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Proposition 19

Latin America to California: Please don't decriminalise marijuana

The presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico say voting yes on Prop 19 would be a contradiction on anti-drug policy.

THE LEADERS OF a number of Latin American countries have appealed to Californian voters not to approve Proposition 19 – a bill which would decriminalise the possession and cultivation of marijuana in the home – next Tuesday, featuring that approval of such a measure would undermine their efforts to eliminate drug cartels from their countries.

The Presidents of Mexico, Costa Rica and Colombia all pleaded with Californians to think of the bigger picture, and not to hinder the decades-long battle against the drug-pushing criminal underworld.

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, hosting a summit of Latin American leaders, said: “How can I tell a farmer in my country that if he grows marijuana, I’ll put him in jail, when in the richest state of the United States it’s legal to produce, traffic and consume the same product?”

PA reports that he later added: “It’s confusing for our people to see that, while we lose lives and invest resources in the fight against drug trafficking, in consuming countries initiatives like California’s referendum are being promoted.”

Santos’ position was strengthened by the support of Mexico’s Felipe Calderon – a longstanding opponent of any concession by legalising drugs – who, while declining to mention Proposition 19 by name, said it was “not possible to face (drug trafficking) effectively from our national borders in an isolated manner.”

The speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has meanwhile also said that she had been lobbied by Mexican leaders trying to secure her public opposition to the bill.

“I have the Mexicans coming in here and saying, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is going to be problematic if in fact there’s the decriminalization of marijuana’,” she told the Huffington Post.

Billionaires in favour

The poll is even becoming a cause championed by billionaire philanthrophists: George Soros, a regular donor to Democratic candidates, told the Wall Street Journal he had donated $1m (€743,000) to pro-Prop 19 campaigns, in lieu of supporting any actual candidates in this year’s elections.

The Proposition 19 ballot is a deeply divisive one, with opinion polls conducted throughout the year showing inconsistent swings to both the Yes and No sides; the most recent substantial poll, by Public Policy Polling, showed a 48%-45% lead for the opponents of the bill.

It has been presented to the public for statewide ballot after a petition collected almost 700,000 signatures – over 50% more than the amount needed to have it put to the public alongside the midterm Congressional and Californian gubernatorial polls.

If approved, the bill would decriminalise the possession of up to 28.5 grams of marijuana for personal consumption, and allow people to the drug in spaces up to 25 square feet at home for their personal use. They would also be permitted to consume the drug in a non-public place, or in a premises licenced for such consumption.

The sale of the drug, however, would remain illegal under federal law.