A Good Chance to Legalize Marijuana

In my recent article Beyond Voting I discussed the question of voting or not voting for political representatives. My conclusion could be summed up by saying that I see no reason not to vote for more or less “progressive” or even “lesser evil” candidates if you feel like it, but that I caution you to be aware of the limitations of that strategy and to avoid putting all your eggs in that one basket. I will grant, however, that this is a complex issue and that there are some good arguments against encouraging such voting, insofar as it tends to lend credibility to the existing system and to distract attention from other more radical possibilities.

Voting directly on certain issues is another matter. I find it hard to imagine how any aware person could oppose, or be indifferent to, California’s Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana (making it subject to the same sorts of regulation and taxation as those much more dangerous drugs, alcohol and tobacco). In addition to its immediate beneficial effects in California, passage of this proposition would probably have a significant inspirational influence on other states and other countries (as we have seen with the recent snowballing victories legalizing gay marriage).

Moreover, legalizing marijuana is no longer an unrealistic fringe issue: Proposition 19 is currently slightly ahead in the polls and has a good chance of winning. But the vote will be close, and the alcohol industry is pumping millions of dollars into the opposition campaign. I encourage you to vote for Proposition 19 (if you live in California) and also to support it in every other way you can, whether by volunteering, contributing money, or helping to publicize it (which you can do regardless of where you live). For more information, see YesOn19.com [site no longer available].

It is possible to argue that one political party is just as bad as another, or at least that the differences are so slight that one would do better to invest one’s energy in other projects. But eliminating an imbecilic prohibition law that spends billions of dollars putting millions of people in prison for a victimless “crime” will be a win-win for almost everyone. The only losers will be the big-time drug dealers and the owners of the prison-industrial complex.

For some more general remarks on crime, punishment, and the criminal “justice” system, see Anti-Prison Resources.

October 2010


Message widely emailed and posted before the November 2010 election. The proposition failed, but it obtained an unprecedented 46% of the vote and undoubtedly helped inspire the successful legalization campaigns in Colorado and Washington two years later. In 2014 marijuana was legalized in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC. In 2016, it was legalized in California (56-44), Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada, and since then in a number of other states.

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[Spanish translation of this text]