Paul A. Ibbetson
California: the gateway drug state
By Paul A. Ibbetson
October 23, 2010

When California legalized medical marijuana in 1996 with Proposition 215 to address their citizens' headaches and shoulder pains, I along with many others saw this as the beginning of a push for wider legalization of the drug. This concern has now been validated with Proposition 19 that is on California's November 2 ballot. If passed, California's new pot law will allow individuals 21 years or older to legally possess one ounce of marijuana as well as to create "pot gardens" for recreational use. Legal pot will have transcended the need of any ailment to be consumed openly by Californians. Of course, the federal government may still throw you in jail, and that is an issue that might keep those secret marijuana-growing rooms secret.

As reported by the Christian Science Monitor, when California legalized medical marijuana the law was not picked up by the entire country. In fact, only 13 other states decided that the drug would become part of their healing regiment. Why? Because the federal government continued to enforce the drug laws prohibiting the drug's possession and use. Both the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush prosecuted users and sellers after proposition 215 passed in California. The authority to enforce the federal drug laws on divergent states like California was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. That revelation is probably enough to make a California herb enthusiast drop his or her handcrafted water bong in slow-motion shock. Barack Obama's "hope and change" in part brought change to how the federal government would treat medical marijuana states. Currently the White House's stance is no prosecution for medical marijuana states.

Despite medical marijuana's gateway legalization and protection from federal prosecution brought forth by the Obama administration, the White House has decided to at least give lip service to the idea of enforcing federal law on "marijuana for fun." From the Christian Science Monitor we see that Attorney General Eric Holder, after receiving a letter signed by nine former DEA administrators, now says that he will enforce federal drug laws no matter what the outcome of Proposition 19. I don't think the cannabis connoisseurs of California have much to worry about either way. For one, except for when facing off with conservatives, Holder's spine tends toward a consistency of linguini. Secondly, despite Holder's vow to make marijuana prosecutions a "core priority" of the Justice Department, the lion's share of arrests will still be made at the state and local levels.

As is often the case, the most important issues transcend the immediate topic. The issue of legalizing "marijuana for fun" is simply another symptom of the growing liberalization of the country. There is little doubt that liberals in California have played a major part in the liberalization of the country, being banner carriers for leftist causes from gay marriage to the gateway legalization of marijuana. However, on the marijuana issue, much of the country has stood by in befuddled apathy listening to the equivalent of back-alley drug dealers tell Americans the economic benefits of mainstreaming the drug in California to save the state's economic woes. The success of this progression is present for all who wish to see it. Medical marijuana for the dangerously ill led to marijuana for ankle sprains, all in the name of healing and all in direct violation of federal law. This led to the progressive thought: "why should people fuss with the doctor's note when California can make an ounce of personal marijuana legal and collect some needed taxes to boot?"

Of course, if marijuana is not to be framed from the standpoint of pot promoters as a "healing herb" and now can be seen as a product of taxable income, would it not be more efficient and profitable to collect taxable income on this drug by the pound instead of by the ounce? Of course it would, and if proposition 19 passes on November 2, watch for increases in pot possession amounts, soon to follow. You can bet on it, or more aptly, you can bank on it. Moral relativism has been the catalyst to propel much of California's "gateway" thinking, and don't think that issues such as gay marriage and marijuana are the lowest points of this pitiful, progressive pit. Heaven forbid when California liberals discover the taxable potential in crack cocaine or kiddy porn. I will equally dread watching Eric Holder and the Obama administration try to show some spine on those issues, considering they are cut from the same clay as those they will have to oppose. Those who can't see the direction the country is going through initiatives like Proposition 19 may not just be stupid, they may be high.

© Paul A. Ibbetson


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Paul A. Ibbetson

Dr. Paul A. Ibbetson is a former Chief of Police of Cherryvale, Kansas, and member of the Montgomery County Drug Task Force. Paul received his Bachelor's and Master's degree in Criminal Justice at Wichita State University, and his PhD. in sociology at Kansas State University. Paul is the author of several books and is also the radio host of the Kansas Broadcasting Association's 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 award winning, Conscience of Kansas airing across the state. Visit his website at For interviews or questions, please contact


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