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California Watch
The Next Stage in the Weed Wars

With marijuana referenda on the ballot in nine states today as national polls show support for legalization reaching record highs, it might seem like the pot debate is settled. And indeed, it does seem inevitable that state-level criminal restrictions on the drug will continue to be swept aside by war-on-drugs fatigue and Millennial-driven social libertarianism.

But that doesn’t mean fights over the legal status of marijuana are over. California, which is poised to approve a highly-permissive legalization measure, offers a preview of what the next stage of the weed wars might look like. The Associated Press reports:

Worried that California might legalize recreational marijuana, the state’s third-largest city by population has voted to ban pot sales ahead of Tuesday’s election.

San Jose isn’t alone in scrambling to block the possible effects of Proposition 64, which would legalize pot but also allow local bans on sales.

Dozens of cities and counties from tiny Blue Lake in the heart of Northern California’s pot-growing mecca to National City near the Mexico border have either imposed or are contemplating tough restrictions on recreational marijuana sales and cultivation.

While many people support having access to legal marijuana in the abstract—or at least, oppose the costly criminal justice apparatus required to enforce prohibition—they might also be wary of hosting marijuana dispensaries in their own cities or towns. As marijuana is legalized in a growing number of states, expect local ordinances to pop up restricting the sale of the drug, especially in wealthier areas.

That’s not to mention other roadblocks that are likely to be thrown up to marijuana use. As we wrote before, “the fading of legal prohibitions on marijuana use may give rise to new social sanctions. For example, employers might drug test their employees, landlords might restrict the use of pot on their properties, courts might consider drug use as a criterion in child custody cases, and frequent toking might become a roadblock to enrolling in college or receiving government aid.”

As Mark Kleiman—a drug policy expert and cautious decriminalization advocate—explained yesterday, many states are opting for sweeping deregulations of marijuana that seem likely to lower prices and increase the prevalence of cannabis abuse disorder. This is a grave mistake, and people concerned with public health should seek to amend those laws. But in the meantime, the battle is likely to be most intense at the local level—at colleges, companies, and cities deciding how to approach this brave new world.

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  • FriendlyGoat

    Random observations:

    1) States “legalizing” something which remains illegal at the federal level is a message to children that adults do not know what they are doing with respect to overall government. Even a fourth grader could tell us that a rule is either a rule or is not a rule. It is not both at the same time and in the same places.

    2) There is a profound ignorance and immorality in the idea of states looking to weed as a public revenue source while employers can test people for past weed use and fire them from their jobs as a result.

    3) We have minimum ages for use of certain products such as alcohol and tobacco. Somewhat in jest here (and yet not), perhaps the minimum age for weed use should be 40, or 50, or 60.

    • Tom

      Brave New World is a dystopia, not a how-to book. If you need to drug people to get them to accept your policies, maybe the fault lies with your policies.

      • FriendlyGoat

        We need the right side of the elder set to get their heads on straight. If the problem is that they are in chronic pain, or are no longer getting adequate sleep, or are experiencing what was once called “hardening of the arteries”, then meds can help.
        The other thing which would cause them to all turn left, of course, would be if they weren’t ALREADY the privileged class now benefitting from Social Security, Medicare and the defined-benefit pensions of the past. The duplicity of many seniors is just stunning. There is not much worse in either logic or morality than the beneficiaries of government being “against government”, but with no plans whatsoever to stop receiving THEIR OWN benefits.

        The main subject here, though, is weed. First of all, I’m 65 and have managed to never try marijuana. Sometime in the future at my age seems the appropriate time, if any, for me to do so—–for medical reasons. I don’t agree with encouraging the young to use this stuff and I especially don’t agree with states licking their chops at the prospect of raising tax money from it.

        • Tom

          Given that they spent their lives paying into that system, your complaints about privileged classes are disingenuous at best.

          • FriendlyGoat

            And yet, even I as a liberal, realize that most seniors will receive far more benefits in cash than they ever paid in.
            These ARE a form of “insurance” program. They ARE also “social” programs. I’m “for ’em”, not “against ’em”.
            But a bit of honesty about all that from the receiving set would be nice.

  • Andrew Allison

    A couple of points. First, the San Jose ban is temporary to allow the city to develop regulations governing recreational sale and usage. More importantly, given that it appears that Prop. is going to win handily, wouldn’t bans be a clear violation of the will of the people. At a minimum, shouldn’t a City or County wishing to ban recreational use put it to a vote of the people?

  • Fat_Man

    You lost the war on drugs. Give up, move on.

    • Jim__L

      FM, even the biggest weed boosters I know here in Silicon Valley make a huge distinction between weed and cocaine / meth / heroin. Heck, they even make a distinction between weed and various addictive prescription drugs.

      Weed may come off the list of controlled substances, but those controls are not going away any time soon.

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