George Horrigan: How will California control legalized marijuana?
Back in February, George Boardman wrote a column about the local and national cannabis industry. The following day, Heidi Hall wrote one entitled “High time for cannabis common sense.” After reading both articles I got the feeling that they would like to see good discussion from all sides involved in the growing, distribution and use of cannabis.
I agree with Heidi that although I don’t use marijuana in any form, as a taxpayer I want this issue to be handled correctly.
Gavin Newsom has just released a major progress report from a panel he has brought together to study issues such as how to tax marijuana in a fair way that eliminates the black market, how to determine driving under the influence of marijuana and how to protect children and teenagers. The last priority is of great concern, the panel said in its 18-page report, because it is clear that non-medical marijuana, while technically illegal even for adults, is easily available to young people. The panel felt that weighing potential pitfalls whilst crafting a ballot measure is far preferable than trying to fix them after it is passed.
With the passage of Proposition 215, California became the first State in the nation to legalize medical marijuana. Nearly two decades later, it has fallen behind as other States have moved to regulate the cannabis industry. Jim Araby is the executive director of the United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council. He recently reported that “there are no statewide standards to ensure criminal background checks on growers and sellers, or to test whether potency levels are as advertised, or to make sure that cannabis is tested for dangerous chemicals.” Many people look to States such as Colorado and Washington and see a lot of jobs being created and a sizeable increase in tax dollars, but what controls have been put in place to protect the average taxpayer?
Craig Wolfe, president and CEO of Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America was quoted in USA Today as saying one of the reasons that the implementation of cannabis legislation has stumbled is because these measures failed to structure what an effective regulatory model and it’s market would look like. While his organization is neutral on the question of legalization, there is no denying that the modern three-tier beverage alcohol system delivers consumers a wide diversity of products in a manner that guarantees product integrity, works to prevent underage access, ensures tax revenue for government and provides regulatory oversight. Licensed and regulated suppliers can sell only to licensed and regulated wholesalers who in turn sell to licensed and regulated establishments. Regulators and legislators should stop trying to reinvent the wheel. A solution has already proved its effectiveness: a three-tier model like that used to regulate alcoholic beverage would ensure that marijuana, if legalized, is properly controlled.
The State of Washington legalized marijuana and, after a short period of time, felt that their existing system had to change. Senate Bill 5052 was passed in February. It will change the name of the Liquor Control Board to the Liquor and Cannabis Control Board. This bill will combine the medical and recreational cannabis systems by shutting down all currently operating dispensaries in the State and allow recreational cannabis retail outlets to apply for a medical cannabis endorsement that demonstrates their knowledge in the use of medical cannabis. They still need a House version of Bill 5052. The proposal is adamantly opposed by activist groups.
Maybe our politicians should study the pros and cons from the State of Washington? It has been where we seem to be going and something prompted them to consider a major change of direction.
George Horrigan, who lives in Alta Sierra, is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His opinion is his own and does not represent The Union or its editorial board.
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