Thursday, March 25th, 2010 By

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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This post has 9 comments

  1. peace says:

    I agree with most of the proponents coments. However what concerns me, is the large companies that will put the mom and pop growers out of business. What will happen then. How can large companies stay away from encroaching on the current growers business. They are the people that have worked hard to get to the prevailing issues today.

  2. kmj says:

    to all of the pepole that read this please understand that CA is one of the largest economy in the united states. also as of know it is one of the largest defficet holders not only would this help CA this tax could also help the rest of the U.S. as the DEA has said that this will not help but the DEA spends more money on cannabis like 10-20 billion dollars to police it. so you auttomaticly add a few billion to the goverment to not police it. the US is creating all lof the black market cartel's and their revnue! if you legalize all drugs tax them and regulate them cartel's would no longer beable to survive. LOOK AT AL CAPONE AND THE ALCOHOL PROHIBITION.THE US GOVERMENT MADE HIM AND HIS EMPIRE! this is not the land of the dictator home of the policed is it? it is home of the free land of the brave so lets make it the way we want it?land of no prohibition is the way to go. lets prohibit prohibition.

    • Steven Tarlow says:

      Some very interesting points to consider here.

    • Jovial says:

      You make a sound argument, but the world being a biased place, I would still try to keep your grammar intact. They shouldn't police people for their own choices in substance ingestion but they won't think that much if they get it from someone with bad english.

  3. Paul Kemp says:

    "Big Bud" & "High Taxes": The Implications of CA's Marijuana Ballot Initiative on Tax Policy and Intrastate Trade

    In examining the marijuana ballot initiative's policy structure, It's interesting to note that regulation would be controlled by the city/county rather than the state legislature. This has several hidden advantages.

    First, handing the authority to tax marijuana down to local governments will inevitably quash uniformity in the state's laws and regulations. The upside, is this will prevent large corporate marijuana distributors from emerging and dominating the production and retail market. A marijuana farm operating legally in one county could not transport their product to or through a county that prohibited it's sale without violating the laws of that county, thus keeping the marijuana industry locally owned and operated.

    Second, regulating marijuana tax policy at the county level will create a reasonable and competitive tax structure throughout the state. Left to the state legislature, marijuana could be subject to ever increasing taxes. If marijuana is excessively taxed, the black market that exists today could easily reemerge. With local government in control, counties willing to embrace a legalizing marijuana will benefit from increased revenue as they draw in customers from neighboring counties with disproportionately high taxes or prohibition. In the end it is likely an equilibrium will be reached where tax rates encourage the marijuana industry to unearth itself from it's counterculture past and enter the realm of legitimacy while simultaneously satisfying the government's need to raise desperately needed revenue.

  4. alan says:

    Did you know that you can pass all the State laws you want and they are null and void??? According to the US Constitution they are!! Pot possession, use grow, and sell is illegal NO MATTER WHAT STATE LAW WAS PASSED!!

    Reno, Nv


    Which States:

    Steven Alan Fink cotributor

    Posted about 2 hours ago. This attorney is licensed in California.

    The Supremacy Clause contained in Article VI, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution gives Federal law precedence over conflicting state law. U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that state statutes are void to the extent they conflict with Federal statutes.


      Hey ALAN I didn't quite get your post it is obvious that federal law overrides state law. I think I learned that in 5th grade. If your argument that marijuana should be illegal- is because it is illegal then can you please leave this country. There is no more room for people like you. If you were stating a fact and actually agree that marijuana should be legal then I apologize.

    • tdog says:

      There is no federal preemption issue. This proposition merely legalizes pot and allows taxation under STATE law. It will still be illegal under federal law, of course. But just because the feds outlaw something does not mean that preemption requires a state to outlaw it as well. Signed, a CA lawyer.

  5. Leonard Krivitsky, M says:

    I worked for years in drug addiction clinics of Philadelphia, and I have seen hundreds of cases of severe physical dependence on pain-killer opiates as well as all kinds of "nerve" and "sleeping" pills. This kind of severe dependence is accompanied by a pronounced withdrawal syndrome – including seizures, vomiting, terrible bone pain, loose bowels – you name it. An overdose with any of these substances can easily lead to death. CNN reported a couple of days ago that thousands of our veterans are dependent on all kinds of prescription narcotic drugs while the VA Administration stubbornly refuses to utilize medical marijuana, even though it would be very helpful in many cases, and even in the States where it is legal. Canada, on the other hand, pays for medical marijuana for its veterans (which would be so much cheaper than the synthetic chemicals of many prescription drugs). It is worth repeating (for the millionth time) that marijuana is immeasurably safer than alcohol.

    During my years as an addiction medicine physician I have never seen a case of marijuana overdose, or even a physical withdrawal associated with its use, and the only very rare and very questionable cases of "marijuana addiction" were those coercively "referred" by the Parole or Probation department after a person failed the drug test. I cannot possibly say this better than the following quote:

    " Cannabis will one day be seen as a wonder drug, as was penicillin in the 1940s. Like penicillin, herbal marijuana is remarkably nontoxic, has a wide range of therapeutic applications and would be quite inexpensive if it were legal." – Dr. Lester Grinspoon, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2006

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