SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — In the election a few weeks ago, two more states and Washington, D.C. voted to legalize marijuana. The question is: why hasn’t California?
One might think that California would be the first to legalize recreational marijuana, but no. In what some people are calling the “marijuana midterm” election, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. joined Colorado and Washington State in legalizing recreational marijuana — that’s different from medical marijuana which is legal in California and in a number of states.READ MORE: Hazmat Situation Closes Portion Of Gilman St. In Berkeley
And where is California? After all, we were leading the way on this issue. In 1975, we reduced the penalty for small amounts of marijuana to a misdemeanor, then in 1996 voters made California the first state to legalize medical marijuana and just a few years ago, our elected officials further reduced the penalty for possession of an ounce or less to a civil infraction with no jail time.
But the question of whether to make recreational use legal brings up two questions: first, should we legalize it? And second, how should we legalize it?
On the first question, you may be surprised to learn that only a slim majority of likely voters in California wants to legalize marijuana at all. A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that only 53 percent of likely voters said we should.
And even among people who do want to legalize marijuana, they still need to agree on what it would look like. What does it mean for public safety jobs where employees are drug tested? What it is the legal limit for intoxication? What about the fact that its still illegal under federal law?READ MORE: Suspect In Fatal Santa Rosa Shooting Arrested On Murder Charges
But now that other states have taken the plunge, it could be less complicated for California.
Governor Jerry Brown, who is against legalization, says he’s looking closely at how Colorado is doing to see if we should do something similar. In fact, the same group that played a major role in Colorado’s law, called the Marijuana Policy Project, has formed a committee to put a measure on California’s ballot in 2016.
It doesn’t need to be a ballot measure and the legislature could at any point pass the same law. But it’s still not a slam dunk. Just two years ago, there was an attempt to legalize marijuana here in California and it failed.
So, don’t look for your elected officials to stick their neck out on this issue where we’re so divided. If it’s going to happen anytime soon, it’s going to come from the voters.MORE NEWS: 'Non-Specific Threat' Shuts Down San Francisco State Campus
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