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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

YES on Proposition 19 - California Marijuana Inititaive

Two opinions on legalizing marijuana
- one from a personal perspective and
another from a legal perspective regarding landlords and the law.

My Prejudiced Opinion
By Vesta Copestakes

I stopped smoking pot a number of years ago when work became too intense and required too much concentration to have the drug running through my system. But that doesn’t mean I’m against it being legal. Quite the contrary.

I smoked for years and was a “high-functioning” pot smoker. I’d work intensely for long hours then smoke to make my brain stop at the end of the day, or to lighten my mind so I could play well with friends. It was wonderful! Some people drink alcohol for the same reasons.

Alcohol &  Marijuana
Personally, a puff or two on a pipe accomplishes about the same level of mind alteration as a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. People use pot in the very same way and for the very same reasons that they use alcohol. I consider them synonymous. The only difference is that alcohol leaves the body within hours and marijuana takes a good 30 days or more even if the person doesn’t feel it any more. And that’s also an advantage for marijuana because it relieves pain and nausea. It’s good to have the effect last.

On the same note – I’d put hard alcohol, vodka, whisky, etc. up there with harder drugs. They pack a wallop on both mind and body and it comes on very fast. I consider alcohol a drug. If it alters your mind, it’s a drug. Coffee is a drug as far as I’m concerned, and in my current life, it’s my drug of choice.

Humans Get High
From the time a child learns that spinning in tight circles makes them dizzy, human beings seek mind-alteration. Very few humans ever escape the desire to slip out of their normal heads into something different.

And that’s the main reason I believe Prop 19 should be passed. People get high in one form or another. Marijuana is the drug of choice for so many people, and it’s been illegal in our country for such a short period of time, I think we need to stop this prohibition now and get on to more important things.

Friendly High
What I like most about pot smokers is that they laugh but never get belligerent. A pot smoker who doesn’t stop at the laughter phase gets tired and starts moving and thinking in slow motion. An alcohol drinker often moves from fun to angry. How many domestic fights do you learn about from pot smokers? It’s an old joke that a pot smoker will raid the refrigerator while a drunk will pick a fight. Ask law enforcement who they would rather deal with under the influence!

Gateway Drug
This reason for keeping pot illegal comes up often, especially among people in the profession of helping addicts clean up their lives from drug addiction. As long as marijuana is illegal, people need to buy it from someone, and many times that person also sells other drugs. “Hey, try this!”They sell whatever their clientele wants and makes them money.

If someone could go to the local liquor store to get a pack of joints, they wouldn’t have contact with dealers. They’d choose beer, wine, something stronger or marijuana. Much simpler and the only exposure is to what is already a legal high.

Driving Under the Influence
I don’t care what mind-altering substance someone chooses, drinking and driving, smoking and driving, snorting and driving…it’s all going to impact a person’s ability to drive well. No one’s going to convince me that a drunk driver is better than a driver high on marijuana.

Against the Law
It was against the law to drink, buy or sell alcohol during the famous Prohibition that started organized crime. I have an impressive essay by George F. Will on my website that’s all about the unintended consequences of Prohibition. And one of the unintended consequences of making marijuana illegal are drug cartels growing thousands of plants on public and private land. You make something illegal that people want and someone with a criminal mind is going to see that as an opportunity to make money.
If marijuana is legal, not just in California, but across the nation, it becomes an opportunity for legal entrepreneurs and large corporations like cigarette companies to make money. That becomes a win/win rather then the lose/lose we currently have.

And on a personal level, gardeners can grow their own without fear of getting ripped off or arrested. A few plants in the vegetable patch is all a normal person ever needs. Prop 19 has a very reasonable quantity allowed and it’s certainly enough for anyone.

Tax Benefits
This is a common topic and many of us have been preaching for years that we can balance the budget on the taxes placed on marijuana. Addictive substances like alcohol and cigarettes are taxed and some of that money goes toward paying for the negative impacts of these addictive substances. The health consequences of both of those cost our country billions of dollars in lost days at work as well as medical expenses. We need money to pay for the expense of these other health and society hazards! We need money to bring our economy back to strong.

I don’t know what the taxes are on a pack of cigarettes or a bottle of wine, but I bet the taxes on a pack of joints would be about the same. And then there’s income taxes. Marijuana is a huge industry and much of the income generated never gets taxed. If the people working in the industry were paid legally they would be taxed legally. We need that money!

