Now that the California state budget has all but gone up in smoke, revered economists and casual cannabis users alike are saying it’s high time marijuana was legalized for recreational use.
If it passes on Nov. 2, Proposition 19 will allow Californians over the age of 21 to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, a change that would have numerous implications for law enforcement, drug users and distributors, and the Pomona College community.
Advocates of Prop. 19 argue that the legislation will put an end to decades of failed U.S. drug policy by creating a sorely-needed source of tax revenue and allowing law enforcement to direct its resources toward battling crime with more urgent consequences than marijuana use. The Board of Equalization, which oversees California tax collection, has estimated that legalized pot transactions would generate nearly $1.4 billion in revenue.
However, opponents of the policy argue that quality of life will suffer if state workers, especially those behind the wheels of trucks and city buses, are allowed to start showing up to work under the influence of marijuana. Yes On Proposition 19 assures voters that it will still be just as illegal to drive under the influence of pot as it is to drive drunk, but No On Proposition 19: Public Safety First counters that the language of the bill leaves too many loopholes that could lead to policy that endangers public health.
Other opponents maintain that the bill will have little impact on drug cartels across the border or drug-related violence and that it lacks specific plans for taxation of the drug.
So far, polls have shown that the population is split evenly on the issue, with an approval rate of roughly 50 percent. Public Policy Polling showed support at 52 percent, but the result may largely depend on the turnout of younger voters.
Pomona—and the other 5Cs—could face some notable changes if Prop. 19 passes. Pomona College Student Affairs would need to amend the school’s drug policy, which currently regards marijuana as an illegal drug and prohibits its use on campus.
“[The legislation has] been tracking like it’s going to pass since the spring,” said Pomona Dean of Campus Life Ric Townes. “We’re going to have to deal with this.”
However, he added that the school has not held any formal discussions as to how the drug policy will change if marijuana is no longer an illegal drug for persons of age.
If Prop. 19 were to pass, Pomona would have little time to act, since successful propositions come into effect by the following January.
If it does pass, Townes said, there is only so much a college can do to intervene in cannabis consumption among students. Pomona’s primary goal, he explained, will be make sure it is being used safely rather than to preach abstinence. He said the latter approach has been increasingly abandoned by colleges and universities as it has proven ineffective.
“At the end of the day, there’s a line of individual rights that the college can’t cross,” Townes said. “We’ll just try to give people good information about the effects of marijuana, and expect that people will make good decisions for themselves.”
Still, users would not be allowed to smoke inside Pomona’s buildings, a rule that has already been established for tobacco. In addition, Prop. 19 prohibits cannabis use in public and in the presence of minors.
Supporters of the legislation certainly aren’t hard to find at Pomona—Walker Wall currently sports a bold “Puff Puff Pass Prop. 19” mural, and students have donned stickers emblazoned with the declaration, “Yes We Cannabis.”
“This proposition just makes sense,” Becky Loeb PO ‘13 said of the initiative. “California is in deep trouble financially and definitely can use the help.”
“Plus, it’ll just increase the chillness factor of the entire state,” Loeb added.
Joel Detweiler PO ‘12 agreed that the proposition made sense for a state where marijuana is widely available.
“Medical marijuana already is so exploited that it’s almost legalized anyway, so they might as well be able to tax it,” Detweiler said.
Sameera Mokkarala PO ‘12, a head sponsor who lives on the substance-free second floor of Lyon Court, said that passing Proposition 19 would make the college’s drug policy harder to enforce.
“We’re already dealing with a lot of weed and drug use on campus, and so adding a legality component to weed would just make it a lot more complicated,” Mokkarala said.
She also predicted that legalizing marijuana “won’t actually help as much as we think it will” when it comes to closing California’s budget gap.