Drug prohibitions have never worked, never in the history of humanity have they ever made for a net improvement in society. They’re hugely expensive, result in masses of people going to prison, and give police forces a veritable blank check for the abuse of power and taxpayer dollars. That is a situation California will once again seek to remedy this November.
California has always had a mixed relationship with drugs. California actually passed America’s very first drug prohibition act back in 1880, and by 1907 had including cannabis on a list of recognized poisons, next to cyanide and arsenic. However, California was also the first to open the door for legal marijuana use with 1996’s Proposition 215. Hard to believe it’s been a full 20 years since California enacted its medical marijuana legislation; a measure which even at the time was thought a brief stepping stone to full legalization.
But that didn’t happen.
Instead, California (along with 22 other subsequent states) got saddled with a labyrinthine system of restrictions and loopholes, where growers and buyers were constantly forced to navigate legal waters that Odysseus might have called “troublesome.” Caught between the whirlpool of federal enforcement and the ever-growing hydra that is California legal code, something had to give. And that something may well be California itself.
The proposed “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” that will reach California ballots this year has some heavy support, not least of which being Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. He added his name to the 402,000 signatures required to get this measure on the ballot, which exceeded that requirement by a wide margin mere hours after posting.
The initiative would fully legalize marijuana for anyone over 21, with a system of taxes and restrictions comparable to alcohol. It allows any adult to possess as many as six marijuana plants for personal use, and to become licensed as a seller meeting certain qualifications. Effectively, it’s the Colorado plan.
This isn’t the first time in recent history such an initiative has gone up for a vote. In 2010, Proposition 19 cleared similar ground, and was defeated 53-46 in a statewide vote. So, what makes this year any different?
First, because polling indicates California has softened its position on full legalization quite a bit in the last five years. Experts postulate dozens of reasons for that, but we can probably just be real about it at this point. The big, green elephant in the room.
Baby Boomers are dying. Quickly.
And they’re being replaced by Millennial voters, even more quickly.
The Boomer die-off began in earnest about 2011, coinciding with a plus-18-year-spike in Millennial birth rates. Meaning, at the current rate, every single day in the United States sees approximately 14,000 young voters replacing Baby Boomers. Through either death or sheer disinterest in retirement, the Baby Boomer generation is very quickly ceding its place at the voting table to younger voters. And the pace is only acceleration. In two years, Millennial voters will replace Baby Boomers at a rate of about 22,000 a day. Every day.
The first notable effects of such a rapid generational shift are likely to be felt in places like California and Florida first. Both have huge populations of both very old and very young people; and the political lines in these states draw almost directly between generations. It’s practically a 1-to-1 correlation. Older conservatives are dying off very quickly, and younger progressives and liberals are replacing them at the polls. In fact, more than replacing them at the moment, since the birth rate in 1998 was actually higher than the current death rate. For all the support this initiative has in the polls now, it’s almost certain to pass by an even greater margin in November.
But, we digress. Initiative spokesperson Jason Kinney:
“Today marks a fresh start for California, as we prepare to replace the costly, harmful and ineffective system of prohibition with a safe, legal and responsible adult-use marijuana system that gets it right and completely pays for itself.”
Let’s hope so. It is, after all, only a matter of time.