Pubdate: Sun, 17 Oct 2010
Source: Marin Independent Journal (CA)
Copyright: 2010 Marin Independent Journal
Author: Richard Halstead, Marin Independent Journal
Bookmark: (Proposition 19)


There is plenty of support for Proposition 19 in Marin County, but not
among Marin's top law enforcement officials.

Proposition 19, which is on the Nov. 2 ballot, would make it legal for
people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate or transport
marijuana for personal use. It would allow local governments to
regulate and tax commercial production and sale of marijuana. The
measure prohibits people from smoking marijuana while minors are present.

Three members of the Marin County Board of Supervisors -- Steve
Kinsey, Hal Brown and Judy Arnold -- have endorsed the initiative.

"It's time for a change. The war-on-drugs model is a loser," said
Fairfax Councilman Larry Bragman, a lawyer who has represented the
Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana.

Supporters of the initiative argue it will undermine violent drug
cartels by increasing the supply of marijuana and thus lowering the

Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said, "We need to make a
break with the failed criminalization process. At the end of the day
this is a direct parallel to prohibition and it is time for us to
relearn the lesson of history."

Supporters also assert that passage of Proposition 19 will result in
much-needed new tax revenue.

But Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian, Marin County Sheriff
Robert Doyle and Novato Police Chief Joseph Kreins all reject these
arguments and remain staunch in their opposition to the initiative.
U.S. Advertisement Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter last
week to former chiefs of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in
which he pledged to enforce marijuana laws in California even if
Proposition 19 passes, according to news reports.

"This will not remove the imported cartel enterprise dangers growing
across our state, and in fact may have the opposite effect of
increasing this production model," Berberian said.

Doyle said, "I don't know of any evidence that the price for marijuana
would come down. I think that it is rather vague that somehow there is
going to be a windfall of taxes for the cities and counties."

Kreins said, "They talk about raising revenue, but who in their right
mind is going to claim revenue from something that specifically
violates federal law?

"The reality is that even with medical marijuana you have so few
collectives and organizations that are even following state law,"
Kreins said. "It would be nice if they did."

At the end of September, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 1449,
which reduces adult marijuana possession charges from a criminal
misdemeanor to a civil infraction. Kreins said that weakened the
argument that Proposition 19 is needed to keep casual marijuana users
out of the criminal justice system.

But Dan Rush, director of special operations for United Food and
Commercial Workers Union, Local 5, which recently began signing up
medical marijuana workers as members, said, "Oakland collected $2
million in taxes last year. They're going to collect another $4
million this year."

Rush said law enforcement departments stand to lose funding if
Proposition 19 passes.

"The police chiefs lobby all the time to get extra money to go after
cannabis," Rush said. "It's part of their bread and butter."

Bragman said it's not surprising that law enforcement officials oppose
Proposition 19.

"They have been engaged as dedicated soldiers in the war on drugs and
are reluctant to abandon the battle," Bragman said. "While Proposition
19 does re-set the direction for society's approach to marijuana by
withdrawing from the war model, it will ultimately strengthen respect
for the law and law enforcement by adopting a policy based upon facts
and not fear."

Critics of the initiative, who include Mothers Against Drunk Driving,
warn that it will result in more people driving while under the influence.

Larry Bedard, a retired emergency room physician and member of the
Marin Healthcare District board, said, "Not only has the horse left
the bar but it's been followed by two cows, a sheep, a chicken, a pig
and a duck. People drive all the time under the influence. We had the
war on drugs. Drugs won."

Bedard said that compared with other recreational drugs, marijuana's
health effects are relatively benign.

"From a medical standpoint I think it is much less harmful than
alcohol," Bedard said.

There is one thing, however, on which both supporters and opponents of
Proposition 19 seem to agree, and that is that marijuana needs to be
kept out of the hands of minors.

Bragman said, "The main challenge will be to dissuade folks from the
mistaken belief that legalization is equivalent to endorsement. We
will need to redouble our efforts to educate youth about the risks
presented by marijuana use on the developing brain."

Huffman said, "I don't condone marijuana use. I don't use it. I don't
want anybody's kids to use. It should remain illegal for minors. But I
think we can regulate it better if we follow the same approach we
followed with alcohol."  
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