Consequences of legalization of marijuana in California

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Advocates for legalizing marijuana are working to take a ballot initiative to California voters in November of next year. A prominent state official who is also a supporter of legalizing pot said we need to consider what laws and additional safeguards will be required if pot becomes legal for general use.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom wants the public to weigh in on how the state should regulate, tax and manage marijuana if it becomes legal.

“Newsom is recognizing that this policy, the prohibition of Cannabis is no longer working for citizens across the country and California as well,” said Rachel Scoma, an attorney who worked in the 2010 initiative to legalize pot which voters rejected.

Newsom led a blue ribbon panel, funded by ACLU, to study some of the issues that will have to be resolved if voters say ‘yes’ to recreational pot.

Some of these questions involve: preventing access by children and teens, the impact on public safety and how sales of pot should be taxed by the state.

“We know how to regulate substances, we’ve done it with prescription drugs and we’ve done it with alcohol,” Scoma said. 

If approved in 2016, the state will have to set up new DUI policies for pot.

She said pot stays in a person’s system for days, even weeks so defining a hard and fast ‘blood limit’ won’t work.

“I’d like to see sobriety tests in the field to show whether or not you’re under the influence. I think that can take care of the situation,” Scoma said.

Scoma favors the use of pot only for those 21 and older, with the same restrictions for keeping other substances away from minors.

“I think it’s the way we keep poisons out of the hands of children and the way we keep alcohol out of the hands of children,” Scoma added.

Patrick Dudley is a defense attorney who has handled many medical marijuana cases.

He said, like other consumer products, proper labeling should be required for properties such as the drug’s potency.

In states like Colorado and Washington, legalization has produced millions in tax revenue.

Dudley thinks that marijuana should be taxed just like booze and cigarettes to help offset the costs of regulating it.

“To consider the administration of what’s going to have to go on from here, they have to have people who enforce these new laws on the books as far as marijuana goes. That certainly is a consideration when you talk about taxation,” Dudley said.

The same questions raised by Newsom and his panel are bound to be raised by millions of Californians if the measure to legalize marijuana makes it to the ballot by 2016.

Those who oppose the legalization of marijuana have quite a different point of view.

That group includes Governor Jerry Brown and California Senator Dianne Feinstein.

The panel that conducted this study will hold a series of forums seeking public comment before issuing a final set of recommendations this summer.

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