Pubdate: Tue, 30 Mar 2010
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Page: A2
Copyright: 2010 Los Angeles Times
Author: Sandy Banks
Cited: Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Opinion)


Legalization Might Be a Bigger Issue for Boomers Than for Others

Its name might be its strongest asset: The Regulate, Control and Tax 
Cannabis Act, a marijuana legalization effort that goes out of its 
way not to say the word "marijuana."

I suspect its organizers learned something from the failure of 
predecessors -- like the Inalienable Rights Enforcement Initiative, a 
name that sounds like it was dreamed up by a bunch of guys passing 
around a bong.

The Cannabis Act, which qualified last week for the statewide 
November ballot, ran its first radio ad Sunday: a former Los Angeles 
deputy sheriff explaining "why cops support Tax Cannabis 2010, the 
initiative to control and tax cannabis."

Never mind that the state's law enforcement organizations are already 
lining up to oppose it.

Supporters, bankrolled so far by an Oakland marijuana dispensary 
owner, plan to spend as much as $20 million to convince California 
voters that legalizing marijuana will help solve the state's budget 
woes and blunt the reach of drug cartels.

The initiative would move the battle over marijuana modestly forward 
by making it legal for anyone 21 and older to possess an ounce of 
marijuana and/or grow whatever can fit in a 5-by-5-foot plot. It 
would allow cities and counties to decide whether to allow sales and 
tax the proceeds.

That feels to me like a natural progression of California's cannabis 
policy, which essentially decriminalized possession 35 years ago -- 
an ounce gets you a $100 fine -- and in 1996 deemed pot to be medication.

The premise of the proposed law: Marijuana has more in common with 
alcohol and tobacco than with heroin and cocaine.

Or: Is there much really much difference between going home and 
smoking a joint and going home to a glass of Merlot?

Polls suggest that mothers in their 30s and 40s -- who are likely to 
have teenagers at home -- might side with law enforcement against the 
proposal. I understand that reflexively. It's hard to say yes at the 
ballot box when you've spent years telling your kids to "just say no" 
to marijuana.

But the reality is that any 18-year-old with a hankering for pot and 
$100 can head to Venice Beach and be legally smoking within an hour.

Acne, anxiety, an ankle sprain -- virtually any ailment qualifies for 
treatment with medical marijuana.

"It's easier now [for 18-year-olds] to get cannabis than booze," said 
Dale Sky Clare, spokeswoman for the cannabis campaign. "Our current 
policies have failed to keep cannabis away from our kids or to 
educate them about the dangers of dependence."

She's confident that moms will come around once "we make sure they 
understand your next-door neighbor is not allowed to turn into a grow 
operation. . . . And no more back-alley deals. You'll have a retail 
facility, someone who has a license -- and can lose it if they sell 
to your underage child."

What about all those studies that say pot is getting stronger and 
more dangerous? I asked.

That's fear-mongering by opponents, Clare said.

"We've got science on our side. And our studies kick their studies' ass."

If moms are going to be the naysayers, I figured young people would 
be the initiative's biggest supporters. So I spent this spring break 
weekend chatting with my daughters and their friends, from 
19-year-olds to mid-20s.

They weren't as enthused as I'd expected. Most everyone knows 
somebody with a cannabis card.

"The kids who want it can get it," my 19-year-old daughter told me. 
On campus, it's hard to avoid it.

It turns out that while pot smoking is dropping among teens, it's 
rising among baby boomers. Ten years ago, one in 20 pot smokers was 
in my demographic -- between 50 and 59 years old. Now the number is 
one in 10. And as we age -- and kids move out -- the number seems to grow.

Drug policy experts say baby boomers have more invested in 
legalization because they are less likely to embrace risky options. 
They don't have a street connection or want to wind up listed on a 
dispensary's log.

Still, they know that a little weed might make you feel young and 
giggle a lot, but it isn't going to ruin your life.

Like it or not, their children know they know. A 20-year-old I spoke 
with was stunned when she went with her mother to an Eagles concert 
and saw "all the old people lighting up." My daughter told me she and 
her friends were once approached by an elderly woman in a beach 
parking lot who implored: "Do you have a joint? . . . Please . . . my 
husband is making me crazy."

And young people who confessed to pinching a bud from their parents' 
stash years ago now worry the old man is raiding theirs.

Maybe it's time we stopped pretending there's nothing odd about the 
fact that every gas station and liquor store has a giant display of 
Zig-Zag papers for something we're not allowed to roll, and "smoke 
shops" can sell water pipes if we all pretend that they're for tobacco.

Come November, we'll see if a state too strait-laced to let gay 
people marry is open-minded enough to let us all toke. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake