Editor's note: With voters heading to the polls in just a few short weeks to decide the fate of Humboldt County's biggest, most celebrated and most notorious cash crop, we offer two opposing views on the issue for voters to consider (find the other here). To be clear, there are many views on Proposition 64. These are just two, offered by people intimately involved with very different aspects of Humboldt County's marijuana industry. Give them a read, consider them and let us know what you think. And however you lean, make sure to vote Nov. 8.
Proposition 64, the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, will go before voters on Nov. 8. Proposition 64 permits adult recreational use, commercial cultivation, manufacturing, transportation and sales. We stand united and strongly opposed to Proposition 64. Please join law enforcement associations, educators, and other organizations across the state in emphatically stating, "They got it wrong, again!"
Regardless of your stance on legalization, or whether you believe the end of "cannabis prohibition" is inevitable, Proposition 64 is not the answer for California. We believe this special interest-driven initiative is ill-timed, short-sighted and irresponsible. Proposition 64 is patently profit-motivated and puts what many would label "greed weed" before the best interests of the public.
Proposition 64 does not protect our children.
Young people who smoke today's highly potent marijuana may be rewiring their brains. The American Academy of Pediatrics opposes legalizing marijuana, noting cannabis can be "very harmful to adolescent health and development." Research indicates there may be a causal link between marijuana use and an increase in serious mental health issues among children, such as triggering the onset and intensifying the symptoms of schizophrenia. Mental health professionals in Humboldt County have noted a rise in acute disorders among children, which some ascribe to marijuana exposure. According to Garry Eagles, Humboldt County's superintendent of schools, "In Humboldt and Del Norte counties, roughly 1 in 5 students, or 20.3 percent, is receiving some form of special education support. The participation rate in our two counties is almost double the state-wide average for special education of 10.4 percent."
Potent edibles attractively packaged like goodies pose a danger to our children. One medical center in Colorado recently reported their hospital has seen a 51 percent increase in the number of children ages 18 and younger being treated in its emergency rooms for marijuana-related conditions over the past two years. A Pueblo hospital recently shared statistics, reporting nearly half of babies born in that hospital during one month tested positive for THC — the main psychoactive component in cannabis.
Proposition 64 does not do enough to protect our highways.
Stoned drivers are a risk to all drivers. Legalization in other states has resulted in more DUI drivers and a significant increase in deadly crashes. According to recent research released by the American Automobile Association Foundation for Highway Safety, fatal vehicle collisions involving marijuana-impaired drivers have doubled in Washington state since legalization in 2012. Colorado has also seen a spike in marijuana-related traffic fatalities and impaired drivers. Under Proposition 64, California can expect to see the same trend.
California currently has no established DUI testing standard for stoned driving and Proposition 64's proponents failed to include one in their measure. Responsible governance and common sense would prescribe that a DUI testing standard be in place before legalization.
Proposition 64 does not do enough to protect the public's health and welfare.
When you consider California's expansive campaign against Big Tobacco, Proposition 64 appears blatantly hypocritical and counters much of the progress California has made to improve public health. How can you have a public health policy that vilifies tobacco use but implicitly encourages folks to smoke a joint?
Post-legalization, some Colorado prosecutors have described seeing an increase in marijuana-connected crime including the last 10 of 15 drug-related murders in Aurora, according to a May 2016 report. But one has to look no further than the cannabis capital of the country, Humboldt County, to recognize the violence inextricably intertwined with the pot trade. Humboldt County's homicide rate has increased steadily since 2012 with 19 homicides so far this year. The county's per-capita homicide rate (rate per 100,000 population) over the past two years was nearly double that of the state's mean rate. Most of these homicides are believed to be drug-related. Ten of 15 cases in 2015 involved drugs, according to the Humboldt County chief deputy coroner, and Sheriff Mike Downey publically attributed "most" of the homicides his office investigated in 2014 to their connection with "marijuana and other drugs."
As the new "Wild West Green Rush" intensifies with legalization, an increase in marijuana-related violent crimes, DUI fatalities and public nuisance complaints can be predicted — negatively impacting public health and safety, quality of life, tourism and businesses. Proposition 64 is the wrong initiative at the wrong time for the wrong motive. We urge patience so Californians can make a more informed and responsible decision. Let's be smart, wait on legalization and allow time for California to watch and learn from other states' post-legalization woes.
If we were to brand Proposition 64 after a popular cannabis strain, we'd dub it "Trainwreck." Vote no on 64.
Steve Watson is a captain with the Eureka Police Department. His piece was endorsed by Eureka City Schools Superintendent Fred Van Vleck, Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey, Humboldt County Chief of Probation William Damiano, Ferndale Police Chief Bret Smith, Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills, Humboldt County Undersheriff William Honsal and Eureka Police Capt. Brian Stephens.