Pubdate: Sun, 07 Aug 2016
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2016 San Jose Mercury News


Once again, California voters will decide whether to legalize the 
recreational use of marijuana. They have previously rejected 
initiatives to do this, but while this year's Proposition 64 isn't 
perfect, it is a much more thoughtful proposal. It's time to say yes.

Prop. 64 would allow adults 21 years or older to use pot, grow up to 
six plants in their homes and possess about an ounce of marijuana and 
about a quarter ounce of hash. The details piggyback on the 
regulatory framework for medicinal use that state lawmakers finally 
developed last year.

Rules prohibiting public tobacco smoking would apply to pot, and 
driving under the influence of marijuana would still be banned, 
although that element still needs refinement. The initiative has no 
objective DUI blood-test standard for marijuana comparable to the .08 
percent level for alcohol. But that's a science problem. There's 
currently no threshold for THC, the active ingredient, that reliably 
indicates impairment.

Prop. 64 would regulate marijuana businesses, give cities and 
counties control over their location, levy taxes on pot production 
and sales and penalize those who operate without licenses. The 
Legislature likely will tweak the rules as needed. Fortunately, Prop. 
64 permits this - a smart element of flexibility that more 
initiatives should include.

Current law lags behind societal norms. Forty-four percent of 
Americans polled last year told Gallup they had tried pot. Even the 
current and past two presidents toked, although Bill Clinton 
infamously claimed he didn't inhale.

Our police, judges and jailers have bigger issues than pot-smokers.

We would have preferred uniform federal rules legalizing marijuana, 
but there's no sign of that. So once again, the states must lead. In 
1996, California voters were the nation's first to legalize medicinal 
use. Today, half the states permit it.

In 2010, 53.5 percent of California voters rejected a recreational 
use initiative. We recommended against it because it was poorly 
drafted. Since then four other states and the District of Columbia 
have led the way. California can learn from them.

Opponents suggest Prop. 64 would open the airwaves to pot ads, since 
restrictions would be similar to those for alcohol. But an outright 
broadcast ad ban like the one for tobacco is unlikely to withstand a 
court challenge.

Opponents also note that a prior drug conviction can't be the sole 
grounds for rejecting a license for cultivation or sale of pot. But 
that's because the law acknowledges people have been ensnared by 
overly punitive drug laws. The state could still deny licenses to 
people convicted of crimes such as trafficking and would retain 
discretion for others.

Opponents will continue to pick holes in Prop. 64, but it is 
generally solid - and long-overdue. Vote yes this time.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom