‘Just the Facts’ panelists: Don’t legalize pot | TheUnion.com

‘Just the Facts’ panelists: Don’t legalize pot

Panelists took turns panning California’s marijuana legalization initiative this week in Grass Valley, calling it poorly written, a danger to youths and an invitation to a poor quality of life in the Golden State.

The Wednesday “Just the Facts” forum, sponsored by Coalition for a Drug-Free Nevada County and Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce, featured seven panelists who oppose the Nov. 2 ballot measure to legalize marijuana, Proposition 19.

They included Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell, Nevada County Sheriff’s Sgt. Bill Smethers, Grass Valley Police Capt. Rex Marks, Chip Arenchild of InterWest insurance, Michelle Gregory of the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, Earle Jamison High School Principal Anita Bagwell and Aimee Hendle, a representative of the San Diego-based group Californians for Drug Free Youths.

Newell, a critic of the initiative’s language, pointed to passages written to make it difficult to fire employees who appear to be under the influence of marijuana unless the drug affects their performance.

“It portends problems in the future,” he said. “An employer couldn’t take them offline until they have an accident.”

Initiative backers argue legalizing pot would help cut down on illegal cultivation, such as vast plantations by Mexican drug cartels – a claim Smethers and Gregory rejected. The cartels sell California-grown marijuana to other states and would continue to do so even if Prop. 19 passes, Smethers said.

“The Mexican cartels don’t own property in our community. They don’t pay taxes,” he said.

The drug could become more available to teens, who suffer from its use, Bagwell said.

“It’s hugely harmful academically,” she said. “They don’t engage. Teachers say students who use drugs have a ‘duh’ look,” Bagwell said.

Some marijuana advocates who attended the forum left frustrated that it covered only one side of the issue.

“It was extremely disappointing because what the community needs and deserves is a forum that’s balanced and has accountability for both sides,” said Martin Webb, owner of Plan It Solar in Penn Valley.

Earlier in the decade, Webb was director of the now-defunct Cannabis Information Resource Center in Nevada City, which offered information about the benefits of medical marijuana.

“I wouldn’t say I’m someone who’s gung-ho about Prop. 19, but I found this disappointing,” Webb added. “I left disheartened. They should have called it ‘just the opinions.'”

To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail kmagin@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.

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