Patricia Smith: Why I’m voting no on Prop 64 | TheUnion.com

Patricia Smith: Why I’m voting no on Prop 64

Other Voices
Patricia Smith

I have been a medical cannabis advocate for nearly four decades, so most people presume that I would enthusiastically support a measure that would legalize marijuana for adult recreational use.

They would be wrong.

I do not support Prop 64 and urge everyone to vote no on this issue for the following reasons.

I am used to being on the opposite side of the fence from law enforcement on medical marijuana issues, but this is the first time I have broken with the leadership of virtually every major pro-cannabis organization, which is an unfamiliar position for me to be in.

To be clear, I do not have a problem with adults who smoke for relaxation, but I object strongly that recreational use could prevent patients from being able to access the products they need to maintain their health.

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However, I feel that most national cannabis leaders have sold out patients in their eagerness to realize their goal of full legalization. Despite their claims that Prop 64 will not change existing patient rights, that simply is not the case. If this were true, ask yourself why a measure to legalize recreational marijuana even mentions medical cannabis — especially when the state legislature spent most of 2015 writing the Medical Cannabis Regulation & Safety Act.

The reason is simple. The long-term plan is to combine the recreational and medical programs to increase revenues, but it would have to be done through a voter initiative. Prop 64 will allow the legislature to amend the medical marijuana section of the measure which would give them the authority to merge the programs in the future.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsome believes patients should be taxed alongside recreational users. He said, "If we tax one group and not the other, suddenly everyone is sick."

This flies in the face of Prop 215 that stated medical cannabis should be "safe and affordable." As it is, patients would still have to pay the 15 percent excise tax imposed by Prop 64, but they would be exempt from the 7.5 percent state sales tax — if they pay for a previously voluntary patient ID card from their local Public Health office (which is just an up-front form of taxation.).

Proponents say that Prop 64 will raise a billion dollars in tax revenues the first year.

Sounds great, but not one penny goes toward reducing our deficit, paying down our unfunded pension liabilities, repairing our infrastructure or fixing our decaying schools.

The billion dollars is all earmarked for administration and enforcement costs which will create hundreds, if not thousands, of new government jobs that will only increase our indebtedness.

There is a world of difference between legitimate medical cannabis and recreational marijuana. Medical patients typically do not smoke flower buds because the levels of cannabinoids are not sufficient to treat most conditions. If patients smoke at all, they generally vaporize a concentrated oil. More often, they use a tincture that can be dose adjusted drop by drop.

The solvents used to make oil is another thing that separates medical from recreational cannabis products. Medical oil is typically extracted using food-grade organic alcohol or CO2 while recreational products use butane and other toxic solvents. Any residual chemicals are also concentrated bringing the leftover contaminants to unsafe levels for people with fragile immune systems.

Patients also need a balance of CBD:THC to effectively treat their conditions. Stoners eschew CBD because it does not produce the THC "high" so most dispensaries do not carry a wide range of CBD products.

Because each of us is unique, the same strain of cannabis does not work for everyone — even if they suffer from the same condition. It takes a lot of trial and error to find which strains work and once discovered, it is essential that a patient has consistent access to those products. Dispensaries have a large turnover and often do not have the same products from month to month so it is vital that patients can grow their own medicine or have a collective grow for them. Washington State recently merged their medical and recreational programs and patients reported shortages of medicine within months.

To be clear, I do not have a problem with adults who smoke for relaxation, but I object strongly that recreational use could prevent patients from being able to access the products they need to maintain their health.

Finally, Prop 64 opens the door that will allow massive corporations to take over the industry in five years time. If you don't like the small 50 plant grows that have been proposed for Nevada County, you will hate the one acre grows that are coming.

Please, do your homework and vote NO on Prop 64.

Patricia Smith is Nevada County chair for Americans for Safe Access.