The passage of Proposition 64 in the fall election may seem like the end of prohibition, but it doesn’t mean anything goes.
Do you know that it is still illegal to smoke marijuana in public, or any place where tobacco is prohibited? Growing pot at home? You are limited to six plants, and you’ll probably need to lock them up so that children can’t get to them. In many jurisdictions, you need to grow indoors. If you’re a renter, you’ll need your landlord’s permission to grow (or smoke!) on their property.
Planning on opening up a recreational pot club? State licensing is not set to begin until 2018. Many cities, including Campbell, Cupertino and San Jose, have prohibited recreational marijuana businesses temporarily or permanently.
And, of course, it is still illegal to smoke or possess marijuana if you are under 21—just as it is illegal to buy cigarettes or alcohol.
My request is simple: please pay close attention to the details of Proposition 64 and how the state and local municipalities implement them. Knowing these details could be the difference between having your business closed, or even being charged with a crime.
My critique is more complex. There are three major areas where the state must bolster Proposition 64: protecting people from dangerous drivers who are high, keeping young people from access and harm, and protecting the environment and our communities from fires and other impacts.
Driving While High
Colorado and Washington have seen marijuana-related traffic deaths nearly double since legalization. Drivers need to be held accountable when they drive under the influence of marijuana. Just like drivers know it’s a crime to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher, drivers need to know it’s a crime to operate a vehicle with a level of THC at or above a defined limit. Without a numerical standard to evaluate marijuana DUI impairment, California lacks the necessary tools to effectively investigate and prosecute these crimes.
One way we are addressing this issue is a bill sponsored by State Sen. Jerry Hill and Assemblyman Evan Low, which would close a loophole for driving while smoking pot. There is no difference between a joint and a can of beer to the family of a victim of impaired driving
Minors and Marijuana
Data from Colorado and Washington shows that the increased availability of marijuana has led to an increase in abuse by minors. Since legalization, the percentage of teens who used marijuana in the past month increased 20 percent in Colorado, yet decreased by 4 percent nationally.
Studies from the State of Washington have shown similar patterns of increased marijuana abuse by youths after legalization. Proposition 64 intends to regulate marijuana more akin to alcohol and tobaccos. Beer, booze and cigarettes are heavily advertised and normalized within our communities.
We should expect the same with legalized marijuana in California … and fight against it.
Smoke and Fire
Our concern with public safety extends beyond underage use and DUIs. The recent Loma Fire, which scorched almost 4,500 acres and destroyed 12 homes, started at an illegal commercial marijuana grow. These facilities dump illegal pesticides into our watersheds and wreak havoc on the environment. Without adequate resources to inspect the legal cultivators for safety and compliance and to fight illegal cultivation, residents and their environment will continue to suffer impacts like those created by the Loma fire.
We don’t want to be a buzzkill. The people of California—and Santa Clara County—voted to legalize recreational marijuana. Now we must ensure that the new law is implemented in a way that protects our children, families, and environment.
Jeff Rosen took office as District Attorney of Santa Clara County in 2011. Opinions in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.