Opinion: The Top 10 Myths About California’s Legalization Measure

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Debunking the Top 10 Myths Surrounding Prop 64

By Chris Conrad, Friends of Prop. 64 *

Proposition 64 on the November 2016 California ballot would allow adults to possess and carry an ounce of bud and eight grams of concentrate, to grow six plants per household and keep the entire harvest and to regulate a legal non-medical adult market that is estimated to be four times larger than the medical marijuana market. It is retroactive in effect and will release current prisoners and erase criminal records for potentially hundreds of thousands of adults age 21 and above.

You know what that means: The rumor mill is going crazy trying to convince people to vote against legalization. Here is a quick rundown of the Top 10 Myths About Prop 64.

1) Marijuana is already as good as legal in California: False.

Not quite. There are still serious penalties on the books including felonies that can get you years in prison. The medical-marijuana laws serve as a defense, meaning that it might be legal—but you can still be searched, arrested, booked, charged, hauled in front of a judge, held to answer, be bound over for trial and, if you lose, face fines, imprisonment, ruination of your reputation and career, etc. Prop 64 makes it a legal right for adults to have stated amounts of marijuana and a licensed privilege to engage in cannabis commerce.

2) Monsanto GMOs are behind it: False.

Proposition 64 legalizes home grows and licenses small to medium businesses and seed breeders for hemp and marijuana—just the opposite of what Monsanto would want. Prop. 64 opens the market to everyone. There is no GMO marijuana, nobody wants it and High Times already debunked this claim, but it’s like a zombie that will not die.

3) Legalizers got stoned and posted the wrong ballot number: False.

The California Secretary of State first issued a ballot list naming legalization as Prop 64. That was posted on various websites. Soon thereafter, the SoS reissued its list with legalization as Prop. 63, so sites changed their posts. The SoS then reviewed and corrected its list and went back to the original numbers, making it Prop. 64 again. That wasn’t the hippies: The bureaucrats got it wrong. It is Prop. 64

4) Big corporate interests are behind it to monopolize the market: False.

This initiative creates a microbusiness license similar to craft-beer breweries and wineries that are common in California. It has anti-monopoly requirements and keeps out-of-state licensees off the table for two years. Large-scale cultivation licenses are delayed for five years, at which point the regulators may choose not to issue any. Prop 64 will bring the small illicit growers above ground, not import big marijuana.

5) Police get more power to search and harass minorities and homeless people: False.

Proposition 64 is a restorative justice effort but it can’t eliminate all injustice. What it does is to make marijuana legal without requiring a doctor’s approval, so poor people no longer face arrest just because they can’t afford to pay a doctor. It bans police searches over the odor of marijuana, where the initial contacts begin that often escalates into arrests or even police shootings. It bans redlining. Prior drug arrests will not prevent working in the industry. It funds job creation and outreach to homeless youth to get them back into school.

6) It will market marijuana to young people including television ads: False.

Proposition 64 requires proof-of-age ID checks for purchasers and workers. It requires resealable child-proof containers, restricts advertising, bans “Joe Camel” style marketing, keeps ads 1000 feet from schools, etc.; requires that the products and their packaging is not enticing to children; and limits how and when broadcast advertising is allowed. The funny thing is that federal law bans smoking ads; the language in the initiative would restrict such advertising even if the Feds decide to allow it.

7) It will lead to more impaired drivers on the road: False.

People are already driving while high on cannabis. No clear evidence ties marijuana to impaired driving but safety is a legitimate concern. One thing we know does not work is using a “per se” blood THC measurement to establish impairment. Instead, Prop 64 will research all types of impairment, including from cannabis, and fund a campaign to get impaired drivers off the road, not cannabis consumers.

8) It will lead to more adolescent use and abuse and addiction by adults: False.

The federal Center for Disease Controls just debunked that claim by showing the exact opposite, based on more than 900,000 personal use surveys.

9) It would be better to just repeal the laws and have no controls: False.

Any initiative has to be passed by voters, survive court challenges and avoid federal intervention. Most voters support legalization with taxes and controls. Voters want the tax revenues. Consumers want to their supply to be safe and secure and to know its potency and cannabinoid profile. Parents want their kids protected. Without those votes, Prop 64 would not pass. California’s constitution establishes rights and powers for local governments, homeowners and business operators. If those were ignored, it would be tied up in court instead of taking effect. The federal Cole Memo requires states to have “tightly restricted” and “robustly enforced” regulations. A general repeal would be an invitation to the Feds to intervene. Prop 64 takes all that into account, which is a good thing.

10) You can’t fix a ballot measure once it passes: False.

Proposition 64 legalization is retroactive and goes into effect November 9. Its business regulations take effect in 2019. It allows the legislature and regulators to make limited improvements; but they can never again make marijuana illegal for California adults.

* Chris Conrad is an internationally respected expert on cannabis and California law.

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