California voters decided a couple of years ago that the recreational use of marijuana should be legal, following the lead of several other states.
Many believed that would be the end of the marijuana debate, legalize sales and use, and everything just falls into place. But the passage of time, and more discussion, has proven them wrong.
For one thing, while marijuana use by adults may be legal statewide, the ballot proposition that authorized legalization gave local jurisdictions veto powers. If a community’s elected officials decide to ban the sale of marijuana, state law allows that.
Even as Proposition 64 was being debated prior to the 2016 vote, it was fairly evident to law enforcement agencies that the proposal, as written, had much potential for causing problems, one of which cropped up last week in Lompoc when an 18-year-old was taken into custody for allegedly attempting to make delivery of marijuana products within city limits.
Sheriff’s detectives used a warrant to search the young person’s vehicle, and seized more than $60,000 worth of cannabis products, about $7,500 in cash, and two unlicensed firearms.
Two things about that stop. First, it seems clear that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana has not deterred the black-market sale and distribution of cannabis products. Second, the illegal drug trade and firearms go hand in hand, and while there may be legitimate reasons for that young person to have guns, their proximity to narcotics indicates a nexus.
State officials have been working for more than a year on finalizing the rules governing the cannabis business, and California is now the nation’s biggest legal marijuana market. But some of the regulations broadly agreed to when voters favored legalizing marijuana will surely be tested in court, among them the concept of home deliveries of cannabis products in communities whose elected leaders have voted against marijuana sales. Also in the legal bulls-eye is the lack of access to normal banking for marijuana companies.
Lawsuits seem inevitable, given that state rules announced last week will allow home marijuana deliveries statewide, even into communities that have banned commercial cannabis sales.
Regulation by the California Bureau of Cannabis Control was widely and vigorously opposed by police chiefs and others who predict it will create an underground market for cannabis transactions, while undercutting control by cities and counties. Black-market sales would also undermine the tax revenues the state expects from the legal marijuana industry.
Conversations about the rules and how the marijuana businesses will be regulated are taking place throughout California. The Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce sponsored a “Cannabis Conversation” last week, and the big take-away is the community’s concern over what impacts a legal marijuana industry will have on public safety.
The fact that sheriff’s deputies stopped an illegal delivery last week and found weapons in the transport vehicle should be a red flag for anyone who believes the narcotics business is in safe hands.
Proposition 64 was approved by a comfortable margin of California voters, 57.1 percent of whom voted to legalize marijuana vs. 42.9 percent who disapproved. And voters in 18 of California’s 58 counties decided against Prop. 64.
It is clear that the question of legalizing drugs is far from being fully answered. That’s why community meetings like Lompoc’s “Cannabis Conversation” are so critically important, especially the public-safety component.
Policy making can be extremely messy and contentious, and the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana by Californians is a perfect example of that concept.