Column: Pot smokers differ on Prop. 19 merits

There is something very weird about asking directions to the marijuana expo at the Anaheim Convention Center.

You feel like a young rebel. You wonder if the security guards think you’re high. And you fear someone’s going to get busted.

Paranoid? Hardly. Marijuana’s illegal and the smell of pot is in the air. I’m not kidding.

It’s Saturday afternoon and a dozen or so people – some in wheelchairs, some with dreadlocks – are smoking weed. Outside. In public. In Anaheim. Near Disneyland.

But there’s something even weirder going on inside the expo where there is no whiff of weed and smoking is strictly prohibited. Marijuana advocates are split on supporting Proposition 19, the November ballot initiative that would legalize pot under California law.

To say they are dazed and confused might make for a fun one-liner. But it would inaccurately portray what is a serious, nuanced and hotly contested issue.

In delving into the debate, I also discovered another surprise. In the marijuana world, the debate has nothing to do with “Harold and Kumar”-type stoners, although the colorful characters at some of the booths might suggest otherwise.

Instead, the debate tends to pit middle-class adult recreational smokers – think an evening cocktail – against patients who rely on marijuana to help them cope with a variety of ailments, especially gut-twisting nausea and crippling pain.

THE WAR ON DRUGS

Many people, including retired Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray, believe the costly war on what they consider a relatively benign plant is a colossal waste of money and pointlessly wrecks people’s lives.

Half of California voters, according to an August poll by SurveyUSA, favor Prop. 19. The remaining voters are 40 percent against and 10 percent undecided.

And how many arrests?

In 2008, 78,500 people faced pot charges in California, according the state Attorney General’s office.

“I’m here to tell you the worst thing about marijuana is jail,” said the…

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