Another California Gold Rush

Four weeks after the National Safety Council holds its 2010 Congress & Expo in sunny San Diego in early October, Californians will go to the polls Nov. 2 to decide whether to legalize marijuana possession and use by adults. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen on March 24 certified that measure for the general election ballot, announcing proponents had submitted 694,248 signatures to qualify the initiative -- about 260,000 more than the necessary 433,971 valid petition signatures. It qualified through a random sample signature check, Bowen said.

Legalization appears to have gained support among Californians recently, but some law professors say because marijuana would remain illegal under federal law, they believe the U.S. government will somehow stop the initiative from being approved or from taking effect, newspapers in California have reported. But the state is severely strapped financially, and the marijuana tax is expected to generate at least $1 billion for its coffers.

The initiative to be voted on would allow people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. It would permit local governments to regulate and tax commercial production and sale of marijuana to people 21 years old or older and prohibit people from possessing marijuana on school grounds, using it in public, smoking it while minors are present, or providing it to anyone under 21 years old. Current prohibitions against driving while impaired are not affected. The tax revenues are "unknown but potentially major," and state and local governments also would save tens of millions of dollars annually that they spend incarcerating and supervising marijuana offenders, according to Bowen's announcement.

While the safety impacts are impossible to estimate, there would be an impact. The National Institute on Drug Abuse's InfoFacts page about marijuana says this:

"THC acts upon specific sites in the brain, called cannabinoid receptors, kicking off a series of cellular reactions that ultimately lead to the 'high' that users experience when they smoke marijuana. Some brain areas have many cannabinoid receptors; others have few or none. The highest density of cannabinoid receptors are found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thoughts, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement.

"Not surprisingly, marijuana intoxication can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, and problems with learning and memory. Research has shown that marijuana’s adverse impact on learning and memory can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off. As a result, someone who smokes marijuana every day may be functioning at a suboptimal intellectual level all of the time."

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 541,800 cases of recordable injuries and illnesses occurred in California in 2008, the latest year available, and 298,400 of those cases involved lost time or restricted duty.

Posted by Jerry Laws on Mar 29, 2010