For marijuana to be consumed legally in California, the law we pass has to rise above rhetoric.
There must be meat on those bones, specifics for how cities and counties would regulate recreational use of marijuana.
In November, Californians will vote up or down on the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. The ballot measure would expand legal use of marijuana in the state from those with medical conditions to pretty much any adult who has a hankering.
For true pot believers, this is a passionate issue. Others see the issue as no big deal.
Marijuana is less destructive than alcohol, isn't it?
Why not de-criminalize marijuana and tax it to help a cash-strapped state?
OK, why not? The initiative language is relatively straightforward and can be accessed on the Internet. But after several readings — and discussions with pro-pot leaders — there are key questions left unanswered.
For example, the pro-pot mantra is for the state to tax marijuana as a way of raising funds for an ailing California. But there is no specific state marijuana tax contained in the initiative.
California levies taxes on alcohol, gasoline and cigarettes. But it won't on pot if it's legalized — at least not at first.
Jeff Jones, a proponent of the pot initiative, says the hope is that the Legislature would follow the initiative with a fee on marijuana use. He said the initiative didn't contain tax language because it could make it too hard to amend later.
That's fine, but this is being sold as a major tax source for the state. The truth is weighted with caveats. Local governments would be permitted to impose taxes and fees on marijuana, but they would be "without regard to or identification of the business or items or services sold."
So how much of a pot tax would it be? In a way, it sounds like the Indian casinos or the state lottery. Weren't they supposed to be a boon for the state, too?
In the initiative language, much is written about how marijuana is more benign than alcohol. OK, but there are decades of law and science behind alcohol use. If you fail a field sobriety test, you're going to jail.
Is there a framework in the initiative for policing pot use? No. When I asked Jones about tests to gauge intoxication for marijuana, he said he would have to get back to me.
In the initiative, there is language that states it is illegal to smoke pot and drive. But can other people in the vehicle smoke?
Nor is there an analysis of how much it would cost local cities to police marijuana use. There are unanswered questions regarding the cultivation of marijuana on private property and how employers could deal with employees who abuse pot.
It's still a long way to November; there is much to debate. As a voter, I'm willing to be persuaded. But right now, this vote is a big "no way."