Green

Casey Christie/The Californian

I couldn’t agree more with the Bakersfield Californian’s editorial calling for a no vote on Proposition 64, the initiative that would legalize marijuana use in California. Many of the article’s points are shared by prosecutors and law enforcement across the state.

For example, there are no testing standards or criteria allowing law enforcement to determine if an individual has ingested marijuana and is under the influence while driving a vehicle. Kern County sees an average of 350 driving under the influence cases a month, and that is without marijuana being legalized. One can only imagine the increase in the number of DUI cases if marijuana is legalized. In Washington and Colorado, two states where marijuana has been legalized, the number of driving under the influence of marijuana crashes and fatalities has increased since legalization.

Just this past June, 24-year-old Rodolfo Contreras was convicted of second degree murder for driving with marijuana in his system and hitting the vehicle driven by David Aggio, a retired parole agent. This was the first marijuana-only homicide conviction in Kern County. In other words, there was no alcohol involved, no other drugs in Mr. Contreras’ system, only marijuana. This tragic case demonstrates that being under the influence of marijuana and driving a motor vehicle has severe consequences not only for the unsuspecting victim, but for the driver as well. Mr. Contreras is now serving a life sentence in state prison due to smoking marijuana, getting behind the wheel of his car and killing someone.

There are several valid points the editorial did not mention that are important for voters considering whether to vote for the legalization of marijuana. Although the editorial did identify that there will be safeguards in place shielding children from advertisements about marijuana, they are likely to be ineffective. Why would we allow advertisements for smoking marijuana when advertisements for smoking cigarettes have been banned for decades?

Finally, and more to the point, if Proposition 64 passes, advertisements extolling the virtues of smoking marijuana will be broadcast in prime time for any viewer, regardless of age. The use of marijuana by California high school students is already 56 percent higher than the national average. Do we really need more high schoolers having easier access to marijuana once it is legalized? Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of students being suspended or expelled from high school for using marijuana.

There is also a public health issue to be reckoned with should marijuana be legalized.

Today’s marijuana is far different from 30 years ago. Today, the THC content (the active ingredient in marijuana) is so potent that it can result in an overdose by users. Since marijuana can be baked into cookies and infused into candy, it is easier for young children, including babies, to get their hands on it and ingest it. Colorado has seen a 150 percent increase in kids 5 and under who have been exposed to this drug, which has led to more children being admitted to hospitals. Study after study reveals that exposure to marijuana at such a young age can cause brain damage.

If you can somehow ignore the toll in human carnage on the roads and deleterious effects on a person’s health and well-being, the backers of Proposition 64 suggest the projected increase in sales tax revenues should motivate you to support the initiative.

Like many proposed criminal justice initiatives, the promise of untold savings is used as a persuasive argument to convince voters to vote yes.

There is convincing evidence that if marijuana is legalized, we are not only selling out our futures, as is the case with Rodolfo Contreras and his victim, David Aggio, but also the future of our impressionable children, in order to fill government coffers with an untold number of dollars. It isn’t worth the risk. Vote no on Proposition 64.

Lisa Green has been the Kern County district attorney since 2010.