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Medical-pot supporters question legal-pot prop

September 21, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The bill that would legalize marijuana in California gained some unlikely opponents Tuesday. Medical marijuana advocates say Proposition 19 would inadvertently harm patients.With the gap narrowing in public opinion polls on both sides of Proposition 19, which would legalize recreational marijuana and tax and regulate it, endorsements can make a big difference. Both sides picked up notable endorsements Tuesday.

The split in the medical-marijuana community on Proposition 19 comes as a surprise.

The California Cannabis Association and others say they support the legalization and taxation of pot's recreational use, but not the way it's laid out in the initiative.

They worry giving local cities and counties the ability to opt out of implementing Proposition 19 would make marijuana less available for people who need the drug for medical purposes.

"I really honestly feel that the patients have been sold a bill of goods that will take away access that they have to medication," said Lanette Davies, spokesperson for Crusaders for Patient Rights.

But the people who qualified Prop. 19 for the November ballot say they were careful to protect medical marijuana patients when writing the ballot measure.

"We are not circumventing, repealing or amending the rights of Californians with respect to medical cannabis," said Jeff Jones, spokesman for the Yes On Prop. 19 campaign. "It's going to invoke more rights, protections and allow for better accessibility."

Inside the Capitol at a Prop. 19 hearing, opponents also voiced concerns about the patchwork of marijuana laws if some jurisdictions embraced them while others did not.

"It makes enforcement from a public safety standpoint virtually impossible," said Jan Scully, spokesperson for the California District Attorneys Association. "Because when people are moving, transferring back and forth in between counties, it will be impossible to prove where that marijuana originated."

But supporters say police shouldn't be going after marijuana-related crimes in the first place.

"It's a waste of law enforcement resource, especially when marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol," said retired LAPD Deputy Chief Stephen Downing.

Supporters also picked up a big endorsement Tuesday. Service Employees International Union (SEIU), California's largest labor union, said the more than $1 billion in taxes marijuana would bring in a year to the state would save jobs and avoid cuts to social programs.


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