On November 9th, California could become yet another state to pass an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana with Proposition 64. The Golden State is already one of 25 states including Washington D.C. where medical marijuana is allowed by law.
However, the Drug Enforcement Agency continues to believe that the drug has no medical benefit and is as dangerous as heroin and LSD. The DEA’s outlook on marijuana is confusing given that over half the country has laws permitting the drug for medical purposes and that its legalization could boost the state’s economy. In fact, many lobbyists are now hoping to help support the initiative.
“There are a lot of people with a vested interest that see California as the pot of gold,” said David Quintana to the SacBee, who is a partner and lobbyist for Gonzalez, Quintana, Hunter & Cruz, LLC. “They see that pot of gold will be shaped by the Legislature. They all want a seat at that table. They don’t want to be the one left out.”
It comes as no surprise that everyone wants in as California has become one of the more progressive states. According to data from back in late May by the Public Policy Institute of California, 60 percent of likely voters in the state were in favor to legalize recreational marijuana, while 37 percent were opposed.
Although Prop 64 should pass this fall, there may be those who disagree with the proposal given the cognitive effects the drug can have on the brain. According to drugabuse.gov, marijuana has many adverse effects, both short and long-term. The greatest downfall of the proposition is its lack of regulation for driving under the influence.
“[W]e anticipate drugged driving of those driving under the influence of marijuana will increase dramatically, along with DUI related traffic fatalities,” said Ron Lawrence, Vice President of the California Police Chiefs Association.” With no limit rules similar to alcohol (.08 BAC) or means to test for field sobriety such as a breathalyzer, driving under the influence of marijuana is more difficult to detect and test for.”
Although there is no exact way to test for driving under the influence of marijuana, the people of California will need to take responsibilities for their privilege. But, not only does this legislation given opportunity for economic growth, it may help with lowering incarceration rates as well. Data from the American Civil Liberties Union showed that more than half of the arrests made in the US are crimes involving marijuana and 90 percent of those arrests from 2001 to 2010 were for simply having it. Plus, the arrests also appear to have a racial bias as African Americans are over three times as likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites.
“Our current marijuana laws have undermined many of the things conservatives hold dear – individual freedom, limited government and the right to privacy,” said Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican who represents the 48th congressional district. “This measure is a necessary reform which will end the failed system of marijuana prohibition in our state, provide California law enforcement the resources it needs to redouble its focus on serious crimes while providing a policy blueprint for other states to follow.”
Likely to become the fifth state, or sixth since Nevada also has a proposition in place this November, California could pave the way for more states to push marijuana as a legal product within the economic infrastructure. In fact, California was the first to legalize medical weed in 1996 and now many others have decriminalized and legalized the drug for medical purposes. With the size of the population of the state, the largest in the country, the data that will be important as a means to push for legalization on a federal level.