California Should Legalize Recreational Marijuana


Once again, California voters will decide whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. They have previously rejected initiatives to do this, but while this year’s Proposition 64 isn’t perfect, it is a much more thoughtful proposal. It’s time to say yes.

Prop. 64 would allow adults 21 years or older to use pot, grow up to six plants in their homes and possess about an ounce of marijuana and about a quarter ounce of hash. The details piggyback on the regulatory framework for medicinal use that state lawmakers finally developed last year.

Rules prohibiting public tobacco smoking would apply to pot, and driving under the influence of marijuana would still be banned, although that element still needs refinement. The initiative has no objective DUI blood-test standard for marijuana comparable to the .08 percent level for alcohol. But that’s a science problem. There’s currently no threshold for THC, the active ingredient, that reliably indicates impairment.

Prop. 64 would regulate marijuana businesses, give cities and counties control over their location, levy taxes on pot production and sales and penalize those who operate without licenses. The Legislature likely will tweak the rules as needed. Fortunately, Prop. 64 permits this – a smart element of flexibility that more initiatives should include.

Current law lags behind societal norms. Forty-four percent of Americans polled last year told Gallup they had tried pot. Even the current and past two presidents toked, although Bill Clinton infamously claimed he didn’t inhale.

Our police, judges and jailers have bigger issues than pot-smokers.

We would have preferred uniform federal rules legalizing marijuana, but there’s no sign of that. So once again, the states must lead. In 1996, California voters were the nation’s first to legalize medicinal use. Today, half the states permit it.

In 2010, 53.5 percent of California voters rejected a recreational use initiative. We recommended against it because it was poorly drafted. Since then four other states and the District of Columbia have led the way. California can learn from them.

Opponents suggest Prop. 64 would open the airwaves to pot ads, since restrictions would be similar to those for alcohol. But an outright broadcast ad ban like the one for tobacco is unlikely to withstand a court challenge.

Opponents also note that a prior drug conviction can’t be the sole grounds for rejecting a license for cultivation or sale of pot. But that’s because the law acknowledges people have been ensnared by overly punitive drug laws. The state could still deny licenses to people convicted of crimes such as trafficking and would retain discretion for others.

Opponents will continue to pick holes in Prop. 64, but it is generally solid – and long-overdue. Vote yes this time.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: California Should Legalize Recreational Marijuana
Author: Mercury News Editorial
Contact: Mercury News
Photo Credit: David McNew
Website: Mercury News