Written by Evalyn Li
On Nov. 8, citizens have the opportunity to vote on the legalization of marijuana in California. Specifically, Proposition (Prop) 64 legalizes the recreational use and sale of marijuana for people 21 and over. The benefits of voting yes on Prop 64 outweigh its costs; legalization is a first step in addressing drug-related crime and arrests as well as providing protection for people working in the marijuana industry.
Legalization would cut down on drug-related arrests, decreasing the amount of money the state spends on incarceration. Without legal marijuana, non-violent crimes such as possession result in arrest. This is unfair, considering there is a disproportionate number of Black and Latino arrests. According to a Drug Policy Alliance report, African–Americans are two times more likely to be arrested, and Latinos are 35 percent more likely to be arrested than Caucasians. In Colorado, where legalization occurred in 2012, the total number of marijuana arrests decreased by 46 percent between 2012 and 2014. The Legislative Analyst’s Office reports that California law enforcement and justice systems would reduce law enforcement spending by at least $100 million, given that minor possession would be legal and penalties be reduced.
From a business perspective, the marijuana industry, valued at $2.7 billion and growing in 2015 according to ArView Market Research, is a lucrative industry that the state could easily tap into for tax revenue. Ultimately, this proposition would regulate an already thriving industry and bring protection to industry participants.
Another improvement to people’s lives are the rights that would be provided to marijuana workers, who would be treated and protected as agriculture workers. Today, many workers who grow or sell are exploited for participating in an illegal industry. The term “trimmigrants” refers to workers who flock to the Emerald Triangle, a region in Northern California with a high concentration of cannabis production. While trimmigrants do not come from a single background, recent investigative reports on the National Public Radio and other sources have revealed a phenomenon of human trafficking behind the scenes of the marijuana-growing industry.
Ultimately, a “yes” on Prop 64 would allow funds toward state programs as well as lower incarceration rates and worker protection.