"Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people. When the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers, and destroyers press upon them so fast, that there is no resisting afterwards. The nature of the encroachment upon the American constitution is such, as to grow every day more and more encroaching. Like a cancer, it eats faster and faster every hour. The revenue creates pensioners, and the pensioners urge for more revenue. The people grow less steady, spirited, and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependents and expectants, until virtue, integrity, public spirit, simplicity, and frugality, become the objects of ridicule and scorn, and vanity, luxury, foppery, selfishness, meanness, and downright venality swallow up the whole society." ~ John Adams
A Personal Reflection of Proposition 19's Failure: How I Could Have Become a Victim of Section 4
Column by Kevin M. Patten.
Exclusive to STR
Ever since reading Section 4 of the measure, the mandatory criminalization that, for some reason, had to come with legalization, I had been on edge, and on guard. I now think my suspicions had merit. In the immediate morning following proposition 19's defeat, I, a fearless cannabis reporter, found myself in a situation where a real-life nightmare had almost become reality. I could have been waking up inside of a cell today. As it was, and now deceased, Section 4, Subsection C of Proposition Nineteen read: "Every person 21 years of age or over who knowingly furnishes, administers, or gives, or offers to furnish, administer or give any marijuana to a person aged 18 years or older, but younger than 21 years of age, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of up to six months and be fined up to $1,000 for each offense." I think to myself: God forbid if some agent of the State comes and bursts into my room at 8:00 in the morning, demanding answers to the questions she was directing to me and my partially naked girlfriend.
In so many words, the measure tells you it's a serious offense. Don't do it. In actuality: A first time offender would probably be sentenced to six months, and be out in less than 30 days. Not that big of a deal. That's not exactly the case, however, if your name is currently listed on the state's ridiculously long parole sheet. In that situation, your ass is going back to the slammer, doing at least 80 percent.
As a parolee in his mid-twenties, the idea of recreational cannabis smoking with someone under the arbitrary legal age should be embedded firmly in my thoughts, and I should be deathly afraid of ever even considering so. If, by chance or by fate, Proposition 19 passed, and Section Four became a reality, caught smoking marijuana with an underage “toker” would find me right back into some cold cell way out in a lonely desert 300 miles from home, eating food that is indecipherable from cooked dogshit and listening to some child molester whistle in the shower. I should know better after doing three years.
But, alas, sey-la-vi, and as always: a beautiful girl is a beautiful girl; with all their temptation and blood-sucking capacities. Like the very best buds in the world, they're capable of corrupting a man's motivations and making him do things he wouldn't normally be inclined to agree with. Clarissa. She's beautiful with long black hair, small brown freckles that go across her cheeks, a little dimple on her chin, and who stands at least three inches taller than myself. She's 18, but Clarissa has been smoking pot long before meeting any disgruntled cannabis reporters. There's no need for suspicions and confessions; one can guess the first time and get it right without deflection: I get high with this girl as often as I can. It makes my day, and I figure that, in the eyes of any quacked out "doctor" selling med-cards down at the beach, she's just another medical patient. Headaches or back pains or something like this.
For the two of us, the night of November 2 seemed typical, if not somewhat bland. Maybe even strange if one were to take into consideration the crystals that sparkled on top of our magic bud. Something someone gave me called Super Silver Haze, which had rendered our sense of style completely useless. We rocketed around LA in a convertible Mustang – my mother's – enjoying the setting sun and trying our very best to look like two lazy and adventurous Californians who were high on THC and low on petroleum. Occasionally my video camera would be pulled out and I would ask the driver stopped next to me if they had voted for Prop 19. Many yes's. Few no's. Weird reportage, but with so little resources, I must make do with what I have.
Still, I couldn't forget the thought of failure lingering in my head. With an odd feeling of precognition in my mind – somehow knowing that the measure was going to fail and be sent into a political abyss – I took off to Hollywood to see if there were any cannabis-creatures walking down the street. I've met one before, giving the measure some serious backing, and I thought that perhaps there might be supporters out there doing the same, giving what the initiative really needed – some proper public support.
Ah, but there weren't many cannabis-creatures out tonight. I felt despair in my heart. The victory sex would not occur, and my grand idea of a successful celebration with legions of public enforcers flipping off Sheriff Lee Baca right after all of the votes had been counted; it would just not happen tonight. Marijuana would not be legalized in the streets of Los Angeles. But I didn't expect it. There was no money behind the damned thing, and, after all, nobody wanted to imagine stoned bus drivers picking up their children from school.
