Clearing the Smoke

From Covelo to Sausalito and Sebastopol to Bodega Bay, pot farmers are talking about Proposition 64, which will be on the ballot in November and which would legalize recreational marijuana. They’re also talking about the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), which became law on Jan. 1 but doesn’t go into effect until 2018. Both Proposition 64 and the MMRSA are reactions to 1996’s Proposition 215, which ushered in the current era of medical marijuana and led to an explosion of the marijuana industry: humongous plantations, greenhouses, dispensaries, pot docs and more.

The new regulations were inevitable. Things did get out of hand, folks. Outlaws multiplied and illegal activities proliferated. Growers did damage to the environment and sucked water from rivers and streams. Yes, there were and there still are plenty of law-abiding, ecologically aware people in the hills, but too many corners were cut and too much bad weed reached the market. Something had to be done. It was done. And what has been done seems to many to be going too far. The pendulum has swung in the opposite direction.

If lawmakers and law enforcers have their way, marijuana will be more intensely regulated than any other crop in California. Sad to say, every time the state or federal government has passed a law about marijuana, there have been unintended consequences. Given that sad history it seems likely to happen again. Indeed, the MMRSA might well give rise to a new generation of outlaws and criminals. Where there’s a chance to make big money, greed will kick in, growers will resort to guns and scoff at rules and regulations.

The state of California has made little if any provision to educate citizens about marijuana. Indeed, what’s needed more than new laws and new state agencies is sound education. Sacramento ought to create an Office of Marijuana Information that would dispel the lies that have circulated since the days of “reefer madness.”

Jonah Raskin is the author of ‘Marijuanaland: Dispatches from an American War.’

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