Lost in amongst the disappointing but predictable U.S midterm election results, was the similarly predictable and disappointing defeat of proposition19 in California. This bold attempt at reform of the marijuana laws in the state would have seen the drug legalised and regulated, recognising that prohibition of recreational substances not only fails to restrict consumption but fuels violent and organised crime both within the state and across the border in Mexico.
Had this proposition passed and been successfully implemented it would certainly have paved the way for adoption by other U.S states and possibly even other western democracies.
The No On Proposition 19 campaign was little more than scare-mongering and failed to address the issues, but obviously appealed to older conservative Californians sufficiently to deny the measure a majority.
All is not lost however. For one thing, the fact that this proposition was put before the states electorate at all means that the call for a rational, evidence based drug policy that recognises the failure of the prohibition approach is now part of mainstream discourse. It will re-emerge in California and should no longer be seen as a radical and irresponsible concept. For another, the 18 – 35 demographic voted largely in favour with 64% voting yes [source] which bodes well for future attempts.
One word of caution though, because this measure is limited to marijuana, even if it passed there is a danger that the full benefits in crime reduction would not be seen. Drug runners rarely deal in one substance and would doubtless continue to operate in harder drugs. Also much of the collateral damage caused by drug use is due to poor formulation or deliberate “cutting” of synthetic drugs with cheaper (often toxic) substances to improve margins. So whilst I would support any movement towards drug legalisation and regulation, I would not make too many claims for the benefit of legalising marijuana alone. What it could prove however is that there are few if any negative social consequences to the legalisation of recreational drugs and if it could work in just one state in the U.S it could work anywhere.
"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"