California, you don’t know how good you have it. Since the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, your Golden State has sparkled as a sanctuary for medical marijuana users who aren’t looking to mingle with/be drug dealers. As a recent transplant from Utah (a state famously opposed to marijuana), I’m inspired to see clinics and dispensaries in such abundance here. Progressive Utahns see California as the smooth operator able to navigate the tricky maze of legalization. Proposition 64 is the latest in the timeline, and likely the toughest, most significant move yet. Being of national importance, I decided to dust off the old English degree and give Prop 64 a read. The following are this outsider’s findings.
Before digging into its major themes, take notice of Prop 64’s length. It’s like taking a textbook jungle safari – the bill is over 60 pages long. When compared to SB420‘s concise 4 pages, I’m reminded of Alexander Hamilton’s complaint at impenetrably boring laws. He wrote, “It will be of little avail to the people…if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood” [The Federalist]. I doubt many Californians look forward to reading 62 pages of legal jargon and policy, and lawmakers know this. If you don’t want citizens to read a policy, just make it longer. Excessive length was my first clue that Prop 64 may not be a bill written for the interests of we, the people.
There are, give or take, 4 distinct themes addressed in Prop 64: rights of marijuana users, agricultural regulation, health research, and industrial hemp provisions. Any one of these could occupy an entire bill, and I am wary of a reach so broad.
The first rights thrown out the window are those of medical users. Medical patient status is diluted as it is granted to anyone and everyone. To see drug distribution treated with such indifference is troubling. Moreover, rights to medical marijuana have already been declared in California per SB420. Proposition 64 supersedes them with alarming indiscretion. I believe in a government of limited scope, and this proposition fails to achieve that. Instead, Prop 64 resembles the lazy babysitter who watches TV all day while the kids try to construct some Ikea furniture. “You have the instructions!” yells the babysitter, only now wielding the hammer of the judiciary system if they should fail. As will be addressed later, creating more laws does not clarify – it confuses.
Next, agricultural regulations are defined. When was the last time you planted your own garden? Would you be interested if I said that, to start, you’d need to consider site development and maintenance, erosion control, drainage features, stream crossing installation and maintenance, riparian and wetland protection and management, soil disposal, water storage and use, irrigation runoff, fertilizers and soil, pesticides and herbicides, petroleum products and other chemicals, cultivation-related waste, refuse and human waste, cleanup, restoration, and mitigation [6.21.13276.b.12]? I haven’t even touched a shovel and I can already feel regulators breathing down my neck. These are aneurysm-worthy restrictions that virtually prohibit growing marijuana on your own. Voting yes to Prop 64 dumps us into the toxic wastebin of endless “safety” requirements that do more to curtail growth than to optimize it. But, you ask, who would wanna do that?, which leads us to the next issue.
The third point: cannabis research, and to answer that question, here’s who: UC-San Diego, the California Highway Patrol, the all-new Marijuana Control Board, and any of the numerous other organizations named in this proposition [7.34019.2-7]. Californians will drop an initial $50,000,000 alone to CHP, “to establish and adopt protocols to determine whether a driver is operating a vehicle while impaired, including impairment by the use of marijuana or marijuana products, and to establish and adopt protocols setting forth best practices to assist law enforcement agencies” [7.34019.c]. I don’t know about you, but I’m not looking forward to more laws, and certainly not more law enforcement. UC-San Diego receives $2 million for cannabis research to discover dangers of marijuana use, rather than its total capacity as a medicine. This is as wrong as researching, say, physical exercise by framing each question through its dangers (“You might tear your meniscus!”). Such biases shortchange the discovery of anything positive. One might even call it unethical. Prop 64 endows UCSD with the mission to explore, “Impacts on public health, including health costs associated…”, “The impact of treatment for maladaptive marijuana use…”, “Public safety issues related to marijuana use,” and so on, maladaptive being the key word [7.34019.b.11]. Marijuana then becomes synonymous with abuse symptoms, and more research is pursued, focused on fear. If sifting through its 62 pages didn’t already scare you, perhaps Prop 64’s research aims will.
Finally, Prop 64 addresses industrial hemp. Am I the only who thinks industrial hemp should have its own bill? If hemp is to be distinguished from recreational marijuana – with its own standards, and its own grow restrictions – why is it being lumped in with consumer products? With a growing demand for sustainable agriculture, industrial hemp may be the most important issue in Prop 64. As it resides in industrial agriculture, it fails to match the rest of the bill, kind of like declaring how many eggs should go in a birthday cake, then outlining restrictions on proper care and feeding of commercial chickens. These laws should deal with you and me, not you, me, and the business mogul who eagerly twiddles his thumbs awaiting the 5 years before commercial marijuana licenses are legal. You heard right. Prop 64 ushers in the big money, setting a date when the modern cartels of monopoly may stake their claim in the marijuana business.
It may have been a joke – I still can’t decide – but Prop 64 claims to create transparency [2.H]. Pro tip: 62 pages is not transparency, unlike SB420, for example. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act is not a bill for the people, as witnessed by trying to wade through its swampy terminology. Let’s get things right before voting to open up the commercial floodgates. A vote in favor of Proposition 64 is a vote to grant more power to those few already in power, and once that power is granted, getting it back will be much tougher. Keep California the beacon of a people’s government. Be smart, Californians. We Utahns are counting on you.
Vote no on 64.