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California Proposition 19: The next stand for federalism?

California’s going to have a busy ballot in November. In addition to voting for Governor, Senator, and more statewide offices than you can shake a stick at, we’re going to have a long list of initiative statutes and constitutional amendments to deal with.

One of the more interesting ones is numbered 19. Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, if passed will legalize small time use, cultivation, and possession of cannabis for all Californians, instead of just those with doctor’s notes.

The first thing many critics of the initiative point out is that 19 can’t change federal law. That is true, but what it will do is turn California authorities into non-combatants on that front of the federal Drug War. That’s important, because according to Ballotpedia 99% of all cannabis arrests in America are by state officials, not federals. Without state cooperation, the federal cannabis prohibition will be, for all but the most high profile distributors, de facto repealed.

California is a sovereign state, and if we want to leave enforcement of federal law to the federals, we have every right to do that. If the FBI wants to start rounding up every idiot 16 year old who messes around with dope after school, instead of going after terrorists and international gangs, let them. But if Proposition 19 passes, that’s not our state government’s problem anymore.

The only factor in my mind that determines whether Proposition 19 should pass or fail is whether the policy is the right thing to implement. I personally don’t favor a sweeping new set of taxes combined with the legalization of a socially corrosive drug, and so I will vote against it. But standing up for expanded DC power at the expense of the states will be the last thing on my mind when I vote no.

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