Saturday, January 25

Ballot initiative would legalize, decriminalize marijuana

By Eddie Chu

On Oct. 8 in Montebello, local law enforcement officers and city prosecutors had a training session and meeting to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles County.

While outside the meeting, angry activists protested against law enforcement’s criminalizing of medical marijuana patients and in favor of dispensaries’ ownership rights. Steve Cooley, Los Angeles County district attorney, announced that he will prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries for over-the-counter sales.

Currently, the district attorney’s office is investigating several Los Angeles County medical marijuana dispensaries. The district attorney’s office believes that medical marijuana dispensaries that opened before September 2007 are under violation for allegedly operating illegally. There are only 186 original licensed dispensaries in Los Angeles County, and the district attorney’s office states there are approximately 900 dispensaries that are operating.

There will be a new initiative in the 2010 ballot about legalizing marijuana and allowing it to be taxed. Not only would you be able to use marijuana medically, the new initiative would legalize marijuana for recreational usage.

The initiative would also allow marijuana to be sold at grocery stores, pharmacies and shopping centers. The medical marijuana industry would slowly disappear as corporations monopolize the industry for consumers to buy it at an affordable price.

The bill would also allow the federal government to tax the substance to fund public services. The new initiative is still in the process of getting over 500,000 signatures. The new initiative would enforce and regulate users of marijuana to be at least 21 years of age and not smoke near schools, public places or near children.

Fines would be given instead of jail time for those who violate laws regarding public safety codes. It would also decriminalize marijuana cases in general and decrease the rate of overpopulation in the California prison system.

Chu is a fifth-year political science and film and television student and an employee at the Los Angeles Journal for Education on Medical Marijuana and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

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