Month: November 2017

Santa Monica Will Vote on Pot

SANTA MONICA, CA. – Voters will decide in November if marijuana should become the lowest police priority in the city, as city council members reluctantly ratified a ballot initiative filed by Santa Monicans for Sensible Marijuana Policy earlier this month.

“This initiative, in short, will remove the handcuffs from our esteemed police and allow them to focus on violent and serious crime, rather than persecuting law-abiding and otherwise harmless citizens,” said Luciano Hernandez of SMSMP.

Signed by over 8,000 residents, the initiative requires police to answer all calls-for example loud music and parking violations-before dispatching an officer to handle a complaint about someone smoking pot. This does not make marijuana legal, however it severely limits how officers can enforce the law.

“From a practical standpoint, it would be virtually impossible for police to enforce…because there would be other calls that are in a pending queue. Officers would no longer be able to develop probable cause based on observations or [smelling marijuana],” an officer representing the police department said at a meeting weeks prior.

Many council members voiced strong objection over details and language in the initiative, one pointing out that officers on the beach would have to cite someone smoking a cigarette before citing someone smoking a joint.

Santa monica weed legalization

There is no smoking on Santa Monica Beaches.

A month prior, West Hollywood City Council Members bypassed voters and immediately approved a similar resolution. However, that city is without its own police force, and contracts with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for civil services. They have no legal means of ensuring that sheriff’s deputies follow the policy, because state law only allows the use of marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation.

If voters approve the initiative, Santa Monica will become the first city in Southern California with its own police force to instruct law enforcement regarding marijuana, prompting other municipalities to do the same.

Located 16 miles west of downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica (Pop. 103,000) is known to be progressive. It was the first city in L.A. county to outlaw smoking on beaches, which is now commonplace in the region, and was the first city in the nation to pass laws protecting workers laid off due to decreased tourism from the September 11th terrorist attacks.

A recent poll found 65% of registered voters in Santa Monica support the initiative, which is expected to meet little resistance at the polls this fall.

Proposition 19 — is California Going to Pot?

According to the most recent polling information, California State Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana possession, is likely to go down to defeat. The nonpartisan Field Poll results for October 31st show only 42% of likely voters support Proposition 19, while 49% oppose it.

This is a reversal from polling in September which showed the initiative leading 49-to-42%.

Currently, possession of a small amount of marijuana, if prosecuted at all, is dealt with like a traffic fine. And marijuana is legal for medicinal uses. So why the need for the initiative? Some support legalization to end hypocrisy and double standards (why is possession of pot criminalized at all while alcohol is not, they’ll say), while others believe the state is missing out on the potential revenue that taxation would afford.

Proposition 19 would not just legalize pot, but would also allow local governments to regulate and tax the sale of marijuana in the State.

Candidates for statewide election on both sides of the aisle have indicated their opposition to the proposition as have the police chiefs of every county save San Francisco. Some oppose the initiative because they don’t want to appear soft on drugs or on crime. Others, such as the L.A. Times, think the law would create an unnecessary additional level of governmental bureaucracy by requiring each of the 536 separate cities and counties in the State to impose their own rules.

California weed

Some pollsters think the gap may be more narrow, believing that some polled may be unwilling to admit their support for legalized drugs to phone or in-person questioners. If this is true, then the makeup of the voters tomorrow will be crucial in determining whether the initiative can overcome its seeming deficit . This is especially true during this off-year election where most are predicting a pro-Republican (or, at least, anti-incumbent) turnout.

Despite the last minute influx of money by billionaire George Soros, some $1 million to support the initiative, those most likely to vote tomorrow are not likely to be swayed by last-minute ads to support legalization.

If Republicans, motivated to send an anti-Obama message to Washington, come out in droves, it is likely that Prop. 19 will go down to defeat. Latest polling shows Democrats support Prop 19 by a slim majority (51%), while Republicans oppose it 65% to 25%. Voters under 40 years old (who lean Democrat) support the initiative 54% to 38%, while voters 65 or older (more likely Republican) are against it, 63% to 29%.

This may not be the year that pot becomes legalized in California, but proponents will surely try again. Perhaps a rewrite that better establishes regulatory policies would overcome some of the more mainstream opposition. But it is surprising that a State that looks to be sending one of the most Liberal Senators back to Washington is too conservative to support legalizing marijuana.