Standing in front of the Glendale Police Department on Friday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) voiced strong opposition to Proposition 19, the Nov. 2 ballot measure that would legalize marijuana in California.
"As a mother and grandmother of six, I believe Prop. 19 will send a signal to youngsters that marijuana smoking is legal and therefore permissible," Feinstein said. "That's what legalization does. It says it's OK. It's not OK."
Feinstein was joined by Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian and nearly two dozen other opponents of Proposition 19, including representatives of police agencies, schools and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Nearby, half a dozen Yes on 19 advocates handed out literature and countered the comments of the speakers.
Covina Police Chief Kim Raney, speaking on behalf of the California Police Chiefs Assn., said his group of 350 top enforcement officers believe the measure would dramatically increase the use of hard drugs in the state, as well as traffic collisions caused by drivers under the influence.
Raney also said if California voters pass Proposition 19 on Tuesday, federal authorities will likely go to court to block the law.
The Obama administration has not enforced federal narcotics laws against California's medical marijuana dispensaries. But Feinstein said the feds would not let it stand if California legalizes a drug still considered a narcotic under federal statutes.
"There is no question the federal government will enforce the law," Feinstein said. "There is also no question that the Senate will not vote to legalize the use of marijuana."
"Yes on 19" proponent Hanna Liebman Dershowitz said Feinstein should listen to California voters, not impose her own views.
"As a taxpayer, attorney and mother, I feel it is incredibly disturbing that Washington politicians are trying to tell California voters how to vote," she said.
Another Proposition 19 advocate said the litany of problems cited by opponents — a likely increase in drug abuse and traffic fatalities — are unproven at best.
"So much of this is the 'reefer madness' we have been hearing since 1937," Amanda Rain Brazel said. "And a lot of it is flat-out not true."
For example, Brazel said, the number of traffic fatalities in California has dropped in the years since medical marijuana use became legal, the opposite of the result predicted by Proposition 19 opponents.
Feinstein and others challenged many of the arguments of "Yes on 19" advocates.
Proponents have argued that taxing marijuana would help the state balance its budget, and legalizing it would hurt the drug cartels that control much of the marijuana trade.
"The notion that these ultra-violent drug trafficking organizations will simply disappear is, I think, ludicrous," she said.