Pubdate: Wed, 01 Jun 2016
Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The E.W. Scripps Co.
Author: Joseph A. Garcia


As president of the California Police Chiefs Association, Ventura 
police Chief Ken Corney has garnered a lot of media attention for the 
group's and his own opposition to a November ballot measure that 
seeks to legalize recreational marijuana use in California.

Their objections to the measure, known as the Adult Use of Marijuana 
2016, include its allowing those with "serious drug felonies to have 
a license to run a marijuana shop," said Corney during a recent 
interview at his Ventura office.

"These are people who have already demonstrated poor judgment in this 
area," Corney said of convicted drug felons.

Corney also cited numerous studies showing an increase in emergency 
room use by those intoxicated by marijuana in Colorado since the drug 
became legal there. He also cited a recent traffic safety study 
completed by the American Automobile Association. The study showed 
fatal crashes involving motorists who recently used marijuana doubled 
in Washington after the state legalized marijuana in late 2012. The 
study found the percentage of motorists involved in fatal crashes 
went from 8 to 17 percent from 2013 to 2014.

"Communities need to understand that this isn't about the 
legalization of a green, leafy substance that people pass around at 
concerts," said Corney, referring in part to the marijuana used 
decades ago. He said the percentage of THC, the psychoactive 
component in marijuana, is now more than 95 percent in edibles, oils, 
and other products containing cannabis, "far more than what existed 
back in the 1970s for example."

The group has launched a campaign called Public Safety First - 
Against the Legalization of Marijuana in California.

Corney has been president of the association since March 16. As 
president, he serves as the group's spokesman on numerous issues, 
including the marijuana initiative.

Corney said he personally also strongly agrees with the association's 
opposition to the marijuana initiative. Raised in Texas, Corney has 
spent his entire law enforcement career with the Ventura Police 
Department. This year will mark his 30th anniversary with the department.

Backers of the measure, including California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom 
and former Facebook President Sean Parker, recently announced that 
they had gathered some 600,000 signatures from registered voters, 
substantially more than the 365,000 they need to qualify the measure 
for the ballot.

Newsom and other supporters say the 62-page initiative will make it 
harder for those under 21 years old to obtain pot and easier for 
police to crack down on illicit sales.

California became the first U.S. state to vote on legalizing 
marijuana in 1972. Proposition 19 failed, with 66.5 percent of voters 
turning it down.

Nearly a quarter of a century later, California led the way in making 
medical marijuana legal in 1996.

The November measure allows for possession of an ounce of marijuana 
as well as cultivation of six marijuana plants for those over age 21.

The measure would also create what Newsom and other supporters said 
would be the nation's strictest product quality and tracking system 
for either medical or recreational marijuana, with separate licenses 
required for growers, transporters and distributors.

Dale Gieringer, director of California's chapter NORML, National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, worries that a 
combination of taxes combined with other regulatory costs, could 
"encourage an underground market," for marijuana.

"This is something that could happen if you tax it too much," 
Gieringer said, noting state and local taxes on legal pot in some 
areas of California could easily exceed 35 percent.

Nevertheless, Gieringer supports the measure.

"It's not perfect," he said, "but it's definitely a step in the right 

NORML supports the legalization of nonmedical marijuana in the United States.

California voters defeated a 2010 marijuana legalization measure. But 
a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 
55 percent of likely California voters now support full legalization.

In addition to the California Police Chiefs Association, the November 
measure is opposed by The California Hospital Association and the 
California Teamsters.

Corney said the measure is backed by big corporations, including 
those in the tobacco industry.

"They clearly want a very big part of the marijuana industry," Corney 
said, noting that Colorado now has more marijuana distributors "than 
Starbucks outlets there."

"This measure will have a significant negative effect on the quality 
of life for communities across California," he said.

Corney also worries about how law enforcement officers are going to 
enforce laws that prohibit motorists from driving while intoxicated, 
noting that unlike alcohol, there is no scientifically recognized 
test to administer to drivers suspected of being under the influence 
of marijuana.

Such a test "may come in five or more years, but it's not here yet."

As to his newfound role as spokesman of the police chiefs 
association, Corney said "it's a big challenge that represents an 
opportunity to sustain the quality of life and safety in California's 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom