Proposition 19, or the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, is one ballot initiative that Californians will vote on this November that some students say does not polarize the left or right political sides.
If passed, the initiative would make the possession and sale of marijuana to people over the age of 21 legal in the state.
“Prop 19 affects all genders, race, classes, professions, political parties, and California citizens are coming together to support Prop 19,” said Elizabeth Tauro, leader of the Yes on 19 campaign on campus. “If nothing else, it’s something that’s going to truly affect so many people, more than the ideology of politicians.”
Given the condition of California’s economy, some think the legalization of marijuana would be a good source of revenue for the cash-strapped state.
“There is a huge misconception out there that Republicans are automatically against Prop 19,” said Katherine Cook, chairwoman of USC’s College Republicans. “There isn’t any hard-and-fast party line on Prop 19 for Democrats or Republicans. Many high-profile Democrats and Republicans alike oppose Prop 19, including Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown … This is not a Democrat or Republican issue.”
Jonathan Brebner, president of USC’s College Democrats, agreed, noting that although many young Democrats support the proposition, Democrats in general are not more likely to be in favor of legalizing marijuana.
“I know there are many people on the right who tend to have a less restrictive view on personal liberty and view this as a matter of personal liberty,” Brebner said. “There’s no significant public benefit to making the use of marijuana illegal and a lot of public benefit to legalizing it and regulating it. I think the larger element would probably be based on age.”
Brebner said older voters are more likely to be against legalization than younger voters, but even this is not a set distinction.
The state of the economy, more than anything, is what will affect the way people vote — and that could mean more support for the ballot initiative, Brebner said.
“It could potentially be a good source of revenue at a time when we desperately need new sources of revenue and money for the budget,” Brebner said.
The Yes on 19 campaign also stressed the importance of the proposition for economic growth of the state.
“The campaign is going to have a huge effect on the economy today,” Tauro said. “Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent enforcing the failed prohibition of cannabis and it’s created a violent crime market led by international drug cartels.”
The California State Board of Equalization estimates that the legal sale of marijuana could generate $1.4 billion a year in tax revenue while saving $300 million in enforcement costs. Estimates from the board show that $14 billion in illegal sales occur annually, from which the state receives nothing.
Some students on campus agree that the legalization of marijuana is an issue that should be addressed.
“I definitely think it should be on the ballot,” said Christopher Rivera, a senior majoring in fine arts, “but at this point, I honestly don’t know how I’m voting.”
Regardless, Brebner said, Prop 19 could affect legislation across the country.
“A lot of other states will be watching this closely,” Brebner said.