Endorsements 2010: State ballot measures


PROP. 19



The most surprising thing about Prop. 19 is how it has divided those who say they support the legalization of marijuana. Critics within the cannabis community say decriminalization should occur at the federal level or with uniform statewide standards rather that letting cities and counties set their own regulations, as the measure does. Sure, fully legalizing marijuana on a large scale and regulating its use like tobacco and alcohol would be better — but that's just not going to happen anytime soon. As we learned with the legalization of marijuana for medical uses through Prop. 215 in 1996, there are still regional differences in the acceptance of marijuana, so cities and counties should be allowed to treat its use differently based on local values. Maybe San Francisco wants full-blown Amsterdam-style hash bars while Fresno would prefer far more limited distribution options — and that's fine.

Other opponents from within marijuana movement are simply worried about losing market share or triggering federal scrutiny of a system that seems to be working well for many. But those are selfish reasons to oppose the long-overdue next step in legalizing adult use of cannabis, a step we need to take even if there is some uncertainty about what comes next. By continuing with prohibition Californians and their demand for pot are empowering the Mexican drug cartels and their violence and political corruption; perpetuating a drug war mentality that is ruining lives, wasting resources, and corrupting police agencies that share in the take from drug-related property seizures; and depriving state and local governments of tax revenue from the California's number one cash crop.

Bottom line: if there are small problems with this measure, they can be corrected with state legislation that Assemblymember Tom Ammiano has already pledged to carry and that Prop. 19 explicitly allows. But this is the moment and the measure we need to seize to continue making progress in our approach to marijuana in California. Vote yes on Prop. 19.


PROP. 20



Prop. 20 seeks to transfer the power to draw congressional districts from elected officials to the 14-member California Citizens Redistricting Commission, the state agency created in 2008 to draw boundary lines for California state legislative districts and Board of Equalization districts.

Supporters argue that Prop. 20, (which is backed by Charles Munger Jr., the heir to an investment fortune) would create more competitive elections and holds politicians accountable. And indeed, there's been some funky gerrymandering going on the the state for decades.

But the commission is hardly a fair body — it has the same number of Republicans as Democrats in a state where there are far more Democrats than Republicans. And most states still draw lines the old-fashioned way, so Prop. 20 could give the GOP an advantage in a Democratic state. States like Texas and Florida, notorious for pro-Republican gerrymandering, aren't planning to change how they do their districts.

That's why former state Assemblymember John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), who lost his recent bid for the State Senate thanks to gerrymandering and an August special election, calls Prop. 20 "the unilateral disarmament of California."

It could also create a political mess in San Francisco, Laird said. "An independent commission could end up dividing the city north/south, not east/west. Or it could throw Sen. Mark Leno and Leland Yee into the same district." Vote no.


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