Vote YES on Proposition 19
It’s time to end this stupid prohibition that doesn’t stop people from using the drug. Millions of people across the planet choose marijuana over alcohol as a way to alter their minds. So what! Let them.
California is not the only state that is going this way, so it’s just a matter of time before the entire country looks at the benefits of legalizing marijuana, especially in the face of the monetary gain we can achieve that could get us out of our massive deficit.

Remember, marijuana smokers invented the Make Love Not War slogan. Maybe we could achieve world peace through mellowing out. It’s a thought…


Landlords Liability for Prop. 19 Gardens

By Richard C. Koman, Esq.
Proposition 19 “legalizes” marijuana for personal use, right? So tenants should be free to grow their personal pot gardens and their landlords should have no problems with that.

Well, not exactly. First, let’s take a look at what Prop 19 legalizes and what it doesn’t. On the question of personal use, if the voters pass the initiative, it will be legal for individuals to possess up to one ounce for personal consumption, smoke in private spaces and grow a pot garden for personal consumption up to 25 square feet.

So does that mean that tenants can start clearing weeds for their “25 for 420” as soon as they move in to a rental? Definitely not. The proposition clearly states: “Cultivation on leased or rented property may be subject to approval from the owner of the property.” (Proposed Health & Safety Code section 11300 (a)(ii).)

In other words, tenants need their landlords’ approval to do what they would be able to do freely if they owned the property themselves. This raises some interesting issues. Indeed it puts landlords in an absurd Catch-22.

Marijuana is still a controlled substance under federal law. Regardless of what the state law says, growing ganja is a crime. And homeowners who know their property is being used for illegal drug cultivation are subject to having their property seized by the federal government under civil forfeitures statutes. The government doesn’t even have to file a charge or obtain a criminal conviction. They just have to show probable cause of the property’s (home’s) involvement in the “crime.”

The only defense to property seizure is that the homeowner had no knowledge of the use.

So, as a landlord, are you going to put in writing – say, a legally binding lease agreement – that your tenant can grow marijuana on your property??? Even an oral agreement would defeat the ignorance defense. Given the risks, any landlord would be certifiable to put consent in writing and well-advised not to give oral consent, either.

Now, you say, those federal seizure laws are aimed at large-scale grow houses, not 5x5 plots of pot. And, you might add, the Obama Administration has vowed to respect California’s medical marijuana laws, so isn’t there little risk that the feds are going to come after individual homeowners for a tenants personal use garden, legal under state law?

Actually the Dept. of Justice directive under Attorney General Eric Holder says that prosecuting medical marijuana is not a priority but that prosecuting non-medical use remains a priority. And, anyway, that policy might change when President Sarah Palin appoints Christine O’Donnell as the next attorney general.

Large corporate landlords could be looking at thousands of plants being grown on their complexes. Suddenly, the benign-sounding phrase “consent of the property owner” becomes untenable.

Tenants, I don’t think you’re going to get your landlords to consent to your personal pot gardens under the new state law. That means tenants will grow gardens without consent, just as they do now. I doubt that police forces will be interested in prosecuting growers within the 5x5 limit regardless of whether it’s legal or not, but the issue for tenants will become this: When the landlord finds out, can she evict you for illegal use of the premises? Can a lease forbid you from growing your personal stash?

Under current law, it’s pretty clear that growing marijuana on the landlord’s property would subject a tenant to eviction on the grounds that they are creating a nuisance. Would the fact that the growth is approved by state law forbid eviction in a state court? Nope. I think you’d have to have a clause in a lease – or a least a signed letter from the landlord -- that permitted the personal-use garden in order to combat the nuisance eviction.

Under the terms of Prop. 19, consent of the landlord can be required. Thus, it seems clear that leases can specifically refuse to allow pot gardens.

Finally, it is OK that the law treats tenants and homeowners differently? Since a “leasehold” gives the tenant exclusive control of the premises and since the personal use garden is a legal activity under state law, why should landlords be given the right to infringe on that right? Since a lease is a contract the parties can waive many legal rights – the right to smoke, for instance. Only a few rights – the right to habitable conditions, say – cannot be contracted away.

The right to pot is not a particularly compelling one, indeed under federal law, it’s not right at all, so tenants will find themselves signing away that right, unless they can find a landlord who agrees to let them keep their pot rights. Good luck with that.

Richard Koman is an attorney who lives in Forestville. His practice includes landlord-tenant law, personal bankruptcy and civil litigation. Contact him at (707) 544-5354 or

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