This proposition is too big and too complex; with more than twenty pages of fine print legal speak in the back of the voter information guide, few people will take the time to read up on a statute that tries to kill too many birds with a single, clumsily thrown stone. The proposition deals with marijuana possession, prison population control, parole policy procedural changes, costly treatment programs (with uncertain costs to the state) and creates more bureaucracy. Some of these issues merit attention: people might want marijuana laws to be relaxed; also, something does need to be done about prison overcrowding. The problem with this proposition is the complex question it creates. “Do you believe in lesser fines for small amounts of marijuana possession?” If one says yes and votes to pass this bill, the voter also votes to shorten parole for convicted criminals, create costly new programs for treatment, even though many programs do exist, some at the cost of the criminal and not the tax payers, among other things. Again, one may want to help alleviate prison overcrowding, but what else does a “yes” vote allow? The good intentions of drug policy reformers gets lost among the initiative statute that sprawls on epically, and still, neither the proponents of Prop 5, also called NORA, nor the legal analysts working for with the Attorney General in preparing the information for the voter information guide cannot predict how much these new bureaucratic changes might cost.
It should be repeated that programs for the education of offenders exists already. According to the voter information guide, “The state currently provides substance abuse treatment, academic education, job training, and other types of programs for prison inmates and parolees in order to increase the likelihood of success in the community after their release from prison.” But there are so many offenders that the proponents of Prop 5 want both increased funding for these programs—a noble, liberal sentiment—and also redefine drug policy so that less people will be subject to the laws against illegal substances. The problem does not shrink; there are not less users under these revised laws. Instead, less people will be regarded as criminals and given lesser fines and jail time, things meant to act as deterrents, but will instead become little more than inconveniences to these users.
An attempt to make too many special interests groups happy, this proposition tries to do too much. Marijuana reform is a popular topic among voters, and a proposition solely about it might be passed. People may be willing to allocate more of their taxes towards helping others kick their habits. Some might want to reduce the penalties for what they might consider harmless activities like marijuana use. The problem is that this proposition asks the voter to make a blanket decision—yes or no to all—and hopefully the voter will not regret the other effects.