If a referendum to legalize marijuana passes in California on Nov. 2, how long will it take for the idea to travel 2,000 miles east and take root in North Carolina?
It may sound like a hypothetical math question missing a detail or two, but in truth it’s an issue that Tar Heel residents must take seriously. Medicinal marijuana use has already been proposed and may gain momentum as drug laws across the land become more liberal.
Those pushing for legalized pot secured enough signatures late last month to put the matter on the California ballot this fall, and already some East Coast cities are taking notice, including the nation’s capital, where a medicinal use initiative approved more than a decade ago could take effect as early as May.
“California, like it or not, really pushes American Current Events and business in one direction or another,” Allen St. Pierre told the Washington Post. Executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Pierre said his best guess is six years or less before the debate over legalization comes to D.C.
“North Carolina is certainly not Washington, D.C., but nor can we dismiss what happens in California, especially with bills already proposed in our Legislature for pot’s use as a medicine,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “We need to be ready to do battle against a well-financed effort. As California shows, medicinal use would be just the beginning.”
The measure on California’s ballot would allow people 21 and older to possess, grow or transport marijuana for personal use and would allow local governments to regulate and tax its commercial production and sale. While it would prohibit possession on school grounds and use in public or in front of minors, it would do nothing to strengthen prohibitions against driving while impaired – one of many areas already raising concerns with medicinal use.
“The legal limit for blood alcohol content for California drivers is .08, but we don’t have a number to determine if you are under the influence of marijuana,” said the Rev. James Butler, executive director of the California Council on Alcohol Problems. “We can’t say ‘because you have this much THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) in your blood stream you can be arrested for driving under the influence of a drug.'”
Touted as a potential savior for the ailing California economy, the plan to legalize, tax and control the drug trade is fraught with problems.
“Easier access to marijuana will result in greater demand. A black market will seek to respond to that demand by offering more potent or cheaper marijuana,” Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told the Baptist Press. “It will also continue to supply the drug to people who do not want it known that they use it and to those too young to buy it legally.”
Duke said legalizing marijuana will lead to more respiratory and other diseases, loss of productivity in the workplace, increased family disintegration, and more drug addiction and crime.
While pot pushers insist that legalizing the narcotic would free up officers to deal with other issues, that’s not the opinion of many in law enforcement.
John Standish, president of the California Peace Officers Association, told The New York Times that legalizing pot would not better society, but “denigrate it.”
“I cannot think of one crime scene I’ve been to where people said, ‘Thank God the person was just under the influence of marijuana,” he added.
A Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act that is known to impair short-term memory, verbal skills and judgment, the drug remains prohibited by federal law. However, the Obama administration has essentially turned a blind eye to states allowing medicinal use. It’s unclear what will happen if California voters do pass their pot initiative.
“That’s what we don’t want to find out,” said the Rev. Creech. “We need to pray about the Nov. 2 vote and also to keep a close watch on legislation like Rep. Earl Jones’ bill filed here in North Carolina last session. It’s important for lawmakers to hear a consistent message from their Christian constituents – marijuana is not medicine and should not be legalized in any way, shape or form.”