Terry McLaughlin: Prop 64 to put pot in primetime? | TheUnion.com

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Terry McLaughlin: Prop 64 to put pot in primetime?

In November, California voters will be asked to decide if they want to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over 21 years of age. Passage of the "Adult Use of Marijuana Act" (AUMA), designated as Proposition 64, would allow adults to legally possess, purchase, transport, or give to another adult an ounce of marijuana.

Before you decide how to vote on this issue, you should seriously consider the letter issued by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in August, in which they denied legal requests to reclassify marijuana as a less-dangerous Schedule II drug.

The DEA requested a thorough scientific and medical evaluation and a scheduling recommendation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Upon receipt of this lengthy and detailed evaluation from HHS, the DEA concluded that there was "no substantial evidence that marijuana should be removed from Schedule I." This DEA decision was based upon the following findings:

1. The HHS evaluation and additional data gathered by the DEA show that marijuana has a high potential for abuse.

2. Marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment; the drug's chemistry is not known and reproducible, there are no adequate safety studies, there are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy, and the drug is not accepted by qualified experts.

3. Marijuana lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision at present. The known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.

Stating that "research is the bedrock of science", acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg indicated that the DEA has and will continue to support legitimate research regarding marijuana, and has never denied an application from a researcher to use lawfully produced marijuana in a study determined to be scientifically meritorious by HHS. In fact, the number of individuals and institutions registered with the DEA to research marijuana, marijuana extracts, derivatives and tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), has increased from 161 in 2014 to 354, at present. In addition, the DEA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have actually increased the amount of marijuana available for research in order to meet legitimate demands by researchers. Rosenberg stated that the FDA drug approval process for evaluating potential medicines has worked effectively for more than 50 years, and called it a "thorough, deliberate and exacting process grounded in science, and properly so, because the safety of our citizens relies on it."

Proposition 64, on which you will be voting in November, has a number of serious flaws on which you should also reflect as you consider your vote. The AAA Foundation for Highway Safety reports that deaths in marijuana-related car accidents have doubled since the state of Washington approved legalization of recreational marijuana, yet Proposition 64 does not include any DUI standard for marijuana, making it almost impossible to keep impaired drivers off the road.

Regardless of whatever local ordinance the Nevada County Board of Supervisors and its advisory board establish in regard to the cultivation of medical marijuana, Proposition 64 will prohibit local governments from banning any indoor residential growing of marijuana, provided the crop does not exceed six plants. The California Police Chief's Association has issued a statement that says "By permitting indoor cultivation of marijuana literally next door to elementary schools and playgrounds, Prop 64 is trampling on local control."

The Past President of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, John Jackson, is quoted in the California voter guide stating, "Organized crime filings have skyrocketed in Colorado since marijuana legalization. We had 1 filing in 2007 and by 2015, we had 40. Since Prop. 64 repeals the prohibition on heroin and meth dealers with felony convictions from getting into the legal marijuana business — it will be much worse in California."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has publicly objected to the fact that, although tobacco advertisements have been banned from television for decades, Proposition 64 will allow marijuana smoking and edible advertisements on television in primetime, exposing our youth to these advertisements and influences every day.

Prop 64's supporters have fought tooth and nail to prevent voters from hearing about the details of this proposition, including filing a lawsuit to prevent certain information from appearing on the ballot. Among the false claims that they had made in the argument and rebuttal which were to appear in the November ballot were that television advertising would not be permitted, that pot use among minors had decreased in states which had legalized marijuana, and that drugged driving had decreased in states with legalization. Thankfully, on Aug. 13, a California judge ruled that these claims, and others, were misleading and must be changed and rewritten prior to printing of the ballot.

California voters should heed law enforcement professionals in Colorado and Washington who are seeing the negative consequences of the legalization of recreational marijuana. More accessibility, television advertising, and an attitude of acceptance most certainly will increase the use of marijuana by our youth, regardless of legal restrictions on those under 21 years of age. And the scientific evidence backs up the assertion that marijuana has a high potential for abuse.

As DEA Administrator Rosenberg concludes, "We will remain tethered to science, as we must, and as the statute demands. It would certainly be odd to rely on science when it suits us and ignore it otherwise."

Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Nevada City, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at terrymclaughlin2016@gmail.com.