Measure to Legalize Marijuana will be Key Battle in 2010 Elections

December 28th, 2009 – The temperature of the always burning marijuana issue will likely rise in 2010.

Officials from a group campaigning to put a marijuana legalization measure before California voters said they have enough signatures to qualify for the 2010 ballot.

The possibility of marijuana being legalized in the state has riled area activists on both sides of the issue.

“First off, we don’t think it’s going to pass at all,” said Paul Chabot, co-founder of the Inland Valley Drug Free Community Coalition.

“California has really woken up since Proposition 215 passed in 1996. Most Californians now know this fraud is brought to us by those who funded the (marijuana) legalization initiative.”

Proposition 215 legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

A Field Poll conducted in April found that 56 percent of California residents supported legalizing and taxing marijuana to help bridge the state budget deficit.

“The question is of the 5 (percent) or 10 percent truly sitting on the fence,” said Lanny Swerdlow, director of the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project. “Those are the groups we’re going to have to educate on why to legalize and tax cannabis. I think we can do it. We have the attitude. We will raise enough money.”

Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project is an Inland Empire medical marijuana patient support group and law reform organization.

The initiative would legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older. Residents could cultivate marijuana gardens up to 25 square feet. City and county governments would determine whether to permit and tax marijuana sales within their boundaries.

Profits would be taxed according to cities and counties, while medical marijuana facilities would not be affected.

The initiative has far more than the nearly 434,000 signatures needed to make the statewide November 2010 ballot, said Richard Lee, an Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur and the initiative’s main backer.

The initiative is also supported by Oaksterdam University, a marijuana emporium in downtown Oakland. On its Web site, Oaksterdam describes itself as providing “quality training for the cannabis industry.”

Chabot described Oaksterdam as “the same people who run a medical marijuana business.

“It’s been (marijuana proponents’) agenda (to legalize the substance) since 1996. It’s never about sick people, it’s about drug legalization. This weakens the medical marijuana argument.”

Chabot described the initiative as, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. We don’t think Californians are going to get fooled again.”

Marijuana is illegal under federal law. But some legal scholars have argued the U.S. government could do little to make California enforce the federal ban if the drug became legal under state law.

Supporters point to provisions in the legalization measure that call for jail time for anyone who sells or gives marijuana to children. It forbids smoking pot in a public place or in front of minors.

Opponents of the measure contend legalization of marijuana will lead to more drug abuse among minors.

Claremont Graduate University professor of psychology William Crano said he does not want to see the initiative passed because of that issue.

Crano published a paper in the Association for Psychological Science’s journal Perspectives on Psychological Science stating that the more involved parents are with their children, the less likely the children are to use marijuana.

“It’s a natural push to model after those respected parents or adults or people who happen to be 21 and over,” Crano said. “It’s inevitable it will make smoking dope seem more legitimate. I’ve done plenty of research. And contrary to the people in the marijuana movement, I’d suggest this is not a good thing for youngsters.”

Crano said adolescents who use marijuana “are prone to a host of negative consequences and reoccurring problems,” including delinquency, affiliation with delinquent peers, mental impairment and other issues that “lead to more drug use.”

Swerdlow thinks the younger generation will help pass the initiative in 2010.

“I think a lot of young people are excited that marijuana has chance at legalization,” he said. “They don’t feel like criminals and they’re not doing anything wrong. They want to see it legalized.”

Rancho Cucamonga Mayor Don Kurth said it is dangerous for the state to have a cavalier approach to “potentially addictive drugs.” Kurth is an addiction professor at Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine Center.

“People who do not have the genetics of an addict are far less likely to become impaired or addicts,” Kurth said. “But people who have the genetics that predispose them to addiction, to use any of these drugs could be fatal.”

Kurth and Chabot are both running for the Republication nomination in the 63rd Assembly District next year. They are both former drug addicts.

But Chino resident Darrell Kruse, who operated a medical marijuana dispensary in Claremont, said passage of the initiative would give sick people access to necessary medicine.

“I would vote for anyone to have access so that people who are deprived under current law can get it,” Kruse said. “In the current time, in my opinion, it’s not the easiest thing to get a place to distribute it.”

Kruse’s dispensary was shut down by court order in 2007.

“Eventually, the courts will recognize” the legal right of people to have medicinal marijuana, he said.

Jan Werner, operator of a Bloomington and Home Gardens medical-marijuana collective, said marijuana is a medicine like any other medicine and should be controlled.

“People who need it (should be) under doctor’s regulation and guidance would be best like any medication,” Werner said. “We don’t just legalize valium or legalize vicodin for recreational purposes. What we do do is provide safe access for qualified patients.”

Election officials must validate and count the signatures before the California secretary of state places the measure on the ballot. Campaign organizers say they will submit more than 650,000 signatures of registered voters next month. By Wes Woods II. Source.

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