We drove back home after the boredom had taken hold, turned on the TV, and settled into the night with some fluffy and comfortable green mounds. The blankets were also very comfortable. I put two holes into a green apple, broke a toothpick in half for my bowl, and smoked some more of that wonderful silver cannabis, allowing some douchebag FOX news reporter on TV to confirm for us the fate of the measure. Destruction. A long, smooth leg stretched over me, and I fell into dream land, or something that could only be memorized as such. The apple full of beautiful herb rolled off my hand on towards the foot of my bookshelf, which also held the remaining weed in an old copy of Cannabis Times.
The next thing I remember was my brother pounding at my door at 8:30 in the morning. "Hey Kev, are you awake?" He was using his forearm. Something was aloof. My black computer chair was wedged against the door handle. I have no lock, but at least nobody could get in. "Hey Kevin. Wake up."
All of a sudden the tone of voice changed. “Kevin open up, it's Ms. Lyons.” (My parole officer, whose name is obviously changed.)
Christ! Didn't this woman come by a couple weeks ago? My first instinct was that this probably wouldn't turn out good. With a maniac compulsion to escape any consideration of hers sending me back to prison, I grabbed the magazine, funneled it together, and poured the remaining marijuana right down my gullet; washing it down with stale beer. On her third "open up!" I had kicked the girl awake, and demanded that she take the apple and lighter.
I removed the chair and let her in. "Oh that's why he's taking so long" – she actually said aloud – "he's got a girl with him." She walked in like she owned the place. "Is this your girlfriend?"
Partially awake, tasting like hangover and freshly-cut grass, I muttered a "no, not really" and took the small bottle she was handing me. Mandatory for all those on parole: Random drug tests via piss in a bottle. "One of them, uh?" she asked, telling me to go to the bathroom and pee in the tube while she took a little look around my room.
I peed, put it in a bag, and hoped silently standing in front of the mirror that by the time I had opened the door back up, Ms. "Lyons" would be in my kitchen waiting to ask me how I'm doing. I had to remember, aloud even: the measure did not pass. I should be alright then. We were just “medicating,” after all.
I opened the door. Clarissa was still sitting on the floor, wrapped in blankets and smiling half-heartedly. Poor girl might be traumatized by all this. The PO was standing in the kitchen, and performed her routine "how are you doing" session before leaving me be. I breathed heavily and jumped in the shower and began to scrub away at the stink of irony. It could have turned out a lot worse.
The whole thing really doesn't make any sense to me anyhow. Why, more people should have asked, if marijuana was set to be legalized to those over the age of 21, does Prop 19 penalize persons who are offering to a legal adult? Those between the ages of 18-21 are also subject to have their life destroyed simply for offering cannabis in front of someone under the age of an adult.
Section B reads exactly the same as C, although the responsibility of punishment is now weighing on an 18 year old. That immediately denotes suspicion amongst those who wrote the measure, and assumes that those under 21 will be able to easily acquire large amounts of marijuana, neglecting the main argument for Prop 19: that the element of “playground pushers” will be taken out of society, and it would become difficult for teens to acquire cannabis. Someone stood to gain from this, it seems.
From information available on the California Correctional Peace Officer Association's website, there are close to 100,000 people under the age of 20 currently on parole. Marijuana, plus a teenager, plus an underage cousin or nephew, could very well equal another incarceration. I hated that fact. And just found out on the third of November that my endorsement of this measure almost betrayed my efforts. I could have been in jail that day, as could have been many others. Looking back at it now – and only now – I'm glad it didn't pass. I've changed my opinion, slightly, amidst so much personal reassurance. Prop 19 was pseudo-legalization, and nothing we should request as acceptable.
Cannabis did suffer a horrible blow at that year's election, but in the end, the real causality was personal responsibility; substituted yet again with somebody else's idea of morality. It's safe now to assume that the Police State will wage on in one form or another. If it's not the Prison Guards, then it'll be the Police Force. At least it wasn't the Feds, who I was certain were already prepared for “Operation Golden State Takeover.” As for me, am I ashamed? Should I be? Truth be told: Smoking with her is not likely to weigh heavily on my conscience. As a matter of fact, the next cannabis initiative I endorse will include not only 18 year olds, but also the rest of the country.