Pubdate: Fri, 24 Sep 2010
Source: Indianapolis Star (IN)
Copyright: 2010 Indianapolis Newspapers Inc.
Author: Ken Bode
Note: Bode is the former national political correspondent for NBC 
News and a former political analyst for CNN.
Referenced: Joseph McNamara's OPED
Cited: Proposition 19
Bookmark: (Opinion)
Bookmark: (Proposition 19)


SONOMA, Calif. -- There is one thing, and perhaps one thing only, 
that the two candidates for governor of California agree on: Ballot 
Proposition 19, The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, 
is a bad idea.

In 1996, California voters approved medical marijuana, which has -- 
with some exceptions -- enjoyed widespread acceptance. Under current 
law, there are roughly 500,000 patients at hundreds of dispensaries. 
Cannabis, with estimated annual sales of $14 billion, has become the 
state's largest cash crop.

Among the dissenters is Lee Baca, the sheriff of Los Angeles County, 
who says 97 percent of the medical marijuana dispensaries are 
criminal enterprises. He claims they dispense pot smuggled in from 
Mexican drug cartels and sell it over the counter to anyone, 
regardless of medical need. Baca offers no evidence for this, but he 
is crusading against any further loosening of marijuana laws.

If it passes in November, Proposition 19 will take things a step 
further. It will allow each city and county to decide whether it 
wants to approve and tax commercial sales of the drug. It would 
permit any Californian to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, smoke 
it in private and grow a small amount for personal use.

Law enforcement groups are divided on the matter. Some agree with 
Sheriff Baca, others argue that present laws prohibiting recreational 
use simply haven't worked, and worse. San Jose Police Chief Joseph 
McNamara recently penned an op-ed in which he said, "Like an 
increasing number of law enforcers, I have learned that most bad 
things about marijuana -- especially the violence made inevitable by 
an obscenely profitable black market -- are caused by the 
prohibitions, not by the plant."

Supporters of Proposition 19 estimate that legalization would provide 
the state with $1.4 billion in tax revenue, equal to the citrus 
industry and more than alcohol or tobacco. California faces a 
paralyzing $19 billion deficit, which is the biggest issue in the 
gubernatorial campaign.

Regardless of its potential revenue benefits, both candidates to 
succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger vigorously oppose the legalization of 
pot. Meg Whitman, the Republican nominee, says it is the worst idea 
she has ever seen. Her Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jerry 
Brown, recently said, "We're going to compete with China and 
everybody's stoned? How the hell are we going to make it?" 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake