October 12, 2009 – Californians have made it clear at the ballot box that they favor legalizing marijuana use for medical purposes. But, as critics feared, Prop. 215, the medical marijuana initiative that was passed 13 cali_pot_0311years ago, has only opened the door to abuse.

It’s estimated that there are 40 marijuana dispensaries in Long Beach and 800 or more in Los Angeles alone. L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley decided last week that most of them are operating illegally, and wants to shut them down.

That may be too harsh. As supporters of medical marijuana rightly contend, closing all dispensaries would punish people who are entitled to marijuana.

Prop. 215 and the state law permitting collective cultivation of marijuana were meant to help chemotherapy and others suffering from pain or nausea to obtain marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. An actual prescription wasn’t needed. Given an opening, marijuana dispensaries cropped up everywhere, providing a safe, although apparently illegal, way for just about everyone to obtain the drug at competitive prices.

There is a better way to regulate marijuana. For starters, people who really need and want marijuana for their medical conditions should get a prescription — from a doctor — and fill the prescription at a pharmacy, just as they would obtain any medication. The whole process must be confidential. Keeping a list of medical marijuana users is unjust and unnecessary.

The next step would be to bow to the will of Californians, who generally favor decriminalizing marijuana use. It’s estimated that California is losing tens of millions of dollars from illegal marijuana sales — revenue it could collect if marijuana sales were legal. Once it’s legal, of course, prescriptions would not be necessary, and dispensaries could be tightly regulated, similar to the way liquor stores are regulated. Age limits, proximity of dispensaries to schools and residential areas would have to be regulated and enforced. Just as liquor can’t be sold without a license, street sales would be illegal.

Legalizing marijuana would go a long way toward reducing trafficking, which has turned Mexican border cities into horrific battlegrounds as drug cartels fight each other and the police, many of whom are so corrupt as to make regulation farcical.

If America learned anything from Prohibition, it’s that criminalizing a substance people want will only drive them to get it illegally. That lesson applies to marijuana. Legalize it. Regulate it. And enforce the regulations. The time has come. Source.

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