Pubdate: Tue, 21 Sep 2010
Source: USA Today (US)
Page: 3A
Copyright: 2010 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: William W. Welch, USA TODAY
Cited: Proposition 19
Bookmark: (Proposition 19)


Some See Prop 19 As 'Law and Order' Issue

LOS ANGELES - California's fall ballot battle over legalizing pot is 
drawing law-enforcement officials to both sides of the issue. Beer 
sellers want to stop legal marijuana, too, but say it's not because 
they fear competition.

Proposition 19, which if approved by voters in November, would make 
marijuana legal for recreational use by those 21 and older, though 
possession would still be a federal violation.

The first state in the USA to make marijuana legal for medical use, 
California would again set a new course for the nation on drug use if 
Prop 19 is approved.

The sponsor of the proposition, Tax Cannabis 2010, says it will 
provide as much as $1.4 billion in tax revenue to the state, citing 
state estimates. Opponents say it would invite a public-safety 
nightmare with stoned workers and motorists.

Local law-enforcement leaders, including Los Angeles County Sheriff 
Lee Baca and the California Police Chiefs Association, oppose the 
measure. Obama administration drug czar Gil Kerlikowske has urged 
opposition, joined by his predecessors under three previous presidents.

"No country in the world has legalized marijuana to the extent 
envisioned by Proposition 19," they wrote in a Los Angeles Times 
column. "We can say with near certainty ...that marijuana use would 
increase if it were legal."

Supporters of Prop 19 also have some law officers on their side. 
Former Seattle Police chief Norm Stamper argued for passage, saying 
current laws don't make marijuana less available but have made the 
trade profitable for Mexican drug cartels.

"This is really a law and order initiative," Oakland City Attorney 
John Russo said last week in endorsing Prop 19. "Arresting and 
criminalizing tens of thousands of Californians every year for 
misdemeanor possession diverts police ... from arresting and 
convicting violent criminals."

California Beer and Beverage Distributors, a trade group, gave 
$10,000 to the opposition campaign Public Safety First this month.

Backers of Prop 19 say the alcohol industry is trying to keep people 
drinking rather than puffing for recreation.

"They see this as competition," says Steve Fox, of the Marijuana 
Policy Project, a Washington-based group that advocates legal 
marijuana. "By keeping one illegal, ... it increases the likelihood 
people will use alcohol."

"Absolutely not," responds Rhonda Stevenson, political coordinator 
for the California beer group. She says the proposal fails to 
establish state control over pot sales along the lines of alcohol 
laws and instead leaves pot regulation to cities and counties. "We 
have a (regulatory) structure they could have used, but they chose 
not to," she said. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake