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California voters will determine the fate of several major state ballot propositions this year
By Matt Cortina and Maggie Fetterly
As part of our ongoing coverage of the 2016 election, San Clemente Times selected several ballot propositions that all California voters will face in November to dissect. This week, we’re taking a look at Proposition 64, which would legalize recreational marijuana sales, and Propositions 62 and 66, which are competing to determine whether to abolish the death penalty, or, in a way, actually speed it up.
Propositions 62 and 66: To Mend or End the Death Penalty
California’s Proposition 62 would repeal the death penalty in the state. The proposition, if approved, will replace the death penalty with the sentence of life without the possibility of parole as the maximum punishment. The measure would also require the individual found guilty to work while in state prison in order to pay restitution to the victims’ families.
However, another proposition on the ballot, Proposition 66, would keep the death penalty in place but change the procedure to speed up the appeals process in the courts.
The controversial history of the death penalty in California began in 1972, when the California Supreme Court decided to abolish the death penalty, deeming it unconstitutional. However, in 1978, voters approved Proposition 7 to re-institute the death penalty in California. According to the proponent’s statements in the state’s official Voter’s Guide, since 1978, 13 inmates have been executed in the state of California, costing a total of about $5 billion to taxpayers throughout the years.
Californians rejected a measure to ban capital punishment in 2012.
The main argument for Proposition 62 is twofold: first, advocates say it would prevent potentially innocent criminals from being put to death; and second, taxpayers would save money by building a cost effective system that creates opportunity for work, and closure for the victims’ families.
According to proponents, taxpayers would save $150 million a year if Proposition 62 passed. It is also argued that the risk in executing an innocent person and racial inequality in the criminal justice system would be considered erased.
Those who oppose the initiative argue it would be too expensive for taxpayers and would protect people instead of protecting the victims’ rights.
Proposition 66, meanwhile, proposes a mend to the trial system that would speed up appeals but not abolish the death penalty. Supporters of Proposition 66 argue that taxpayers won’t pay for these criminals while they wait on death row for 30 or more years due to the faster and more efficient court system created.
Proposition 66 would require trial courts to be in charge of petitions challenging death penalty convictions with a time frame for review and an appointed attorney to only work these types of cases. Proposition 66 follows the same compensation requirements to their victims’ families.
Allison Martin, campaign spokesperson for Yes on Proposition 62, said, “California’s death penalty is broken beyond repair. Proposition 66’s exorbitant price tag and extreme proposed remedy prove just how irreplaceable California’s death penalty system is. Proposition 62 is the only real solution to our failed death penalty.”
Both propositions offer solutions to the death penalty process in California, but both are at far ends of the spectrum on how to do so. If both propositions are approved, whichever initiative has the most yes votes will be enacted and the other will not. —Maggie Fetterly
For Proposition 62:
Former President Jimmy Carter, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, California Democratic Party, California NAACP, several ACLU groups, select religious and humanist organizations
Contributions for Proposition 62
Yes on 62, No on 66 (Taxpayers for Sentencing Reform): $7,220,713.82.
Million Voter Project Action Fund: $1,755,000.
For Proposition 66:
California Republican Party, dozens of law enforcement advocacy groups, and dozens of district attorneys and sheriffs throughout California.
Contributions for Proposition 66:
Californians to Mend, not End, the Death Penalty (Supported by Prosecutors and Law Enforcement): $4,664,882.70
No on Prop 62 (political action committee): $8,372,260.10
Proposition 64: To Legalize Marijuana
Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996. Proposition 64 would legalize recreational marijuana—that is, you wouldn’t need a doctor’s note—for adults over 21 years of age, with a lot of stipulations.
If passed, smoking marijuana in public and while driving would be illegal, as would possession in school zones. Californians would be able to possess up to 28.5 grams at a time, and could cultivate six plants at home.
In order to sell marijuana, businesses would be required to get a state license. On top of that, municipalities would be able to ban the sale of recreational marijuana, but they won’t receive a share of the tax revenue. Businesses would also not be able to sell within 600 feet of a school, day care center or youth center.
A newly reformatted Bureau of Marijuana Control would regulate and license marijuana businesses. Though both medical and recreational marijuana sales are technically illegal under federal law, the Department of Justice, under President Obama’s direction, has said it would not prosecute those following local and state marijuana sales laws. Currently, recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, and in addition to California, voters in Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada and Arizona will also be voting on statewide legalization measures. Half the country currently allows either medical or recreational marijuana sales.
Two new taxes would be created and levied on cultivation and retail sales of marijuana. Revenue from the taxes would be used to fund drug research, youth programs, remedies to environmental concerns regarding marijuana cultivation, and an initiative to help police determine whether or not a driver is high. The taxes would include $9.25 per ounce for flowers (aka buds) and $2.75 per ounce for leaves, with exceptions for certain medical marijuana sales and cultivation. The other tax would be a 15 percent tax on the retail price of marijuana. Local governments, if they allow recreational marijuana sales, could add on additional local taxes.
Penalties for using or possessing marijuana underage include community service and drug counseling. If businesses are caught selling illegally, they would face jail time and fines.
Proponents of Proposition 64 say legalization is a long time coming.
“Marijuana is available nearly everywhere in California—but without any protections for children, without assurances of product safety, and without generating tax revenue for the state,” wrote Steven Downing, deputy chief of the L.A. Police Department, and Donald Lyman, chief of chronic disease at the California Department of Public Health, in the proposition’s official support statement.
Proponents expect about $1 billion every year in new tax revenue should Proposition 64 pass, and the nearly 8,800 marijuana-related felony arrests to cease upon legalization.
Opponents claim that Proposition 64 would double automobile accidents, citing the proposition’s lack of standards for “high driving”—the measure only includes a mechanism to finance research on the subject. They also claim danger, citing that people will be able to grow plants inside their home, inside of school zones.
Opponents also claim ads for smoking will increase, the black market for drugs will increase and underprivileged neighborhoods will experience a proliferation of marijuana retail shops nearby, hurting the local community. —Matt Cortina
For Proposition 64:
California Democratic Party, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, ACLU of California, California NAACP, California Nurses Association
Contributions for Proposition 64:
Yes on 64 (business, physician, environmental and social justice PAC): $15,156,939.70
Drug Policy Action (nonprofit): $4,470,000
Fund for Policy Reform (nonprofit): $4,237,000
Against Proposition 64:
California Republican Party, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Bill Brough and dozens of sheriffs, district attorneys and police organizations
Contributions against Proposition 64:
No on Proposition 64 (California Public Safety Institute): $1,124,001.16
Sam Action Inc. (nonprofit): $1,364,000