Marijuana legalization could turn ugly

If the election were held today, some 55percent of California voters would likely cast their ballots in support of Proposition 64, according to a recent poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California.  That means Calfornia could potentially join Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska in legalizing the recreational use of marijuana; but voters should be wary. Here’s why:

In 1996, voters approved Proposition 215, thus legalizing medical marijuana for those who needed it, making California the first state to legalize medical marijuana. The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 was intended for those with legitimate medical needs to be recommended by a physician to possess or cultivate marijuana to combat illness. Nowadays, it’s not hard to find a “doctor” to permit the use of marijuana for various reasons, warranted or not.

Attempting to legalize recreational marijuana is a big step for a state that has yet to find a way to properly regulate the medical marijuana industry. There has been clear and present abuse of the system currently in place, and Proposition 64 would do nothing to combat the issue and make the multi-million dollar cannabis industry harder to control and make the rich obscenely more rich.  According to industry groups, there are 1,250 dispensaries operating in California bringing in approximately $1.3 billion in sales.

Gov. Jerry Brown has noted the need for stricter guidelines on the medical marijuana industry and supported recent legislation that imposes statewide regulations on the cultivation, transportation and sale of the plant. The three bills signed by Brown create a Bureau of Medical Marijuana system for medical cannabis, a system that’s mandatory to ensure that California can contain the rapidly growing industry. One of the authors of this landmark legislation was state Sen. Mike McGuire, a Sonoma State University graduate who represents Sonoma County and is opposed to Proposition 64. He has said he would like to see the medicinal marijuana regulations take effect first. We agree with him.

A no vote on Proposition 64 may not follow the current trend among California voters, but it’s ultimately the best choice to give the state a fighting chance to control a possibly volatile environment. California must find a way to improve the regulation of medical marijuana before prematurely introducing a larger, unstable structure that would allow recreational use.

Local growers also have legitimate fears that the way Proposition 64 is written, “big marijuana” industries will dominate the playing field, similar to how “big tobacco” dominates the smoking industry.  It’s alarming that voters are ready to legalize the recreational use of marijuana given that the current system is in shambles. 

According to the California Growers Association, consolidating the cannabis industry around a few large growers would result in fewer jobs which leads to more crime in communities where growing weed is prevalent. The CGA also believes big marijuana companies will turn into conglomerates that dominate smaller operations and would own a vast majority of the wealth.

The possible ramifications of legalizing medical marijuana this election cycle are far too negative and risky. 

Another reason for concern is for law enforcement, there is no way to properly test for when someone is driving under the influence of marijuana. There also is no controls on doses, meaning young children could end up ingesting strong edibles without knowing the risks.

Given these and other concerns, it’s clear California is not ready to take the next step.

Before taking a very large misstep, California voters need to focus on containing the current can of worms that is the legal medical marijuana industry for patients who actually need the help, not just those who are looking for a way to get high.