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Patchwork of pot laws

November 18, 2010

Illustration from the Vienna Dioscurides
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Posted: 11/10/2010 07:07:52 PM PST

California has two minds on marijuana. Voters in 1996 thought it was OK for medicinal use, and just about any adult can get a “recommendation” to legally consume medical marijuana. But last week voters just said no to fully legalizing pot for recreational use and sale.

It’s technically illegal to sell medical marijuana in California (it’s supposed to be shared among collective members), yet several cities have enacted gross receipt taxes to raise revenue off the sale of medicinal pot. Los Angeles is currently considering taxing medical marijuana as well.

Meanwhile, last month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a new law that reduced the penalty for possession of an ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor with arrest to an infraction with a $100 fine – no more serious than a speeding ticket.

And he went on NBC’s “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” this week and declared, “No one cares if you smoke a joint or not.”

That may be true, yet in California it’s still a felony to grow, buy or sell marijuana for recreational use, even if you’re growing your own personal stash.

To sum up the state’s schizophrenic drug policy: Nobody cares if you have a joint, but you could end up in jail for acquiring that joint.

As California has slowly begun to decriminalize the use of marijuana, the state has failed to address the very serious question of where marijuana comes from.

Unfortunately, we see the results of crazy policy playout in our parks and forests, where elaborate illegal pot plantations have been discovered, and on our southern border. Just last week, federal authorities discovered 25 tons of marijuana in a San Diego warehouse that was the end of the line for an 1,800-foot-long tunnel running from Mexico.

It was just one of the schemes Mexican cartels have used to smuggle marijuana into California and the United States. So far, the state has been largely insulated from the horrific murders and violence perpetrated by the cartels south of the border, but how long before the drug war heads north?

But California policy ignores the fact that the appetite for marijuana and the decriminalization of pot possession will only fuel these illegal grow operations and the Mexican cartels.

Marijuana advocates figured legalization was the solution to state’s schizophrenic drug policy, but Proposition 19 wasn’t the answer. The measure would have allowed local governments to craft their own regulation and taxes on the sale of marijuana, which would have created a confusing, patchwork of rules. And the federal government was expected to crack down on any attempt in California to legalize the sale of marijuana.

If California’s leaders are going to go down the path of decriminalizing marijuana possession, then they need to take a hard look at the growth, distribution and sale of marijuana. It’s simply illogical to make possession an infraction and acquisition a felony.

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