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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Prop 19: An Autopsy

Well, it’s official. Prohibitionists were once again able to scare people into believing the world would come to an end if we legalized pot. The marvelously effective war on drugs survives to give us the illusion of having protected us from the downfall of society for at least another two years. The measure was pronounced dead at 10 p.m. Pacific Time with 93% of precincts reporting in. The final tally was 54% opposed, 46% in favor. Let’s take stock of what happened and see where we went wrong.

This is due, in no small part, the Attorney General Eric Holder coming out and threatening to “vigorously enforce” the Controlled Substances Act in the state of California should the measure have passed. The polls for Prop 19 were looking pretty good until he came out and made all the moderates fill their Huggies and say “No”. The thing is, this is a legal battle we might very well have won. Legal precedent says federal law trumps state law, but legal precedent also says that California state authorities have to abide by state law. A.G. Holder can’t make the police in California arrest stoners. Also, alcohol prohibition ended partly because cities and states began to refuse to enforce the laws against it. Realistically, Holder and the D.E.A do not have the money and the man-power to police the whole state of California by themselves. They would’ve made examples of a few big growers and sellers, but most Californians would’ve been quite safe.

There was a lot of talk about live polls vs automated polls. Automated polls for Prop 19 showed much more support for the measure than live-caller polls. There was speculation that people were uncomfortable admitting they supported the measure to a live poller but felt okay telling the truth to an automated poll. It sounded reasonable and it was a hope I clung to when the polls dropped sharply after Holder came out and breathed fire at us. What went wrong? My suspicion is that, although those polled might have felt more comfortable admitting their support for the initiative to a non-human poller, the automated polls didn’t include people who didn’t feel like answering an automated poll. Think about it. You answer your phone and hear an automated voice asking in a recorded or maybe text-to-speech voice if you’d like to answer a few questions. I suspect a lot of people’s answer was “Click.”

I’m somewhat inclined to blame the stoners for not putting down their pizza-grease covered X-Box controllers long enough to get out and vote. I’m more inclined to blame the youth who are too stupid to vote. There may be some truth to both of those, but I think mostly it’s just that people are still afraid of pot. It’s still a big scary boogey man to a lot of people. I don’t think the “Yes on 19″ people did enough to address people’s fears. I don’t know how they could’ve missed that. In particular, they didn’t manage to pacify parents who are worried about their kids smoking pot. I think the number one thing that needs to change about the marijuana debate is that we need to get rid of this idea that you’re protecting your kids from pot by going after stoners. You’re not. “Yes on 19″ should’ve driven home the point kids are already smoking pot because it’s not properly regulated. They should’ve hammered parents on the fact that it’s easier for kids to get their hands on pot than booze. This isn’t rocket surgery, folks; it’s all about the kids. “What about the children?! Won’t somebody think of the CHILDREN?!”. I know they addressed this point briefly in their ONE TV spot they managed to release, but they should’ve devoted a whole series of ads to this.

I imagine two commercials for this. The first one, I already made, as you may have seen in my post "Don't Fear the Reefer".  The second goes like this: We see a guy in his late teens/early 20′s – a scruffy-looking character – selling weed to a kid who’s about 12 or 13. As the commercial begins, the kid walks away. The dealer looks at the camera and says, “I HOPE they don’t legalize weed. I’ve got a business to run; clients who count on me and money to make.” Then another aouple of kids walk up and he starts talking to them. Cut to the first kid walking down the street with his bag of weed. The kid looks at the camera and says, “I HOPE they don’t legalize weed. No one’s gonna believe I’m 21 for another 5 years at LEAST; even if I CAN find a good fake ID.” Then the voice-over guy says “Prohibition: Giving you the illusion of protecting your kids from marijuana since 1937. Vote Yes on 19.”

You could also have another commercial with a guy who looks like he’s from a Mexican drug cartel. He looks at the camera and says, “I HOPE they don’t legalize weed. I’ve got a business to run.”

Actually, what they should do now is make those same commercials, but instead of the characters saying “I HOPE they don’t legalize weed.”, have them say “Thanks, California!”. They could also show employees from under-funded government programs and have them say “Thanks, California. We didn’t need that money anyway.”

Another concern people were actually dumb enough to swallow was the idea that people can show up for work stoned with impunity. This is an idea I never had any commercial ideas for because I never thought a reasonable adult could take it seriously, but I guess if they’re dumb enough to think they’re protecting their kids by arresting stoners, they’ll swallow anything. I guess I’d just have a guy looking into the camera and saying, “Look, I’m smart enough to know that if I come into work drunk, they’d fire me, so what makes any of you think I’d be dumb enough to come to work stoned and why would you believe there’s nothing they could do about it if I did?

Well, at least it’s been decriminalized down to a simple infraction. Let’s learn from this defeat and be prepared for 2012. Let’s write the measure more carefully next time; I know there were several complaints about THAT, too. Let’s work on addressing people’s baseless, asinine fears a little more forcefully, next time, guys.

Oh, and screw you, California. Enjoy your crushing debt, you jack-asses

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