Katy Perry was right. In California, the grass is always greener. And as of last week, getting caught with an ounce or less of grass won’t get you jail time, it will only get you a $100 fine and a citation. For those playing at home, that’s about three days of parking citations from UF and less than one citation for using a duplicate decal.
Non-medical marijuana has officially been decriminalized in the state of California, making it the 12th state in the union to do so. It also puts California on a path to being on the right side of history.
Say what you want about marijuana as a whole, but decriminalization for small possession is a logical move.
Prison overcrowding is a legitimate issue in the United States, and as it currently stands I’d much rather let small-time users free than convicted sex offenders and murderers. I feel much more safe around those who are growing dazed and confused than those who have a history of violent crime. It’s just common sense.
Now, here’s where it gets tricky. California, as of now, legally allows medical marijuana (like 15 other states), and there’s no restriction on the amount as long as the user is registered through his or her county. It now also allows non-medical marijuana to be used, but only up to an ounce.
The federal government? Not so much.
In Gonzales v. Raich, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government under the commerce clause still had the right to arrest and penalize marijuana users who were using the drug legally under their respective state laws but were still violating federal law by possessing it, regardless of whether or not it was an ounce or a pound.
Thankfully, a few months after Obama’s inauguration, Attorney General Eric Holder announced he’d be ordering the Drug Enforcement Agency to stop seizures in states where marijuana was legal. That’s a good move. It saves time, resources and, frankly, who cares if a nonviolent citizen took a few hits from his pipe? Smuggling cocaine from Colombia? Bigger deal.
Taking a few hits of a non-addictive substance that has caused zero reported deaths in comparison to tobacco or alcohol should not be the focus of the Department of Justice.
It’s time for a common-sense conversation about marijuana in the state of Florida. California’s Proposition 19 will be up for a vote in less than a month. This bill would legalize and tax cannabis in the state, which is further than any other state in the union has gone to legalize marijuana.
Florida on the other hand? No legal medical marijuana, no decriminalized possession of marijuana. Behind the times? Understatement.
Unfortunately for everyday voters, there is one issue that goes unnoticed: the people who profit the most from marijuana being illegal. It’s the drug dealers themselves.
As there is no set open-market value, dealers and growers can capitalize and make huge profits. Legalizing and taxing marijuana would provide the government tax revenue, eliminate the true black market and implement safeguards like those used in helping to prevent the sale of tobacco or alcohol to minors.
Just the other day at a Gainesville head shop, I saw a responsible shop owner ask younger patrons their age and force a 16-year-old to leave. Right now, middle schoolers are smoking marijuana because no such safeguards exist. Obviously, the safeguards aren’t universal, but they do help more than they hurt.
Hopefully, Florida will one day be on the right side of history when it comes to ending prohibition of marijuana.
Sean Quinn is a first-year political science student. His column appears every Wednesday.