Sen. Dianne Feinstein Denounces Prop 19, Says Legalizing Pot 'Unrealistic'
California Senator Dianne Feinstein, backed by other members of the No on Prop 19 coalition, forcefully denounced the measure Friday and its efforts to legalize marijuana use and possession.
With the election a few days away and most polls showing the race a toss up, California's senior Democratic senator argued that the ideals many supporters have for its passage are unrealistic.
Many public officials, including Governor Schwarzenegger and both Republican and Democratic candidates for Governor and Senator have opposed the measure. Even liberal San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, now running for Lieutenant Governor, has said in interviews that he isn't yet ready to see marijuana as a legal drug in the state.
But proponents of legalization say that politicians will always take the safe route on the topic. Their lack of support doesn't indicate the way the public, or even the politicians themselves truly feel.
"Very few folks are willing to take a position they consider a little bit risky, a little bit outside the box." said Kyle Kazan, a retired police officer who works for the pro-legalization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "The policy is to preserve the status quo."
Kazan further points out that Feinstein was against medical marijuana until its passage in 1996.
Proponents of prop 19 argue that should marijuana become legal, taxes on sales would be a significant source of income for the state-- vital in this era of budget crises.
However, there are some ambiguities in the law about whether taxing a product that is currently outlawed by the federal government is even a possibility. The wording in the proposition is unclear on the topic and Attorney General Eric Holder has said he will "vigorously enforce federal drug laws" regardless of the election's result.
In addition, Supreme Court precedent has stated that marijuana sellers can legally refuse to pay taxes on the crop as it would amount to a form of self-incrimination.
Even if prop 19 doesn't pass, California still has some of the more lenient marijuana laws in the country. Starting in 2011 possession of an ounce or less of marijuana will be an infraction, payable by a fine similar to a traffic ticket.