Monday is 420 Day, the annual national celebration of marijuana, and you need not feel so all alone. Nor must everybody get stoned. But let’s look at where the United States and California presently stand on this burning subject.
Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and the District of Columbia now have legal recreational marijuana use. Here in California, where pot is a $1.3 billion industry, we’ve been running the medical marijuana experiment for 19 years.
Anyone with a bum knee or a sore shoulder can waltz into a 420 evaluation clinic and make a case to a fairly forgiving physician. Voters here narrowly rejected a 2010 initiative that would have legalized recreational marijuana, but it’s pretty likely to pass next time if the ballot measure is written correctly. Say, while the drafters are not high.
It remains to be seen whether the marijuana experiments in other states are working. The federal government has agreed to give leeway to states choosing to legalize marijuana, though it remains on the federal list of the most dangerous drugs.
California also has some of the most dangerous spots in the Sierra, and we don’t mean hikes. Illegal pot growers have dumped toxic chemicals into creeks, booby-trapped pot patches and otherwise turned pristine wilderness areas into potential Superfund sites. That’s hardly an amusing “Cheech and Chong” scene.
Gov. Jerry Brown has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t want to legalize marijuana in California. He said as much on “Meet The Press” on March 2, 2014.
“How many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation? The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together.”
In contrast, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom makes some fairly compelling points for marijuana legalization, given the disproportionate incarceration rate that minority youths face for selling and distributing pot. Newsom seems to intend to make his support for legalization a centerpiece of his 2018 campaign for governor, and he’s chairing a commission to look into the impact that legalization would have on the state.
“California has a mature marijuana industry and it’s just not regulated. We’re the worst of all worlds … we haven’t answered a lot of questions. This is serious, and it has to be taken seriously,” Newsom has said.
For its part, California’s medical marijuana law is a skunky-smelling mishmash of internecine local government warfare that would harsh anyone’s mellow. Colorado does have a unified state law regulating their effort, which helps. California isn’t there yet, and it’s a buzz kill.
So are taxes. In Colorado, projected tax revenue is falling short by nearly $50 million, at least partly because some entrepreneurs still prefer to go off the grid and sell it the old-fashioned way: illegally.
In California, employers are rightly concerned about how a recreational pot law would affect them and their ability to make sure employees don’t come into work high.
So, happy 420 Day. The next few years are going to be challenging as marijuana proponents gear up to make their case in 2016. It’ll be so challenging, in fact, that it might even drive us to try a fine California wine to relax.