Dope Is Good, but Happy Meals Are Bad?

George Runner
Member of the California State Board of Equalization, District 1

When it comes to politics, there’s never a dull moment in California.
And when it comes to California, there’s never a shortage of kooky
political ideas.

In the past week alone, we learned that in November California voters
will decide if pot should be legal in our state. Then there’s the
proposal by one legislator to ban fast food restaurants from selling
Happy Meals in an effort to sway kids to choose tofu and yogurt over
cheeseburgers and fries.

One thing is clear: Government priorities have run amuck.

Let’s examine the marijuana measure (known as The Control and Tax
Cannabis ballot initiative). This misleadingly named initiative would,
no doubt, eliminate state penalties for commercial sale and non-medical
use of marijuana but leaves to cities and counties any potential
control or taxation of an expanded pot industry.  

I do not support the proposed legalization of marijuana for
recreational use, especially under the pretext that its sale will
generate significant revenue. I am perplexed that many people who decry
the unnecessary death, suffering and public cost attributable to
tobacco and alcohol consumption believe that the mass marketing of
marijuana will somehow benefit California.

I have, on the other hand, been moved by urban-based ministers who
argue passionately that mass marketing of recreational marijuana will
contribute to a permanent underclass in our poor communities.

The Control and Tax Cannabis ballot initiative promises more than it can deliver.  

The notion that every city and county in California has the capacity to
"design and implement a regulatory structure for controlling the
commercial production and distribution of marijuana" is absurd. Local
governments are no more able to regulate production and distribution of
marijuana than to regulate production and distribution of homemade
cough medicine. The initiative would authorize hundreds of different
regulatory schemes, all in violation of federal law.

Food products and particularly controlled substances, like alcohol and
tobacco, sold in the United States are subject to analysis and quality
control by the Food and Drug Administration. The Control and Tax
Cannabis ballot initiative provides no FDA approval or other uniform
consumer protection and only illusory government control and tax
revenue.

Moreover, the initiative will not protect commercial pot vendors from
federal prosecution. If the sale of tobacco were an established
violation of both state and federal law, how many Californians would
vote to legalize the sale of cigarettes just for the sake of raising
taxes?

After years of protesting that they only sought compassionate use of
marijuana for the gravely ill or those suffering chronic pain, many of
the same proponents now advocate widespread recreational use of pot.
Already so-called medical marijuana emporiums have drawn crime to
communities throughout California.

At a time when various local governments seek to regulate fast food
consumption and salt intake, the Control and Tax Cannabis ballot
initiative is a bizarre alternative. Proponents of recreational
marijuana may obscure the issue with promises of a tax windfall but I
remain confident that the purpose of government is not to ban Happy
Meals or promote the proliferation of pot.

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