Commentary: Legalizing marijuana has California dazed and confused

The Sacramento BeeJanuary 25, 2010 

I guess I just wasn't paying attention.

When California voters were asked to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, I believed that Proposition 215 was about relieving the suffering of sick people.

I thought voting for that initiative — the Compassionate Use Act — was about exercising the "will of the people."

We were conned.

The vague wording of that ballot measure has provided illegal cover for liars and cheats who are getting easy access to pot meant for the very ill. It's become a launching pad for the movement to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Worst of all, the marijuana free-for-all set in motion by that initiative underscores the fallacy of legislating by ballot measure: It's not about enacting the will of the people — it's about manipulating people, playing on their ignorance of what's really at stake.

No less an authority than California Chief Justice Ronald M. George has said as much — and he would know.

Last week George joined in a unanimous state Supreme Court decision that struck down limits on how much marijuana people can possess for medicinal use. The Legislature tacked these limits onto the medical marijuana law in 2003.

They called for medical pot users to possess no more than 8 ounces of dried marijuana and six mature or 12 immature plants. The limits were among the few shreds of clarity applied to medical marijuana enforcement. But the justices ruled they were an unconstitutional amendment of a voter-approved initiative.

Now we're back to the original wording of the 1996 ballot measure: users and caregivers can possess any amount of marijuana "reasonably related to the patient's current medical needs."

It seems clear to me now this wasn't merely sloppy wording but confusion with intent — diabolical gibberish.

To read the complete column, visit www.sacbee.com.

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