Soapbox

Why Prop. 64 is the wrong way to legalize pot in California

Kristi Knoblich, co-founder of Kiva Confections in Oakland, shows medical cannabis mints, one of her company’s products. Proposition 64 would legalize recreational marijuana in California. To read arguments for and against other statewide ballot measures, go to sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed.
Kristi Knoblich, co-founder of Kiva Confections in Oakland, shows medical cannabis mints, one of her company’s products. Proposition 64 would legalize recreational marijuana in California. To read arguments for and against other statewide ballot measures, go to sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed. mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

After the defeat of 2010’s Proposition 19, one would have thought proponents of legalizing recreational marijuana would have gotten it right this time. They didn’t – far from it.

The proponents of Proposition 64 could have followed the recent California Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations to ensure that legalization is done sensibly while protecting children. In other states that have legalized marijuana, children have been collateral damage, including when pot was placed into edibles such as cookies and candy. Proposition 64 would allow this practice in California.

Many of the groups that endorsed Proposition 64 early now are experiencing buyer’s remorse. As more and more of the hidden and outright dangerous provisions are coming to light, those individuals and groups are nervously backing into the shadows.

Why? Because, as I have learned through my years as an elected official, the devil is always in the details. Such details in this measure include:

Proposition 64 would bring smoking ads back to television. Proponents went to court to keep that fact away from voters.

The court made minor edits but left the argument virtually intact in the official voter pamphlet: “Proposition 64, in effect, could limit a 45-year ban on smoking ads on television, allowing marijuana ads airing to millions of children and teen viewers. … Children could be exposed to ads promoting marijuana gummies and brownies – the same products blamed for a spike in emergency room visits in Colorado.”

There is no standard for driving while impaired in Proposition 64. In its official voter pamphlet argument, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen noted that: “The AAA Foundation for Highway Safety reports that deaths in marijuana-related car crashes have doubled since the state of Washington approved legalization. Yet, incredibly, Proposition 64’s proponents refused to include a DUI standard for marijuana, making it extremely difficult to keep impaired drivers off our highways.”

Proposition 64 would wreak havoc on the reforms of the medical cannabis industry passed just last year and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. Under the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, an independent distributor is charged with ensuring compliance with all testing, labeling and packaging regulations. Under Proposition 64, that requirement would be gone, meaning that tainted marijuana would be certain to find its way on to the black market.

Proposition 64 also would change the game for marijuana licensing. Under the new medical marijuana law, convicted heroin and meth felons are screened from being licensed to sell pot in California. Now those felons, including those who used children as drug couriers, could not be denied a license simply because they were convicted of possession for sale of as many as 20,000 doses of heroin.

Proposition 64 has been exposed as a shameful and cynical ballot initiative that wouldn’t effectively protect our kids or our communities. I am strongly urging voters to oppose Proposition 64 because even if it was the right time, it is fatally flawed.

Jim Cooper, an Elk Grove Democrat, represents the 9th Assembly District and wrote this viewpoint on behalf of the No on Proposition 64 campaign. He can be contacted at Assemblymember.Cooper@assembly.ca.gov.

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