Hashing out all misnomers about the vote

In November, thousands of Californians will light up the polls in a joint effort to legalize marijuana.

Last month, proponents of the legalization of marijuana succeeded in garnering enough petition signatures to put the initiative on the ballot for the state’s upcoming November elections.

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Many breathed a sigh of relief as the final petition numbers were counted and added up to around 690,000  signatures, well over the 433,000 required to put the initiative on the ballot. If the bill is passed into law, any adult in California will be able to buy marijuana legally, possess up to an ounce of it and even grow up to 25 square feet of it in their backyards. Spawning a whole new generation of motivated gardeners, this bill is a good thing for sunny California.

So what’s the big deal?

Before rejoicing just yet, marijuana fans on campus should know that not much will change at USC.

Currently, Department of Public Safety officers on our campus are instructed to enforce state laws when it comes to marijuana possession and use.

“If a student is found with less than an ounce of marijuana, they are cited; if they have more than an ounce, they are arrested,” said DPS Capt. David Carlisle. “In both situations, the case is given to the L.A. Superior Court to decide a punishment.”

Under the new law, these same rules would be enforced. The official Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 “prohibits people from possessing marijuana on school grounds, using it in public, smoking it while minors are present, or providing it to anyone under 21 years old.”

These guidelines ensure that, if the initiative is voted into law, it will still be just as illegal to possess it on USC grounds, even for students over 21.

To be blunt, not much will officially change on our campus.

Kevin Harlow, a sophomore majoring in industrial and systems engineering, agrees with that conclusion for a different reason.

“I don’t really think [the marijuana initiative] will affect our campus much because I rarely see DPS actually catching people using or possessing the drug,” he said.

If anything, a final benefit to college students in California is that prospective employers will not be able to drug test for marijuana any longer. Those who do not currently use the drug will get to avoid the inconvenience of being subjected to multiple urine tests, while those who do currently use the drug will avoid the even larger inconvenience of being unemployed.

The truth is, even though official policy on campus will not see many differences, this piece of legislation is blazing a trail that will profoundly change the way marijuana is viewed in California. Once regulated sales are legalized, marijuana will be available for purchase in any store that chooses to sell it. Yes, it will be heavily taxed, but prices will still be much lower than current black market prices because of increased competition and economies of scale.

Eventually, the same 21-year-old students who are now able to buy alcohol legally would be able to legally buy marijuana. Consequently, there would probably be a larger amount of the drug on campus if the bill is passed. Regardless of what policies DPS decides on, marijuana users should expect more options and variety without much change in risk.

One of the biggest driving factors behind this legislation’s popularity is a financial one. The California Board of Equalization estimates that regulated sales of marijuana will generate $1.3 billion in annual tax revenue for our state. Additionally, we will save countless millions more in law enforcement and prison costs. It makes little sense to put away people for using or selling a substance that multiple studies have found to be less dangerous than both cigarettes and alcohol; our precious resources are going up in smoke.

Unlike alcohol, marijuana is not the sort of substance that has the potential to induce violent behavior. It is high time for our state to stop wasting money on marijuana consumption and possession cases and start spending that same money on violent crimes.

Opponents of the initiative cite gateway drug arguments and explain how legalizing a substance decreases the perception of risk for youth. The new law would, however, regulate the sales to only adults over 21. As drug dealers are put out of business from lower corporate prices, younger children might have even less access to the herb than they do now.

At the end of the day, it will continue to be used behind closed doors as it is now, and the school administration will have the option of whether or not to change DPS’ policy in reaction to the increased amount of marijuana.

This bill could be a financial boost in a much-needed time for California; for now, it has little relevance for the law at USC.

Gokul Agrawal is a senior majoring in business administration.