California Voters Appear Set to Pass Recreational Marijuana Legalization
Polls show California headed toward the legalization of Recreational Marijuana with Prop. 64
Proposition 64 if passed will legalize the recreational use of marijuana for anyone over 21. If its supporters believe that passage of Proposition 64 would raise $1-B in taxes annually, dramatically reduce prison populations, and create a multi-billion dollar marijuana industry in California
Its opponents on the other hand believe it will create a crisis of addiction and mental health problems and increasing DUI deaths and pediatric THC exposure.
Current polling shows California voters seem poised to take on the benefits and drawbacks of legalizing marijuana.
A Eyewitness News/Southern California News Group poll released last week has the proposition winning by a 52 to 41% margin.
It is going to create the Big Tobacco of Marijuana.
Opponents of Proposition 64 know they are being dramatically outspent by the Yes on 64 campaign and that the electorate has steadily shifted in favor of recreational marijuana usage.
But if California has to follow in the footsteps of states like Washington and Colorado in legalizing marijuana, there are better ways to do it, said Ken Corney, President of California Police Chiefs Association.
“The problem is the way the initiative is written and sponsored and funded by groups that plan to profit from the explosion of the marijuana industry in California,” said Mr. Corney. “It’s set to create the big tobacco of marijuana.”
Mr. Corney offers a litany of the measure’s shortcomings as proof that it was designed by and for marijuana industry insiders looking to get rich at the expense of public health.
The measure lacks potency limits for marijuana products, a plan for combating youth exposure and limits on advertising.
Perhaps most problematic, is that, technologically, law enforcement is not ready for a spike in drivers under the influence of marijuana. The measure offers no standard for marijuana impaired driving, and the scientific community appears to be years away from developing a field device that could measure marijuana intoxication the way a breathalyzer can determine blood alcohol levels.
“In the meantime we can’t put people on the roadways at risk to our inability to prevent people from driving under influences of marijuana, which is just as dangerous as alcohol,” Mr. Corney said. “We will take a giant leap back in how we brought safety to our roadways.”
He cited a AAA Foundation study that showed marijuana-related traffic deaths doubled in Washington State since that state legalized the drug.
The No on 64 campaign points to Parkview Hospital Emergency Room in Colorado, which claims to have seen a 51 percent increase in youths testing positive for marijuana and where half of all newborns test positive to neonatal exposure.
Furthermore, he said, “There is clear scientific evidence THC is more addictive and affects brain development in adolescents.”
To make matters worse, edible cannabis sold in dispensaries tends to be about 3X as potent as marijuana that is smoked, he said.
Proposition 64 supporters do not understand what they are signing up for, said Mr. Corney.
The Yes on Proposition 64 team is promoting the measure as a social justice issue.
“The crux of the proposition is reform and control. Right now there are communities across California that are devastated by drug dealers selling on the corners and people have no idea what they are buying. Proposition 64 will regulate, which is bad news for drug dealers,” said Michael Bustamante, spokesman for the Yes on Prop. 64 campaign.
“This is really a social justice issue. Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs, which has been an abject failure. This is an opportunity for communities of color to get out from under the harm the war on drugs disproportionately causes them.”
That’s why the proposition is endorsed by groups such as the ACLU, California State NAACP, and a number of church and community groups, added Mr. Bustamante.
The propositions supporters contend that its passage would help reduce the prison population and the expense associated with housing cannabis-related drug offenders.
“The law enforcement cost associated with that can certainly be redirected and better spent on true community policing and that’s part of what this initiative accomplishes,” said Mr. Bustamante.
The legalization of marijuana is expected bring in about $1-B in annual tax revenue, according to independent analysts.
The tax revenue and the prospect of reigning in a costly and failed war on drugs has united a broad and disparate group of supporters behind the proposition.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in endorsing the measure, hailed it for having “the strictest child protections and billions in new revenue for important programs such as public safety.”
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) also supports the measure, stating, “Our current marijuana laws have undermined many of the things conservatives hold dear: individual freedom, limited government and the right to privacy. This measure is a necessary reform which will end the failed system of marijuana prohibition in our state, provide California law enforcement the resources it needs to redouble its focus on serious crimes while providing a policy blueprint for other states to follow.”
“Prop 64 is not only supported by some law enforcement but also the environmental community, a whole host of African American and Latino communities,” added Mr. Bustamante, “because we all understand: It’s the just right thing to do.”
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