Direct democracy, or pure democracy, by its definition, provides the people of the state to make their collective political decisions on their own will without the agency of any representatives. In the state of California direct democracy is pit into effect through initiatives passed by populace. Probably, the most powerful governance component of the direct democracy is constitutional amendment initiative. “It is a constitutionally-defined petition process of proposed constitutional law, which, if successful, results in its provisions being written directly into the state’s constitution. Since constitutional law cannot be altered by state legislatures, this direct democracy component gives the people an automatic superiority and sovereignty, over representative government.” Cronin (59) explains.
It goes without saying that it seems to be a good way to provide the welfare of people by their own hands. But on the other hand, of course, there are also some dangers and controversies in forcing the will of majorities on minorities. Thus the will of an individual is violated and the effectiveness of democracy is unfortunately doubted.
One of the latest examples of the statute law initiative, which is defined as “a constitutionally-defined, citizen-initiated, petition process of “proposed statute law,” which, if successful, results in law being written directly into the state’s statute” (Gerber 111), is the so-called “Regulate Marijuana like Wine Act of 2012”.
The initiative has been supported by local and statewide groups and activists, and officially presented by the former Assistant US Attorney and Orange County Superior Court Judge Jim P. Gray, the 1998 Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Steve Kubby and chief counsel, William McPike. The reason was that the “policy of marijuana prohibition has failed from every standpoint imaginable: unnecessary prison growth, increased taxes, increased crime and corruption here and abroad, loss of civil liberties, decreased health, and diversion of resources that are needed to address other problems in society” (Fawks 2011).
The issue of marijuana legalization has for long been disputed in the state of California, and marijuana has been already decriminalized and medicalized. Since 1996 the use of marijuana with a view to medical treatment has been recognized, with no adverse consequences revealed. In November 2010 there was a ballot concerning legalization of marijuana (Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010), but it was defeated. As it is clear from the title of the Act, it is proposed to treat and regulate farming and planting, cultivation and production, irrigating and harvesting, processing and storage, possession and use, distribution, gifting, sales and trade, transportation of marijuana in the same way as the products of viniculture and winemaking. Besides, the Act prohibits any persecution of marijuana-related actions, any criminal or civil penalty or sanction, “search, arrest, prosecution, seizure of marijuana, asset forfeiture, or imposition of any criminal or civil penalties or fines for persons 21 years of age or older or entities for acting within the provisions of this Act” (“The Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act of 2012”).
The act is made up of reasonable argumentation of new regulations and corresponding conclusions made by the committee, supported by necessary limitations of the rights provided by the very sense of the act.
The arguments in favor include, first of all, the growth of availability to minors resulted from outlawing marijuana. The promised benefits include the increases of tax revenues, profits from commercial advertising, the decrease of criminal gang activities, promotion of agriculture, growth of employment due to new jobsites and reduction of the fiscal and overpopulation burdens on the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Non-commercial home brewing of marijuana (up to 25 flowering plants per adult) is protected from any intervention of any regulative actions.
As for the limitations, it is forbidden to spread marijuana to persons under 21, to consume it being under 21 or before driving or in public non-smoking places as well as in the workplace. Therefore, individuals for whom marijuana is one of the small entertainments, then the entities which will run the business and the state authorities are said to benefit from the Act. However, the opponents of such regulations are afraid that cannabis will become more available for kids and become on the whole more widely consumes by the population. It can be compared with fast food, which is also rather dangerous for health, but is rather easy to buy and consume, and, what is more, it is promoted by advertising campaigns. In fact, the research has shown no correlation between prohibition and level of consumption of marijuana, but there is still much to think of. As for the difficulties, there will be a need to set the institutions to control the limitations listed above.
In this way, taking marijuana out of the black market has a number of reasons and this initiative has much support from the population of California, but this is a case when direct democracy can play a mean trick with the Californians, as THC is not as innocent as it is highlighted in mass media and a lot of people, especially young and inexperienced can get under the warning influence of the trend.
Cronin, Thomas E. Direct Democracy: The Politics of Initiative, Referendum, and Recall. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.
Fawks, Guy. “Regulate Marijuana like Wine Act of 2012 submitted to Attorney General this morning.” Orange County. 17 May 2011. Web. 9 July 2011.
Gerber, Elisabeth R. The Populist Paradox: Interest Group Influence and the Promise of Direct Legislation. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1999.
United States. Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Committee. The Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act of 2012. South Lake Tahoe, California, 2011.