A supergroup of top-brass American Drug Warriors including Drug Czars from the last three presidential administrations – Gil Kerlikowske, John Walters, Barry McCaffrey, Lee Brown, Bob Martinez and William Bennett – have penned a yawningly predictable piece at the Los Angeles Times – but with one twist.
The article, for the most part, presents the same weak arguments we have heard before: that Amsterdam coffee shops cause terrible “drug tourism” on Dutch streets, that legalization will turn all drivers on the road to crazed madmen, and that collecting taxes on pot sales won’t make enough cash to pay for all the extra health costs of Mary Jane addicts who will be filling hospitals and rehab clinics. All of these arguments have been debunked time and again.
There was one exception however, and maybe it shows the Czars are getting a little more savvy:
Law enforcement officers do not currently focus much effort on arresting adults whose only crime is possessing small amounts of marijuana. This proposition would burden them with new and complicated enforcement duties. The proposition would require officers to enforce laws against “ingesting or smoking marijuana while minors are present.” Would this apply in a private home? And is a minor “present” if they are 15 feet away, or 20? Perhaps California law enforcement officers will be required to carry tape measures next to their handcuffs.
This is undoubtedly a nod to the anti-Proposition 19 people within the cannabis culture, and an attempt by the Czars to widen a divide in our community.
Yes, there are people within the cannabis community who do not support the California initiative and have been attacking the bill online with a lot of misinformation.
Here is some of the misinformation that relates to the Czars’ claim – check out this post from Stoner Against the Prop. 19 Dragonfly De La Luz, who also claims Prop 19 will make new laws prohibiting smoking in front of a minor:
Fact: […] Under the initiative, even adults consuming marijuana in the privacy of their homes could face arrest if there are minors present (not something one would expect from an initiative that claims to treat marijuana like alcohol and tobacco). Current marijuana law contains no such restrictions. Thanks to Prop. 215, which legalized marijuana for medicinal use, cannabis consumers have been legally free to smoke in the privacy of their homes since 1997. This initiative seeks to undermine that freedom, making it absolutely illegal to smoke marijuana if there are minors present. (The initiative is ambiguous with regard to whether “present” means being in the same room as the consumer, the same house, the same apartment building, or within wafting distance—apparently leaving this up to the interpretation of judges.) There is no exception for medical marijuana patients or for parents consuming in the presence of their own children.
The initiative would further impact medical marijuana patients by banning medicating in the privacy of their own homes if there are minors present, as well as in public (currently perfectly legal)—an invaluable liberty to those with painful diseases who would otherwise have to suffer until they got home to relieve their pain.
Dragonfly and the Czars are making the same claim. The only problem is, Proposition 19 DOES NOT create a new law making it illegal to smoke in front of a minor!
Here’s what the bill actually says in Section 3: Lawful Activities – Section 11300: Personal Regulation and Controls (bold is mine):
(c) “Personal consumption” shall not include, and nothing in this Act shall permit cannabis:
(i) possession for sale regardless of amount, except by a person who is licensed or permitted to do so under the terms of an ordinance adopted pursuant to section 11301;
(ii) consumption in public or in a public place;
(iii) consumption by the operator of any vehicle, boat or aircraft while it is being operated, or that impairs the operator;
(iv) smoking cannabis in any space while minors are present.
This is the only section that pertains to smoking in front of a minor. It does not make any rules prohibiting smoking in front of a minor, it simply states that it does not permit smoking in front of a minor or include it in the definition of “personal consumption”. This means that people who are busted smoking in front of a minor would not be protected by terms of Proposition 19 and could, at very worst, be charged with any laws on the books now (and as the Czars noted, “Law enforcement officers do not currently focus much effort on arresting adults whose only crime is possessing small amounts of marijuana”). The bill does not create a law against “ingesting or smoking marijuana while minors are present” or “burden them with new and complicated enforcement duties”. It also means nothing would change for medicinal users. Again, Prop 19 DOES NOT create a new offense against smoking in front of a minor!
This is a very important distinction, and shows that claims by Dragonfly and the Drug Czars are simply untrue.
Adding to the confusion is a claim in the Bill Summary itself (in the second paragraph of the bill) that says Prop 19 “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.”
Upon reading the bill, it is evident that this claim is incorrect; the bill does not actually prohibit, but makes clear it does not permit.
Later in the bill the authors talk about “Furnishing Marijuana to Minors” but do not mention smoking in front of them again. That is all there is about minors in the bill.
I am not a lawyer but I do have lawyer friends, and the lawyer I ran this past said I was correct in my analysis. It is possible we are both wrong – if you have any info that would challenge this claim and backup Dragonfly and the Drug Czars, please present it in the comments below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For in-depth analysis of Proposition 19 read this article by NORML’s “Radical” Russ Belville and this article by Prince of Pot Marc Emery. Please go to the and find out how you can help support Proposition 19.
UPDATE: Just found this article by NORML’s “Radical” Russ Belville.
By Jeremiah Vandermeer