California’s Proposition 19 was voted down on Tuesday, despite the best efforts of Zach Galifianakis. The Hangover stand-out star lit up what appeared to be a real joint on Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday in an effort to quell any lingering anti-weed, Reefer Madness-esque propaganda. Galifianakis, along with a number of other celebrities, had been a staunch supporter of Prop 19, a ballot initiative that would have allowed recreational users over the age of 21 to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana and allow the state government to tax its sale. Not just for tokers, supporters of the initiative encouraged voters to consider the possible benefits of regulation, including additional tax revenue, less drug-related violence, and a decrease in underage users.
Although Prop 19′s failure is a setback, all is not lost in the war to end the hyperbolic “War on Drugs.” This October, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that effectively decriminalizes marijuana in California. Before a felony offense with jail time, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is now classified as an infraction with no possible jail time and a maximum fine of $100. The bill will go into effect this January. Although pot remains illegal, it is no longer seen as a hefty offense in California.
This may seem like a small victory for pro-pot activists, but it is an important victory in this high-stakes political battle. Possession and sale of marijuana is still a federal offense, and if California legalizes pot, it would be flying in the face of federal laws. It’s likely that the prospect of this uphill battle has dissuaded a good number of voters and politicians from getting their hands dirty.
But maybe some new hands will help pick out the seeds. Prop 19 was most popular among the young, an interesting (hypocritical?) result considering the youthful pro-pot culture of the now-middle-aged crowd. As the youth grow older and hopefully engage more in politics, legalization may become more likely. Or perhaps the young want to cling to their rebellious habits, not pay taxes on their pleasures.
Either way, with support from such unpredictable characters as Zach Galifianakis, an interesting battle for legalization lies ahead.
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