Union Democrat staff

California Ballot Proposition 19 is also known as the "Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010." It would legalize the limited, personal cultivation and use of marijuana; legalize recreational use by Californians 21 and older; and allow cities and counties to control, regulate and tax commercial marijuana enterprises.

This is not a well-crafted measure. It provides no structure, no guidance, no taxing mechanism and no upfront funding for cities and counties to regulate, control and tax marijuana. Even if Prop. 19 passes, the sale of marijuana will remain illegal under federal law. It will create chaos, confusion and conflict with federal enforcement agencies.

Anyone who has lived in Mendocino County - or has friends or family

there - knows of the confusion, lawlessness and legal jeopardy that

exists when federal law trumps a "lesser" ordinance. That county of

88,000 residents, 140 miles north of San Francisco, passed an ordinance

to legalize pot in 2000 - the first U.S. community to do so. Many

residents claim the ordinance has contributed to widespread marijuana

use among students; spawned crime and drug cartels; and scared off

potential real estate developers and business investors.

CNBC's documentary "Marijuana Inc," first broadcast in February

2009, devoted a full episode to Mendocino County - a place where the

allure of quick cash turned many law-abiding citizens into unlawful

commercial growers of pot. Even though the county ordinance allowed for

only a small, limited amount of plants grown per family - some

individuals were harvesting hundreds of plants and 30 to 50 pounds of

marijuana to sell to a wholesaler at $3,000 a pound. Profits are

enormous. Corruption and bribery of officials suspected. County agents,

local law enforcement and the Feds can't keep up with the unlawful

growers. The former chair of the board of supervisors there, Jim

Wattenberger, has had numerous death threats from growers following his

attempts to regulate marijuana in Mendocino County. He estimates that

60 percent of the county's economic base is derived from marijuana.

So does anyone really believe that marijuana can actually be

regulated, controlled and taxed in that kind of environment? Do city

and county governments in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties have the

budget, resources, staffing and expertise to engage in this kind of

effort? The answer is an emphatic no.

In the workplace, under this initiative, employees could face

increased exposure to injuries and business owners could face increased

exposure to liability and claims. According to the California Chamber

of Commerce, under Prop. 19, marijuana is more protected than alcohol.

Their example: "If a forklift driver showed up reeking of marijuana

smoke, an employer could not take disciplinary action until it could be

proven that the employee's job performance was "actually impaired" by

the marijuana use" (after an accident occurred, for example.)

Mothers Against Drunk Driving strongly opposes Prop. 19. "Drugged

driving" is already challenging drunk driving as the primary killer of

young adults on our highways. Yet, if this measure passes, California

drivers will be able to operate a car while under the influence of

marijuana. The initiative says "smoking marijuana while driving" is not

allowed but it would be legal to smoke marijuana immediately prior to

driving. So drivers of a bus, taxi or light-rail train can legally

drive "impaired" under Prop. 19.

Individuals who desire to purchase medical marijuana for legitimate

health issues can easily get a prescription from any physician in the

state. Medical marijuana "dispensaries" are growing exponentially - so

access is not an issue. Those engaging in recreational use - when in

possession of small amounts of marijuana - are now fined but rarely

prosecuted. The ongoing decriminalization of individuals possessing

small amounts of marijuana for personal use will continue over time.

Proposition 19 goes far beyond what most would consider "reasonable

use." This measure is deeply flawed, unnecessary and ill-advised. If

passed, it would create increased access and use of marijuana by

youngsters; more criminal activity; more impaired workers and drivers.

We strongly urge voters in the Mother Lode - and all Californians - to

reject Proposition 19.