Legalize marijuana? Pro, con, or undecided, Berkeley students sound off on Prop. 19

On November 2, state voters will decide on a controversial and quintessentially California ballot measure — Prop. 19, the “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010” — while City of Berkeley residents will weigh in on measures S and T, designed to expand and tax the local pot industry.

Where do students at Berkeley, with its reputation for liberalism (accurate or not) come down on the issue? Over the past weeks we’ve conducted an unscientific survey on the topic — buttonholing students on Sproul Plaza for their thoughts. We also questioned several students attending a campus debate on Prop. 19, organized by Students for Liberty, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Cal Democrats, and Berkeley College Republicans.

A fair number of students, it turned out, were only vaguely aware of Prop. 19 and some (more than for topics covered in past student-POV pieces) declined to participate or to have their photo included. (Social scientists, any theories here?) Not surprisingly, other students had strong and well-developed opinons.

But enough. Here, in their own words, 11 Berkeley undergraduates think out loud about the pros and cons of Proposition 19.


Catherine McGuire

‘People are going to smoke’: ‘[W]e might as well get some benefits of it — rather than [have it be] a dark, underground thing where this is illegal but people still do it widely, pretty much openly. … I think it would make it safer for everyone.’

Catherine McGuire, sophomore, political science
Hometown: Sacramento, CA
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Catherine McGuire

Benjamin Goldblatt

In the middle: ‘I don’t know that [using marijuana] is great for society, but at the same time I’m conflicted, because I don’t think government should tell people what to do.’

Benjamin Goldblatt, sophomore, political science
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

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Pamela Yamzon

On facilitating abuse: Legalization would make ‘easier access for people who want to abuse marijuana.’

Pamela Yamzon, sophomore, business and media studies
Hometown: Hanford, CA

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Gabe Schwartzman

On unequal enforcement: ‘The rates for marijuana arrests in the African American community is so much higher than it is in the white community. And there’s equal levels of marijuana usage in those two communities. … It’s an issue of social justice.’

Gabe Schwartzman, sophomore, political economy
Hometown: Garrett Park, MD
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Not pictured

On easier access: ‘In the end, a lot more people, especially young adults, are going to abuse that system [if we pass Prop. 19], and it’s going to be a lot easier for them to obtain marijuana.’

Yaki Suzuki, junior
Hometown: San Diego, CA
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Stephen Morseman

On reaping tax dollars and creating jobs: The marijuana business ‘is one of the fastest growing industries in America right now. I see no reason to slow it down.’

Stephen Morseman

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Brian Maissy

On the limits of secular law: ‘I don’t believe that secular law should regard itself with things such as the use of drugs. [Drug use] is kind of individual choice.’

Brian Maissy, junior, engineering
Hometown: Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

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Stephen Chen

On medicinal benefits: Marijuana ‘is a drug that can provide some medicinal remedies, natural remedies for people who are in pain, who have chronic illnesses, who are depressed.’

Stephen Chen, junior, economics
Hometown: Palos Verdes , CA
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Christina Arnesen

On drug laws as social control: ‘[W]hy a lot of rules were put into place, where drugs were made illegal over time, was a society control method for illegal immigrants and populations from countries and other ethnicities that the general population had an issue with.’

Christina Arnesen, freshman
Hometown: Snohomish, WA
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Tom Hughes

On the cost of enforcement: ‘The attempt to prohibit marijuana is basically a massive failure. It’s costing us huge sums of money — not only in enforcement, but prosecuting and jailing people for nonviolent drug offenses.’

Tom Hughes, sophomore, political science
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Bowen Huang

On regulation for drug safety: ‘If they regulated it, they could actually control the use better. And just have people use it in a more safer way.’

Bowen Huang, junior, society and environment
Hometown: Santa Barbara, CA
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