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Pot measure is poorly worded and potentially dangerous

  • 9/7/2007: A1: ANTI-POT EFFORT Sgt. Chris Bertoli of the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department on Wednesday hacks down a marijuana plant in a remote garden near Yorkville, northwest of Cloverdale. The garden was one of several deputies raided with officers from the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, or CAMP.

    PC: Detective Sgt. Chris Bertoli of the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department, hacks down a marijuana plant in a remote garden near Yorkville on the Sonoma-Mendocino county line, Wednesday September 5, 2007. The garden was one of several sites that the sheriff's department raided along with CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) on Wednesday. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2007

One of the traps that continues to ensnare California is the belief that complex problems can be resolved with simple solutions at the ballot box.

The latest example is Proposition 19 on the Nov. 2 ballot. The bait with this one is the idea that all would be better if voters would simply legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

Proponents contend that the violent criminal market — which appears to be making itself at home in the North Coast — would go away, the high cost of policing marijuana sales would disappear, and California would be able to pocket $1.4 billion in additional sales tax revenue.

Don't believe it.

Proposition 19 is so poorly worded and filled with loopholes that it's likely to create more confusion than clarity. And, as with Proposition 215, which legalized medicinal uses of marijuana, it would still leave California law in conflict with federal law, creating more regulatory and policy gridlock at all levels of government.

Of greatest concern is that Proposition 19 would create dangers where they don't exist now. Chief among them is that the initiative does not create a standard for "driving under the influence." Under Proposition 19, drivers may legally be able to operate vehicles even if they have marijuana in their systems.

Proposition 19 also would afford marijuana users protections that would frustrate, if not prohibit, businesses from enforcing a drug-free workplace. School districts, for example, could be powerless to take action against a school bus driver who arrives at work with marijuana in his or her system.

There's no guarantee that legalizing marijuana in California will reduce the number of illicit pot farms on public and private property. It may do just the opposite, making California an even more attractive place to grow marijuana to sell in states where it still will be illegal.

We recognize that there's probably a good argument to be made for legalizing marijuana. But this is not it.

This flawed initiative is guaranteed only to bring more unintended consequences, political gridlock and court battles. California has enough problems to worry about.

This is why we join Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, all of the state candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and numerous other California newspapers in recommending a no vote on Proposition 19.


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