Special to The Bee Published: Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 4E How should the state respond to the growth of medical marijuana dispensaries? To comment on this issue, please see our forum.
As a retired Orange County judge, I’ve been on the front lines of the drug war for three decades, and I know from experience that the current approach is simply not working.
Our marijuana policy must change in order to achieve the following goals:
- Reduce marijuana consumption by children.
- Stop or reduce the violence that accompanies the growing and distribution of marijuana.
- Stop or reduce the corruption that accompanies the growing and distribution of marijuana.
- Stop or reduce crime both by people trying to get money to purchase marijuana and by those under its influence.
- Reduce the harm to people who consume marijuana.
- Reduce the number of people we must put into our jails and prisons.
California’s Initiative to Tax, Control and Regulate Cannabis – which will appear on the November ballot – will accomplish each of those goals. Our present policy of marijuana prohibition will never accomplish any of them – prohibition has been pursued since the early 1970s, and the entire situation has gotten demonstrably worse.
As an added benefit (no small thing during these challenging times) the initiative will generate billions of dollars in revenue to fund essential services, according to studies by the Board of Equalization and the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
By allowing each city in California the option to devise a program for the regulated sale of cannabis to adults, marijuana would soon become less available for children.
Why? Ask young people and they will tell you that currently it is easier for them to obtain marijuana than alcohol. That’s because today’s illegal marijuana dealers don’t ask for ID! The initiative contains significant safeguards and controls: It increases the penalty for providing marijuana to minors, expressly prohibits public consumption, forbids smoking marijuana while minors are present and bans possession on school grounds.
Regulating cannabis will put street drug dealers and organized crime out of business – just as the repeal of alcohol prohibition put the Al Capones of booze out of business. This will allow police to redirect their resources toward protecting the public by preventing violent crime.
Most of the health risks of the usage of marijuana today are caused by its unknown strength and unknown purity. For example, sometimes the illicit marijuana has been laced with methamphetamines. But the FDA resolved virtually all of these problems with over-the-counter and prescription drugs years ago, just as the repeal of alcohol prohibition virtually eliminated the “bathtub gin” impurity problems.
Under this initiative, all crimes committed by people under the influence of marijuana would still be prosecuted, just like we do today with alcohol-related offenses. Holding people accountable for their actions, instead of what they put into their own bodies, is a truly legitimate criminal justice function.
Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)