It’s one of 17 initiatives on the ballot in California this coming November, and to some it’s the most important one: recreational marijuana legalization. Four states, as well as Washington, D.C., have already done this, and another nine states will have it on their ballot as it currently stands (more could be added to the list soon). It’s a direct contradiction to the government’s recent determination, with the Drug Enforcement Administration deciding to keep marijuana listed as a Schedule I drug, in the same category as meth and heroin.
The ballot provision, known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, is 62 pages long. It seeks to regulate, tax and extend environmental protections to marijuana, which would be legal for purchase to anyone 21 years of age or over. Disgraced former Facebook President Sean Parker has even contributed $2.5 million to the cause, and it’s estimated that legalization would net California $1 billion in extra tax revenue. Based on stereotype alone, most people outside of California are surprised it is not legal in the state already, especially since medical marijuana has been legal for 20 years now.
What does Proposition 64 say?
As you can imagine, a lot is said in 62 pages. The main idea of it is to take marijuana production and selling out of the hands of the black market, so that possession can be monitored. It’s the same idea with alcohol; kids can’t buy it off some guy on the street, and it’s extremely difficult for anyone under the age of 21 to buy alcohol. This is not so with marijuana, which currently is too easy for high school kids to obtain (81 percent of seniors say so). Contrary to what some believe, legalizing marijuana would not lead to increased usage rates, even among teens.
There are many who disagree with legalizing marijuana in any capacity, but most in California simply disagree with the things they say the AUMA will allow citizens to do. Their website, NoOn64.net, outlines their oppositions with the bill; however, they do seem to embellish or oversimplify what the actual law would allow:
- “Proponents even wrote into law a provision that insures more than 95% of all broadcast television programming will be open to ads promoting marijuana.” This is false. The AUMA actually says, “Any advertising or marketing placed in broadcast, cable, radio, print and digital communications shall only be displayed where at least 71.6 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be 21 years of age or older, as determined by reliable, up-to-date audience composition data. (Section 26151 b, page 34)” Regulations are literally the exact same for alcohol advertisement.
- “The California Association of Highway Patrolmen strongly oppose Proposition 64 because it has no standard for marijuana impaired driving –none.” This is also false. Beginning in the 2018-19 fiscal year, the California Highway Patrol will be allocated $3 million a year for six years to establish protocol for determining, “whether a driver is operating a vehicle while impaired, including impairment by the use of marijuana or marijuana products…(Section 34019, 11c, page 47)” Funds will also be allocated for officer training, detection methods, and enforcement protocols.
- “This new initiative will specifically allow for dealers convicted of dealing up to 20,000 heroin doses or up to 10,000 meth doses, to receive marijuana licenses.” This is false. The AUMA doesn’t even mention the words “heroin” or “meth” once. We’re not sure where they got those numbers, but we were unable to independently verify either one of them. It’s a number that has been repeated by some opponents of the measure, but seems to have no basis in reality. Here’s what the AUMA actually says (author’s emphasis): ” a prior conviction…shall not be the SOLE ground for denial of a license. Conviction for ANY CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE FELONY subsequent to licensure shall be grounds for revocation of a license or denial of the renewal of a license.” Section 26057, page 23, outlines the myriad of ways which someone can be denied a marijuana license, including but not limited to: failure to provide required information, a felony conviction of drug trafficking, or a conviction of a violent felony of any kind.
- “A recent University of California, San Francisco report…says the initiative contains “minimal protections for public health.” This is false. Not about the report cited, it does say that, however the statement is false. Just the term “public health” is used 29 times throughout the AUMA, and says things like: “Local jurisdiction licenses and regulates any such entity to protect public health and safety, and so as to require compliance with all environmental requirements in this division (Section 26070.5 3(b)2, page 28).” The Department of Health will also, “ensure that testing of marijuana and marijuana products occurs prior to distribution to retailers, microbusinesses, or nonprofits,” “require destruction of harvested batches whose testing samples indicate noncompliance with health and safety standards promulgated by the Department of Public Health,” and all labeling shall include government warnings, proper font size, and origin.
- “Parkview Hospital Emergency Room in Colorado wrote recently that since recreational marijuana has been legal in that state, the hospital has seen a 51% increase in children 18 and under that test positive for marijuana.” This one actually appears to be true. However, it’s important to remember that laws governing alcohol and tobacco used to be minimal at best, especially with alcohol. Marketing towards children, however inadvertent it may be, is obviously very important. It’s the reason Joe Camel and part of the reason alcoholic beverages like Zima were discontinued. Cartoons and alcohol that looks like soda isn’t allowed anymore. The marijuana laws that the AUMA outlines specifically deals with these things, and notes that, “Packages and labels shall not be made to be attractive to children (Section 26120 b, page 32)” and that the package itself shall be child resistant. California can learn from Colorado in this regard, and most in Colorado would say that the positives outnumber the negatives.
No one is saying that legalizing marijuana is a step towards utopia; however, the arguments for it are much stronger and clearly based on more fact than arguments against it. There are so many rules in the AUMA regarding maximum allowable amount to possess or buy, where, when and how it can be smoked, and cultivation practices that it’s nearly impossible to see this as any different than tobacco or alcohol, which have both been shown to be far more destructive to health and safety than marijuana. Lung cancer related to tobacco accounts for 30 percent of all cancer deaths, 2,200 people die from alcohol poisoning every year in the U.S. alone, but there has yet to be a single documented case of a marijuana overdose in the history of mankind. It’s also no big secret what a colossal waste of time and money the War on Drugs is for American taxpayers and law enforcement.
Once marijuana becomes legal, there will certainly be an educational responsibility on parents, teachers and the government to inform the public of potential harms of marijuana the same way they do with tobacco and alcohol. Mothers need to know that marijuana use is never okay during pregnancy or breast feeding, teens need to know that the lethargy caused by prolonged use can make them less motivated to accomplish things, and drivers of all ages need to know that marijuana can inhibit your motor skills and reaction time. If we’re willing to teach, others will learn how to safely handle marijuana, the exact same way they learn how to handle tobacco and alcohol.