Pubdate: Wed, 20 Oct 2010
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2010 Appeal-Democrat
Cited: Proposition 19
Bookmark: (Proposition 19)


Given that it was written partially in response to opinion polls,
rather than as an exercise in pure theory, Proposition 19, which would
legalize the possession and use of up an ounce of marijuana (cannabis)
for adult Californians, contains provisions that an advocate of pure
devotion to liberty might not have included. Some of these provisions
have raised questions, some justified and some exaggerated out of any
relation to reality. We thought it appropriate to deal with some of
these issues, chiefly the reasons for having a "local option" for
sales and cultivation and the possible implication this proposal would
have on the ability of employers to discipline people who are impaired
at work due to cannabis use, and of police to handle drivers similarly

Prop. 19 would establish a statewide policy, to wit: adults may
possess up to an ounce of cannabis and may cultivate a patch of plants
amounting to 25 square feet. But it contemplates that there will be a
demand to purchase cannabis, as well, so it allows localities to
develop their own policies for regulating cultivation and sales (and
collecting taxes on them) or to prohibit any sales or cultivation
beyond the 25-square-foot limit.

Critics argue that it may be too much to ask of city councils to
develop sensible regulations in an unfamiliar area. There is also a
fear that there will be so much variance from city to city that it
will be just too confusing for law enforcement officials, and some
marijuana users might get caught in compromising situations as they
travel from city to city.

The local option plan grew out of the experience of so many cities at
implementing (or not implementing) medical marijuana policies in
response to Prop. 215 in 1996. It became obvious that some city
governments would prefer to have no medical marijuana dispensaries,
while others seemed to welcome them, or at least to accommodate their
regulations to the policies endorsed by voters. Prop. 19 allows local
jurisdictions to make that choice.

"It's funny," says Joseph McNamara, a Hoover Institution research
fellow and former police chief of San Jose. "When I was a police
chief, local officials complained constantly about mandates, most of
them unfunded, from Sacramento. Now many of these same people object
to a proposition without a mandate on local government. If it had
included a mandate the outcry would have been louder. I suspect it's a
matter of stretching to find a reason to oppose Prop. 19."

In fact, different cities have different policies toward the sale of
liquor (within the framework of state laws), different zoning
regulations, and different policies on a wide range of issues.
Developing regulations that respond to local concerns within the
framework of state and federal laws is what city councils and other
arms of government are supposed to do. The beauty of local option is
that the experience of different cities will serve as a laboratory of
policy alternatives from which policy students and other city councils
can learn what works and what doesn't.

As for employment policies, Prop. 19 specifically states that "the
existing right of an employer to address consumption that actually
impairs job performance shall not be affected." However, that clause
is preceded by one that says "No person shall be punished, fined or
discriminated against, or be denied any right or privilege for
lawfully engaging in any conduct permitted by this Act." Critics have
contended that this creates a "protected class" of marijuana smokers
who are not subject to the same rules as the rest of us.

This is an incorrect inference. Prop. 19 reinforces laws against
driving while impaired, makes it illegal to smoke in front of minors,
and makes it illegal to smoke in public places. Cannabis users under
Prop. 19 will be subject to all the constraints imposed on other
citizens and some unique to them.

The reason for prohibiting discrimination against cannabis users is
simple. Existing testing methods can detect metabolites of
cannabinoids for up to a month after cannabis use - long after any
intoxication or impairment has disappeared. Employers can't fire an
employee for getting drunk on Saturday night so long as he or she
shows up Monday able to perform satisfactorily. A similar policy
should apply to marijuana and will apply if Prop. 19 passes.

A similar policy will apply to driving while impaired. A complication
is that there is no simple roadside test for marijuana use. The
responsibility of police will be to look for signs of impairment, as
is the case now.

Legalizing marijuana use for adults is a significant step away from
nanny-state policies and all the crime, corruption and violence that
accompany marijuana prohibition, so some caution about such an
important move is understandable. But the impact on employment
polices, driving laws and the responsibilities of local government are
not sufficient to justify rejection of this proposal.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake