The Sacramento Bee Gets it Wrong on Marijuana

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The Sacramento Bee recently ran an editorial entitled “California needs to solve medical marijuana mess first.” Apparently, the newspaper’s editorial board believes that California should just observe Colorado and Washington for a bit, “before making pot any more available” through legalization.  In the meantime, the piece goes on to say, we need to clean up the “medical marijuana morass” before attempting legalization in California, instead believing that the passage of yet more regulatory bills will solve the problems.

However, while calling for the return of the “true intent of Prop 215,” the media source shows a lack of understanding of the intent of Prop 215,  the availability of weed in California, and even what the real problems with California’s medical marijuana system really are.

The piece outlines some abuses of Prop 215 that no doubt do occur, but frankly could be solved by ending the prohibition of cannabis and creating a legal market for medical and recreational use. If there is no need for a doctor’s recommendation, the “Skype Doctor” referenced in the article could finally retire and maybe play some golf.

What the article fails to address is the continued raids and the lack of a legal and regulated market for patients who cannot grow. There is no mention of the patients that are still being arrested, evicted, and discriminated against, no mention of collectives’ landlords being threatened with property seizure or collectives being denied banking and business deductions by the IRS, and no mention of any of the other difficulties faced by patients and the industry itself.

In reality, the biggest problem in the medical marijuana industry is the lack of a legal supply system or regulation of medical marijuana. Since passage of Prop 215, California legislators have failed to pass any meaningful legislation. SB1262 and AB 604, the two bills that the Sac Bee is touting, do nothing to fix the supply problem or stop the local cultivation and dispensary bans that have been enacted, and they certainly do not provide protection for patients or providers against against zealous local, state, or federal prosecutors.  Just like the Sac Bee, our legislators have never addressed the arrests, prosecutions, raids or the attitudes of a judicial system that embraces the philosophy “there is no such thing as medical marijuana.”

Waiting to end prohibition will not make marijuana less available, or stop the black market. In the interim, California’s prisons will still house more than 1500 cannabis prisoners, and our officers will continue to spend their time arresting 21,000 people each year instead of solving murders.  In addition, the infractions that the Sac Bee editorial staff mentions as an excuse to hold off on ending, will still be available to employers, landlords, and others in background checks. CPS will still continue to take children of cannabis consumers, including registered medical marijuana patients.  However long it takes to end prohibition, the same black market abuses they described will continue to happen, and so will the violence and corruption that prohibition brings.

California has a long history of being a leader in the nation, both financially and in terms of getting things done in terms of regulations and industry as well as human rights and progressive policy.  Contrary to the view of the Sacramento Bee, it seems that there is a great need for Californians to stand up and show the rest of the states how it is done. In fact, we need to assert our leadership and show the nation how to deal with the issues honestly, clearly and without using circular logic and bad laws of the drug war. These policies have created a nightmare of mass incarceration and corruption, and have literally shattered millions of lives through the burdens imposed on our communities by the “war on drugs.” Delaying the end of prohibition delays the real solution and healing that our nation so desperately needs.

Continuing to cling to the failed drug policies of the last century will not move us forward as a state, or as a nation, out of the real morass, which is prohibition.