Pubdate: Fri, 08 Jul 2016
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Orange County Register
Author: Diane Goldstein
Note: Diane Goldstein is a 21-year veteran of law enforcement who 
served as the first female lieutenant for the Redondo Beach Police 
Department. She is a speaker and Executive Board Member for Law 
Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of law enforcement officials 
opposed to the war on drugs.


Last week, the secretary of state announced that the Adult Use of 
Marijuana Act will qualify for the November ballot. I spent over 20 
years as a police officer, so I know how important it is to bring 
clarity to our marijuana laws. Law enforcement associations opposed 
to the measure continue to be on the wrong side of public opinion, 
citing mistaken concerns about motorist safety and the illegal market.

Since 1996 and the passage of Proposition 215, which legalized 
medicial marijuana, our roadways have seen a decrease in the fatality 
rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled from 1.32 to .92. These 
accident rates continue to be lower than the national average 
including states where marijuana is only available in the illicit 
market. This is despite law enforcement's characterization of 
California as having "de-facto marijuana legalization."

It's clear that no one should drive while impaired, whether the 
substance is legal or not, and we should hold those that do 
accountable. But in the discussion of this important issue, experts 
such as AAA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 
both conclude that THC blood concentration limits are scientifically 
flawed as marijuana is metabolized differently than alcohol. Unlike 
the presence of alcohol in blood, THC and its metabolite carboxy THC 
may be present in subjects for days or even weeks following consumption.

Police opposition to legalization fails to mention that NHTSA and AAA 
stated the best enforcement strategy for detecting drivers who are 
impaired is enhanced training that includes a positive marijuana test 
coupled with behavioral and physiological evidence of impairment, not 
just a presumptive test. California police already utilize nationally 
recognized training and best practices designed to detect roadside 
impairment like this.

Those concerned about the impacts on communities spread the message 
that marijuana use by our children will increase. Kids are safer when 
marijuana is legal, regulated and controlled. By putting sales behind 
the counter and reducing contact to street dealers, fewer kids can 
access marijuana and other drugs. The greatest harm that young people 
encounter when they come into contact with marijuana arises while 
accessing the underground market and being exposed to criminal 
activity of all kinds.

Despite marijuana being decriminalized, medically available or 
legalized in much of the country, teen marijuana use is actually 
declining nationwide. A new study from the Washington University 
School of Medicine examined over 216,000 12 to 17-year-olds over a 12 
year time span and found that marijuana abuse and related issues, 
such as trouble in school and relationships, declined by 24 percent 
across the U.S. Improving our marijuana laws has not caused our 
children to become marijuana monsters, no matter what prohibitionists tell you.

Law enforcement concerns for public safety are best served through 
the control and regulation of the illicit market. Many years of 
research show that prohibition is what causes violence in our 
communities. Through reasonable regulatory measures, we can address 
many of the harms caused by prohibition. And rather than spending 
limited criminal justice resources on marijuana enforcement, we can 
more effectively design both public health and public safety 
strategies that reduce substance abuse while focusing our energy on 
more serious crimes.

There is no such thing as a drug-free society. The role of law 
enforcement should be to support reducing the harms of drugs and 
violence based on empirical research and best practices. We should 
not be supporting failed drug policies that have done nothing to 
reduce the availability of illicit drugs in our communities. I 
believe the Adult Use of Marijuana Act is the best chance for 
California to end a failed war on marijuana by creating a new system 
of regulation and control that will help to greatly reduce public 
health and public safety risks for all Californians.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom