Drug Law

LA Times: Feinstein’s Misguided Opposition to Marijuana Legalization

| by NORML

By Paul Armentano

Last week California’s senior senator, Democrat Dianne Feinstein cosigned the ballot argument against Prop. 19, The Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Initiative of 2010, which would allow adults 21 years or older to privately possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use.

Senator Feinstein’s public opposition is hardly surprising. After all, if there is one thing about marijuana we are certain of it’s that the public is well ahead of the politicians when it comes to the issue of enacting common sense cannabis law reforms. But that doesn’t mean that Feinstein’s fear-mongering — and yes, that is exactly what it is; at one point the senator

claims that the passage of Prop. 19 will ‘require’ employees to sell marijuana laced cosmetics (huh?) and candy bars in the office — doesn’t warrant a public smack down.

My rebuttal appears today online in the Los Angeles Times. Here’s an excerpt:

Feinstein’s misguided opposition to marijuana legalization
via the L.A. Times

Let’s assess her argument point by point. First, Proposition 19 explicitly states that it will not amend or undermine existing state law criminalizing motorists who operate a vehicle while impaired by pot. Driving under the influence of marijuana is already illegal in California, and violators are vigorously prosecuted. This fact will not change under the initiative.

Second, Proposition 19 in no way undermines federal drug-free workplace rules, just as the state’s 14-year experience with legalized medical marijuana has not done so. Further, it does not limit the ability of employers to sanction or fire employees who show up to work under the influence of pot. Just as a private or public employer today may dismiss workers for being impaired by legal alcohol, employers in the future will continue to be able to fire employees who arrive to work under the influence of marijuana.

Third, Proposition 19 seeks to enhance the safety of California’s communities by removing the commercial cultivation and distribution of marijuana from criminal entrepreneurs and moving it into the hands of licensed, regulated business people.

Proposition 19 would also allow local governments to reallocate law enforcement resources toward more serious crimes. Presently in California, more than 60,000 people annually are arrested for minor marijuana possession offenses. Proposition 19 would eliminate many of these needless arrests. The measure’s approval would unburden the courts, save millions in taxpayer dollars and allow police to spend their time targeting more serious criminal activity.

… It is time to bring long-overdue oversight to a market that is presently unregulated, untaxed, uncontrolled and monopolized by criminal entrepreneurs. It is time to replace nearly 100 years of failed marijuana prohibition with a policy of sensible cannabis regulation.

You can read my entire commentary, and leave feedback with the Times, here.

PS: In other Prop 19 news, former United States Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders has agreed to endorse the ballot measure, and her name will appear in the California voter guide. Also, over the weekend, the California Young Democrats endorsed Proposition 19. (The California State Democrat party elected to stay ‘neutral’ on the issue.) Finally, last week the UFCW’s Western States Council, representing more than 200,000 union members in the Western United States, also gave their endorsement to Prop. 19.

PPS: For those interested, I also have separate commentaries in recent editions of the Newark Star Ledger (“Christie administration is wrong on medical marijuana,” July 19), and in the Redding (CA) Record Searchlight (“Science is clear; why aren’t we paying attention?“, July 18). Please check them out and leave feedback so that the editors will continue to grant reformers these op/ed opportunities in the future.