Letters to the Editor

California’s Prop 19 just first step toward legalization of marijuana

The University of Houston was awash in marijuana when I got my MA (Sociology) in the ’70s. It largely replaced alcohol among grad students — also at St. Thomas later.

Hope grew after the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse reports of 1972 and 1973 laid out the facts so well, but stuff happens — read insanity, panic and propaganda.

Zeke Barrera is right on many counts. Prop 19 in California — which was financed by my friend and former Houstonian, Richard Lee — is just the first step in a process.

The federal government cannot force state officials to enforce federal law and the DEA simply lacks the resources to do more than make a few busts for show on their own.

Prop 19 was actually designed to mimic Texas laws for alcohol and any major confusion will be the result of inept local leaders.

Reformers around the nation are prepared to launch similar initiatives and many conservative representatives are secretly very supportive.

The federal position will not be tenable — reschedule and traditional experimentation by the states will become inevitable.

Ultimately, with marijuana out of the picture, the country will come to realize that very few people (less than 1 percent of us) have a problem with prohibited drugs, and that legality has nothing significant to do with their use or access to drugs. Strict regulation will simply mean those few people will get their drug from a doctor, instead of cartels and drug dealers — with much better outcomes for all of us.

Jerry Epstein is president of Drug Policy Forum of Texas and a UH alumnus.

1 Comment

  • Jerry: Thank you for that bit of sanity. I completely agree.

    As to your statement, "any major confusion will be the result of inept local leaders"

    There are many reasons for Prop. 19 not passing. Certainly one of them is "inept local readers" as well as a powerful lobby which deceived the public as to what 19 says and means. That said, there were some problems with the Prop. 19 language and campaign.

    The question we must ask is not whether Prop. 19 is correct or even written well – but how it is perceived and how we can change that perception. For this reason, iI should not have been called TAX and regulate, since the tax scheme was left up to individual cities. People who were skeptical of the initiative were no doubt put off by this and may have seen this as purposely deceptive.

    Second, Joseph McNamara's (one of my heros!) message that this would deal a major blow to the drug cartels was also slightly mis-leading according to Jeffrey Miron (an expert cited by many Prop. 19 supporters). Although federal prohibition repeal would deal a huge blow to these cartels, and certainly Prop. 19 is an important step on the way to federal repeal, it is inaccurate to state that Prop 19 alone would harm the cartels much or reduce that much violence in Mexico. Again, I think many skeptics found this off-putting and deceptive as well. And again, we lost points in the perception arena.

    Just food for thought. I'd be honored if you passed this along to your buddy Richard. And if you do, tell him I'm a big fan of his too!

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