Pubdate: Fri, 09 Nov 2012
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2012 Los Angeles Times


Should California Follow Colorado and Washington and Legalize Recreational Use?

In adopting laws Tuesday that legalize recreational marijuana use, 
Colorado and Washington voters foolishly - or perhaps forthrightly - 
rushed in where California feared to tread. Should we follow, or 
simply watch and wait?

The assertion of California's Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use 
Act, when it was passed in 1996 was that growing, possessing, sharing 
or using marijuana was to be permitted in this state solely for 
patients who needed the drug for its medicinal value.

Voters here dismissed the contention by federal officials that 
cannabis offers no health benefits; either we believed the federal 
law to be wrong, or perhaps we felt that whether or not the plant has 
medicinal value, it at least provides comfort to those with painful 
or terminal illnesses.

Californians also brushed aside the fact that marijuana remains an 
illegal Schedule I drug under federal law and thus could land a user 
and especially a seller in prison for a good long time. Federal law 
enforcers responded inconsistently, and allowed a medical pot 
infrastructure to take root here and grow.

But let's be honest. Californians also knew full well that providing 
health benefits was only one of the motivating factors behind 
Proposition 215. It was part of a continuing battle over marijuana 
prohibition. Our measure, although limited in scope, was for some 
advocates a giant step toward full legalization. California voters as 
a whole stuck to their original vision and decisively turned back 
Proposition 19, a recreational marijuana initiative, in 2010. But 
meanwhile, this state has completely decriminalized the possession 
and use of small amounts of marijuana for whatever purpose.

The battle continues in city halls and courtrooms as advocates press 
for what amounts to retail over-the-counter sales of ostensibly 
medical cannabis, and as neighborhoods and municipal officials 
struggle to impose restrictions on location, operating hours and, in 
some cases, product standards.

Colorado and Washington have now dispensed with the eye-winking and 
adopted laws that are refreshingly honest. But are they enforceable? 
Cities may find themselves struggling with their power to restrict 
the time, place and manner of marijuana sales and use. Will federal 
officials turn a blind eye or launch enforcement actions, as they 
have done here? Sober Californians must watch, listen and learn, and 
perhaps heed the advice Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper gave his 
constituents: "Don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom