SACRAMENTO --- California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and another major state newspaper are the newest voices opposing a ballot initiative to legalize recreational use of marijuana in the state, although a new poll -- the third in a week -- shows Californians favoring the proposal.
Schwarzenegger, a Republican, wrote an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times in which he criticized a major state union -- the Service Employees International Union -- for endorsing the initiative, known as Proposition 19. If passed, Prop 19 would make California the first state to legalize the growth, sale and use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Individuals would be able to grow their own marijuana and possess up to one ounce of it. Local governments would be able to tax it; the state would not collect any money.
California's Democratic attorney general, Jerry Brown, opposes Prop 19, as do the state's two U.S. senators, both Democrats. The Republican nominees for governor and U.S. senator also oppose it.
"Any patrol officer, judge or district attorney will tell you that Proposition 19 is a flawed initiative that would bring about a host of legal nightmares and risks to public safety," Schwarzenegger wrote in the Times Sept. 24. "It would also make California a laughingstock."
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Also on Sept. 24, the Los Angeles Times' editorial board urged a "no" vote on Prop 19, joining newspapers such as The San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Tribune, the Modesto Bee and the Contra Costa Times in opposing the initiative. No major newspaper in the state has announced support for Prop 19.
"[I]t would put employers in a quandary by creating a protected class of on-the-job smokers, bestowing a legal right to use marijuana at work unless employers could actually prove that it would impair an employee's job performance," the L.A. Times editorial board wrote. "Employers would no longer have the right to screen for marijuana use or discipline a worker for being high. But common sense dictates that a drug-free environment is crucial at too many workplaces to name -- schools, hospitals, emergency response and public safety agencies, among others."
Also opposing Prop 19 is the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, California State Sheriff's Association, the California District Attorneys Association and the California Police Chiefs Association.
Despite the opposition from key leaders, three recent polls show California's likely voters favoring Prop 19. It led 49-42 in a Field Poll released Sept. 26. A SurveyUSA had it ahead 47-42 percent, while a Public Policy Polling poll had it up 47-38.
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Unlike many recent high-profile ballot initiatives in California, virtually no television ads have been aired either for or against Prop 19.
One of the state's top pro-family groups, the Campaign for Children and Families, launched a website (www.MarijuanaHarmsFamilies.com) with downloadable church bulletin inserts and an 85-second web ad. Bumper stickers also are available on the website. Chris Clark, pastor of East Clairemont Southern Baptist Church in San Diego, said the Bible's command to "be not drunk with wine ... but be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18) applies as much to marijuana as it does to alcohol.
Prop 19 opponents also warn its passage would:
-- create a black market for cheaper marijuana.
-- allow residents to grow marijuana plants in their back or front yards, all with the protection of state law. An individual's marijuana crop must be no bigger than 25 square feet.
-- increase the number of drugged drivers on the road. Prop 19 forbids the use of marijuana by drivers while the car "is being operated" but permits marijuana consumption before a person drives. Also, passengers would be allowed to smoke pot while the car is moving.
-- increase drug trafficking elsewhere, particularly into other states where marijuana is not legal.
-- increase the amount of in-state crime and necessary law enforcement. Police officers opposed to Prop 19 say that as the number of marijuana users increases, crime by those under the influence will increase. They also say they will be required to enforce new laws: whether an individual possesses more than one ounce and whether an individual's marijuana crop falls within state limits, for instance.
-- increase the number of teen users. After Alaska's Supreme Court ruled in 1975 that individual possession of marijuana was legal, teen use of pot rose to more than twice the national average, despite the fact teens still were prohibited under law to smoke it. This year, the federal government's annual National Survey of Drug Use and Health showed that teen marijuana usage was up in 2009, with 7.3 percent of teens (ages 12-17) saying they had used marijuana in the past month, compared to 6.7 percent in 2008. The report also said the overall drug usage rate was up -- a stat it said was driven largely by an increase in marijuana usage.