At first glance, Gretchen Burns-Bergman doesn’t seem like the type of person who would support the legalization of recreational marijuana. The mother of two lives in Rancho Santa Fe and works as fashion producer.
But years ago Burns co-founded Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing (PATH). She’s also part of Moms United, a group of California parents who support Proposition 19.
“It’s time to change the way we’re dealing with this,” said Burns. “I don't see why we are treating people who use these drugs like criminals, particularly marijuana.”
On Monday, Burns was one of several Prop 19 supporters who gathered in North Park to discuss why they believe legalizing pot would be positive.
“I'd rather see responsible citizens, regulating and controlling it than having it in the hands of the drug cartels,” argued Burns.
Scott Chipman completely disagrees. He represents Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana (CALM).
“Addiction is a huge issue that’s being downplayed in all of this,” says Chipman. “Prop 19 sends out the wrong message. It will absolutely open the door for more drug use.”
The measure would make it legal for adults, 21 and older, to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. It would also make it legal to grow marijuana at a private residence, as long as it doesn’t exceed 25 square feet.
Supporters say taxing the drug could bring in much needed revenue.
“It will bring in nearly $2 billion to state and local governments,” argued Leo Laurence, a former deputy sheriff who was part of the panel. “It may help San Diego and get rid of its deficit.”
Chipman says that’s far from the truth.
“I can't imagine anyone who's selling marijuana now illegally, coming out and saying 'Oh please, would you tax me? Because right now I'm not paying taxes but I'd really like to pay taxes on it.'" argued Chipman. "That's not going to happen.”
Burns says the criminalization of drug users only makes things worse for addicts. For years, Burn’s two sons, who are in their 30’s, have battled with drug addictions.
“My son learned to use heroin behind bars,” said Burns. “When you treat someone who may have addictive problems like a criminal, they get caught up in a system and it creates an even bigger problem.”
Chipman argues the measure would only promote confusion and drug use among youths.
“It's called the tax, regulate and control marijuana act,” said Chipman, “But it doesn't tax, regulate or control,”
If Prop 19 passes, the federal government could still enforce its anti-drug laws in the state.
According to a recent poll by the Los Angeles Times, about 51 percent of voters oppose legalizing marijuana, while 39 percent support it. The poll’s margin of error is roughly 4.6 percentage points.