Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Possible legal use of marijuana in California

Government by initiative seems to be riding high in California.

But, what's new about that? With the Legislature prone to partisan
gridlock, the initiative process continues to take up the slack.

Upcoming will be a host of measures that will once again propose
government reforms and budgeting by ballot box.

Then there are social initiatives. Last election, it was gay marriage
being narrowly turned down by voters.

Come November, California voters probably will be deciding whether to
legalize marijuana.

Never mind that pot use remains a federal crime. In California, for all
intents and many purposes, marijuana already is quasi-legal.

The medical marijuana movement has provided an avenue for sick people,
and others, to obtain the drug. Meanwhile, mere possession is a
nonpriority for law enforcement in the city of Santa Cruz.

Backers say they had little trouble getting far more signatures than
needed to qualify the measure for the ballot -- 680,000, 57 percent more
than the 433,971 valid signatures needed.

The initiative would also permit cities and counties to pass their own
laws to allow marijuana to be grown and sold -- and local governments
could impose taxes on marijuana production and sales. It would become
legal for adults over 21 years old to possess up to an ounce of
marijuana and to grow it in a 25-square-foot area for personal use.
Sales to, and use by, minors would remain against the law -- even as a
new federally funded study shows almost a third of 12th-graders and more
than a quarter of 10th-graders smoked pot in 2009.

Will this pass? The main proponent of the measure, Oakland pot
businessman Richard Lee, originally was aiming for 2012 and the
presidential election ballot. But polls have shown a solid majority of
Californians support legalization. Then, the Obama administration
announced earlier this year it would not prosecute medical marijuana
providers or users who follow state law.

Since then, hundreds more medical pot dispensaries have opened in
California. Santa Cruz has two and a moratorium on opening new ones.

There are two compelling arguments for legalizing marijuana. The first
is that it would provide badly needed tax revenues for the state. Well,
so would taxing a lot of things -- maybe the state should start with
online purchases.

But the fact the law regarding marijuana possession is obviously ignored
and only selectively enforced is tough to refute. As long as
legalization does not include sales by cartels and includes provisions
with teeth against getting behind the wheel or passing pot along to
minors, it seems inevitable.

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