News / USA

California to Vote on Legalizing Marijuana

Western state could become the first to approve pot use for non-medical purposes

Multimedia

Mike O'Sullivan

Proposition 19 would legalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, despite a federal law against it.
Proposition 19 would legalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, despite a federal law against it.

California could become the first American state to allow people to smoke a joint just because they feel like it.

In 1996, California became the first U.S. state to approve the medical use of marijuana. Since then, 13 other states and Washington, D.C., have passed similar laws.

Now a measure on the California ballot in November, called Proposition 19, will determine whether to legalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, despite a federal law against it.  

Proposition 19

Marijuana is widely available in California at special cooperatives and clinics. Anyone with a doctor's note who is registered as a marijuana patient can get the drug for nearly any ailment.

What California voters must now decide is whether to legalize and tax small amounts of marijuana for use by any adult - without a doctor's note. The measure was placed on the ballot through a petition drive.  

"It decriminalizes possession [of small] amounts, while at the same time offers up the opportunity to control, tax and regulate on the other side," explains Dale Sky Jones, spokeswoman for the campaign in support of Proposition 19.

Thriving industry

In the city of Oakland, a thriving industry has grown around marijuana and other products of the hemp plant. The Oakland Patient ID Center is a privately-run enterprise which issues identity cards to its members and sells marijuana-related supplies.

"Basically, we provide anything that has to do with hemp-associated goods, anything made out of hemp," says Chad Gilmore, who manages the center. "We carry T-shirts and bags and products - body products and shampoos and such - that are all associated with hemp oils.  But we also carry pipes and smoking supplies.  A lot of vaporizers, vaporizers being another way to medicate in a concentrated for with hot air."

Oakland is also home to a training school called Oaksterdam University, named after Oakland and the marijuana-tolerant Dutch city of Amsterdam. Students learn to grow marijuana and run marijuana clinics.  Spokeswoman Salwa Ibrahim says the school attracts students from around the world.

"They've had Iran, Japan, the Philippines, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Russia," she says. "We've had students from all over."

One of them is Jesus Hernandez, an 18-year-old from Alameda, California.

"I plan to get into the industry, make as much money as I can, take full advantage of this opportunity that I have," says Hernandez.

Money maker

Local officials at Oakland City Hall also hope to see the industry expand. City Council member Jean Quan says it can help the local economy and increase tax revenue.

"Either medical marijuana is going to be produced here on the West Coast or some day the tobacco industry, when it's legal, will probably produce in places like Virginia," says Quan. "But in the interim, there's a lot of interest, so we've decided to license four producers, and we've gotten over 100 applications. Some of the applications include partnerships with some pretty big drug companies and manufacturers."

While there is little opposition to marijuana in Oakland, polls show that California voters are divided on Proposition 19.  Former Oakland police officer Pete Dunbar is now police chief in the city of Pleasant Hill.

"Oakland sees this as being some way to help with their budget deficit because they've got the dispensaries already there in place and all it will take is a little bit of tweaking, regulation, and they could be up and running, which is a sad way to deal with your deficit by selling marijuana."

Details of existing law are still being debated and the new ballot measure would add more uncertainty.

Some critics say clinics skirt existing California law by selling marijuana. They argue the law requires marijuana patients to raise the plant themselves or in collectives, and not sell it.

Industrial-scale plots, like those planned in the city of Oakland, will probably bring court challenges. Many in the law enforcement community have asked federal authorities to contest the measure, if it does pass.  

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs