Something odd caught my attention recently about one of the voter initiatives we’ll be voting on this fall. Of course, as Californians, we’re a little inured to seeing these initiatives each election, and this year is no different. Seventeen have already qualified for the November ballot (six involve tax increases), and more could follow.
But this time was a little different. Apparently, a well-funded set of special interest groups want to put smoking ads back on prime-time television. You heard that right — more than 40 years after we took the Marlboro Man off the airwaves, the pot lobby has put Proposition 64 on the ballot to bring him back in a new and improved form.
This time, however, it’s not Big Tobacco but Big Marijuana that’s pushing this. The pot industry and their lobbyist friends are raising millions of dollars this fall so they can advertise marijuana on shows like professional baseball games and the Olympics that our kids watch.
Now, I’m not an old drug warrior that thinks using marijuana makes you an evil person or should land you a prison sentence. After all, California decriminalized pot possession years ago; you won’t be arrested for having a personal amount of weed on you anymore. That’s not the issue here.
Instead, this initiative strikes me — as a parent and a community leader — as going way too far. And the more I learn about the details of Proposition 64, the more concerned I get. Beyond letting pot ads run on TV, here’s what else Proposition 64 would do:
■ Let pot shops sell marijuana candy and soda, like the products in these pictures, near where our kids live. These things look just like the candy that children love, and I’m not sure why the pot industry feels the need to market such kid-friendly stuff, unless it is taking a page from the tobacco industry’s handbook.
■ Let convicted heroin and meth dealers sell pot: Prop 64 would let dealers convicted of dealing up to 20,000 heroin doses or up to 10,000 meth doses receive marijuana licenses. These are the last people we want selling another addictive drug; why on earth would the pot lobby let them do this?
■ Fail to properly protect us from stoned drivers: Proposition 64’s proponents refused to include a DUI standard for marijuana. This has become a real problem in states that have legalized pot like Washington, where the percentage of traffic deaths involving stoned drivers doubled in just one year post-legalization. And it belies the claim that pot smoking only hurts the user.
■ Puts the pot industry in charge of safety standards: Prop 64 conveniently puts the pot lobby in charge of setting the marijuana product safety and testing standards…which (also conveniently) will be based on voluntary codes. That’s like putting Philip Morris in charge of tobacco regulation.
Additionally, as a member of the Latino community, I’m extremely concerned about legal pot’s impact in Colorado. According to the Denver Post, the pot businesses in Colorado’s capital have clustered in lower-income minority neighborhoods. Moreover, arrests of Latino and African American kids in Colorado for pot have actually risen since it legalized weed: arrests of Latino youth are up 29%, and arrests of African American kids went up an incredible 58%. That’s not what reformers promised there—just the opposite, in fact.
Finally, for those who think this is a partisan thing, think again. Even high-profile Democratic politicians in California like U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Democratic State Senator Cathleen Galgiani think Prop 64 is a terrible idea.
Regardless of your opinion about marijuana generally, Prop 64 is the wrong way to go here. That’s why I’ll be voting “No” on 64 this November, and suggest you do the same.
Mario A. Guerra is the former mayor of the City of Downey, past president of Independent Cities Association and current treasurer of the California Republican Party.