California Prop 19 vs. Arizona’s Immigration Law

July 16th, 2010

By Dan Miller

If the federal government does not preempt the Golden State’s attempt to legalize marijuana, it would make their attack on Arizona’s immigration law look like a matter of political whimsy.

*  *  *

California Proposition 19 would make the sale and use of marijuana for many purposes, beyond medical use, lawful and taxable in California:

Proposition 19, also known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, is a California ballot proposition which will be on the November 2, 2010, California statewide ballot. It legalizes various marijuana-related activities, allows local governments to regulate these activities, permits local governments to impose and collect marijuana-related fees and taxes, and authorizes various criminal and civil penalties. In March 2010 it qualified to be on the November statewide ballot.

Under the proposition:

Persons over the age of 21 may possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal consumption.

May use marijuana in a non-public place such as a residence or a public establishment licensed for on site marijuana consumption.

May grow marijuana at a private residence in a space of up to 25 square feet for personal use.

The official California report on Proposition 19 observes:

Marijuana is illegal under federal laws. If marijuana becomes legal in California under state law, it will still be federally illegal. The U.S. Supreme [Court] has previously ruled that federal agents can arrest medical marijuana users and growers even though Proposition 215 [enacted in 1996] makes that behavior legal in California.

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4 Responses to “California Prop 19 vs. Arizona’s Immigration Law”

  1. Brian Bagent |

    The worst laws are the ones that do not have near universal support. Even burglars and murderers will say that what they do is wrong. Not so with drug laws, especially the federal ones.

    I wonder why it is that it took the 18th amendment and Volstead to outlaw alcoholic beverages, yet there is no constitutional amendment for drugs.

    In answer to your question, it will be easier for the federal government to go after Arizona than it will be for them to do anything about marijuana. Ultimately, the USSC could preempt Prop 19 (should it become law) and strike it down. However, in response, California could simply write a law decriminalizing marijuana. The federal government couldn’t do anything except threaten to withhold federal funding because they cannot force California to have a law that criminalizes marijuana. I don’t think withholding federal money will fly with California.

  2. Brianna |

    “I don’t think withholding federal money will fly with California.”

    I dunno, they’re really broke right now. Maybe they’ll have the bureaucrats do a cost-effectivenes study on the fiscal benefits of legalizing marijuana and collecting taxes on it, vs. keeping marijuana illegal and continuing to receive federal funds for that law 🙂

  3. Tom Carter |

    The issue is obviously one of federal power versus states rights, and it seems pretty clear that federal power will prevail if the Administration (and Congress, if necessary) want it to. That’s the way it should be, if there’s to be a federal government, provided that federal law and enforcement action are in themselves constitutional. However, the feds are dithering around with enforcement (immigration, marijuana in CA) and causing a lot of this stuff in the first place. California’s action could end up forcing the feds to enforce federal law on marijuana, obivously an unintended consequence.

    On the substance, I’ve always supported legalization of marijuana. I can’t see any difference between it and alcohol. Legalize it, tax it, and control it like alcohol. That will generate tax revenue, stop the travesty of making criminals out of users and throwing them in overcrowded jails, and get real criminals out of the business entirely. The argument that marijuana use leads to hard drug use is specious — the linkage exists, to the extent it is real, because of the fact that marijuana is part of the illegal drug business. Legalize it, and the link is broken.

  4. Brian Bagent |

    Tom, I know this is kind of beating a dead horse, but the link is corollary.

    I can just as accurately and honestly say that milk is a gateway substance to hard drug use. After all, everybody that uses hard drugs today drank milk, too. They probably still do drink milk.

    I’d argue, quite strongly, that there is no constitutional authority to ban any drugs. If the authority is there, then the 18th amendment was superfluous and the federal government has the authority to ban anything.

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