December 14, 2018

Prop. 19 went down, but normalization of marijuana marches on

On the morning after, the pot prince of Pico said he was happy to see Proposition 19 voted down.

“I don’t see the vote yesterday as a repudiation of marijuana being legal,” Matthew Cohen said of voters’ rejection of Prop. 19. “I see it as a repudiation of a badly written law.”

If Prop. 19 had passed, the owner of The Natural Way of L.A. dispensary would’ve enjoyed seeing the headlines this morning. “California Legalizes Pot,” Cohen said—but his tone changed dramatically when he imagined the less celebratory small print: “But it’s gonna be a lot harder to get than it was yesterday.”

Calling Prop. 19 “legalization in the name of legalization,” Cohen said that although he thought that enacting that ballot measure would have made him and dispensary owners in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco “and maybe a couple of other college towns,” fabulously wealthy, the broader effect would have been to severely curtail access in most other spots around the state.

“My friend, they would be closed today,” Cohen said, speaking of the dispensaries in towns less friendly to marijuana, towns like Solvang and Temecula. Marijuana advocacy groups like Americans for Safe Access (which took no position on Prop. 19) and the Marijauana Policy Project have, just in the last few years, brought lawsuits against a number of California city councils that tried to curtail access to medicinal marijuana in their municipalities—and in 31 cases, Cohen said, the city councils have backed down rather than fight the marijuana advoctes in court.

“I read that officially there are 635 municipalities in the state of California,” Cohen said, and Prop. 19 would have given “every single one of them the option [of voting to ban marijuana usage and to close local marijuana dispensaries] without fear of a lawsuit.”

Still, Cohen saw evidence that the marijuana movement, is helping to move marijuana inexorably into the mainstream. “Look at the headway that we have made,” Cohen said. “It’s become so normal.”