This editorial from the Los Angeles Times does not necessarily reflect the view of The Spokesman-Review editorial board.
The nation’s first experiment with the legal sale of recreational marijuana began Jan. 1 in Colorado, and by all accounts it was pretty mellow. Washington, where voters legalized marijuana in 2012, will begin permitting pot shops this spring. Alaska may vote on a marijuana ballot measure in August, and advocates are eyeing Oregon, Arizona and Massachusetts next.
California, too, could reconsider legalization as soon as November. Four initiatives to permit, regulate and tax marijuana have been submitted to the state. It’s unclear whether advocates have the time, money or will to get them on the 2014 ballot or whether they’ll wait for 2016, when there will be a presidential race underway.
Our view is: What’s the rush? Other states are experimenting, so why not wait and see what they learn?
Advocates of legalization believe this is their moment because public attitudes toward marijuana have been softening since 2010, when California voters rejected Proposition 19, which would have allowed recreational use. A Field Poll released in December found that 55 percent of California voters back legalization – the first time there’s been clear majority support.
One reason to wait is that California didn’t do such a good job when it led the nation on medical marijuana. Look at the confusion that continues to surround the medical marijuana industry in the state. Dispensaries are legal in some cities, not in others. Cities pass ordinances regulating them, courts overturn the rules. Eighteen years after voters passed the California Compassionate Use Act, and a decade after the Legislature authorized dispensaries, the regulatory environment is still hazy.
Legalizing recreational use would be even trickier. How should it be regulated, from the field to the storefront to the user? Should cities or counties be allowed to ban marijuana shops? Could cannabis be marketed on billboards or in TV commercials? Could people consume it in public? Could landlords prohibit its use in residences? Could an employer fire an employee for having traces of the drug in his or her system? Should there be warning labels on marijuana products? What about people currently serving time in prison for the sale and distribution of marijuana – should their sentences be reconsidered if it becomes legal? Will the federal government, which considers marijuana use illegal, allow the most populous state to legalize it?
There are also legitimate questions about the potential impact of legalization. Would drug use go up? Would more people become addicted, and what toll would that have on society? Could there be more impaired drivers on the road? Would the state save money if it no longer had to police and prosecute the marijuana industry? Would crime go down? Would drug cartels lose power and profits?
Proponents of legalization should let California sit on the sidelines for at least another year or two while the experiment plays out in Colorado and Washington. Postpone the ballot initiatives to 2016. California does not need to be a leader on legalized marijuana.
Parting Shot — 7.24.17
President Donald Trump waves to the crowd after speaking at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree in Glen Jean, W.Va., Monday. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
With Senate vote looming, Crapo, Risch say they want to repeal, replace Obamacare
Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have indicated they’ll vote in favor of proceeding to consider a controversial GOP health care bill when it comes up for a vote ...
Removal of Olympic National Park mountain goats proposed
PARKS – Mountain goats are eating themselves out of house and home in Olympic National Park, where officials are weighing several options to remove the non-native species to uphold their ...
Targeting the idiot market
Part of the Spokane movie-going experience, at least in the theaters I visit, involves sitting through commercials before the film. One, from the very people who bring us these sponsored ...