Chron endorsement dishonestly attacks marijuana measure

The SF Chronicle wants to save California from the scary menace of legalized marijuana.

Once again proving itself to be an corporate-run embarrassment to a city that has been at the forefront of progressive reform – including the movement to legalize medical marijuana – the San Francisco Chronicle this morning recommended that voters reject Prop. 19, which would allow cities and counties to legalize marijuana use by adults. And it did so with tortured logic and a cowardly, disingenuous claim to support legalizing marijuana.

As a journalist who has covered the medical marijuana industry in the Bay Area, I didn't recognize the chaos that Chron editorial writers say resulted from the landmark 1996 measure Prop. 215, the medical marijuana measure written right here in San Francisco, home to a well-regulated, professional network of cannabis dispensaries, thanks to the city proactively setting guidelines. The cities cited in the Chron all did nothing to set standards for medical marijuana dispensaries, whereas in cities like San Francisco that did, an increasingly important sector of the local economy flourished with few problems.

Prop. 19 would similarly allow cities and counties to create systems for regulating marijuana for recreational use – or to not allow it if they so chooses. Yet the Chron takes issue with this localized approach, writing, “The measure establishes no state controls over distribution and product standards; it does nothing to help cure the state's budget deficit.”

Both statements simply aren't true. The measure explicitly gives the state authority to tax and regulate marijuana, Assembly member Tom Ammiano already has proposed legislation to do so if the Prop. 19 passes, and the California Legislative Analyst's Office has estimated it could bring in more than $1.5 billion annually into state coffers.

Although the Chron claims “that the 'war on drugs' – especially as it applies to marijuana – has been an abject failure,” it bemoans a provision in the measure that prevent employers from firing employees simply for having marijuana in their systems, as it would be if someone smoked a joint three weeks ago, despite having no impact on job performance. “Pre-employment testing would be banned,” the Chron writes, as if that were a bad thing. The editorial also complains that people would be allowed to grow small plots of marijuana in their backyards. Again, and the problem with that is what exactly?

Bottom line: Chron editorial writers fall into the same old tired reefer madness stereotypes that have driven the drug war's “abject failure,” but they just aren't honest enough to admit the contradiction with their stated claim that “if this were simple a referendum on the status quo, and the ability of a 21-or-older Californian to possess an ounce or less for personal use, it might be an easy 'yes' vote.”

Because the reality is that's what this measure does, simply lift the prohibition on pot, while also including language supporting local control and basic civil rights. There are some valid arguments against Prop. 19 – such as it lets jurisdictions tax or regulate pot too much – but those honest disagreements weren't raised by the newspaper.

Instead, the paper made it sound like measure would fill the roads with stoned drivers and every neighborhood with the stench of marijuana, which is laughably alarmist. San Francisco's experience with medical marijuana should serve as an indicator. This city has been the most accepting and legitimizing of marijuana for decades. It's part of our culture. But drug surveys from our school district and others show that the rate of marijuana use among young people here is lower than the state average, and we have been at the forefront of world-renowned technological innovation and academic research, so clearly the normalization of marijuana hasn't corrupted our youth or turned us all into menacing zombies.

The Chronicle's presentation of the issue, and its recommendation on this measure, are anachronistic throwbacks to another era and should be tossed into the dustbin of history where they belong.


This article is so disorganized, it does not make sense at all. It is as poorly written as Prop 19.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 16, 2010 @ 6:48 pm

police code; Article 40 of the San Francisco Municode. Try

It's right up your invasive government alley.

I would love to be the lawyer who cites the first line of sec 4004 of that code when having a run in with the SF labor department after any law goes into effect around this in SF.


"There are some valid arguments against Prop. 19 – such as it lets jurisdictions tax or regulate pot too much – "

You are concerned about over regulation?

Posted by matlock on Sep. 16, 2010 @ 7:02 pm

Advocating a continued increase in mayhem & tyranny solely for the purpose of financial gain, like the prison guard's union, the DEA, the SFC, or the alcohol industry, is both despicable and unconscionable.

May I ask you all to please consider the following very carefully: It wasn't alcohol that caused the surge in crime and homicide during alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, it was the prohibition of alcohol. That's why many of us find it hard to believe that the same thing is not happening now. We clearly have a prohibition fueled violent crime problem. A huge number of these violent crimes are perpetrated by criminal syndicates and gangs who use the proceeds form the sales of illegal substances to further even more of their criminal activities.

Prohibition is nothing less than a grotesque dystopian nightmare. We have to regulate and we have to do it now!

The second biggest business during prohibition in Detroit was liquor at $215 million a year and employing about 50,000 people. Authorities were not only helpless to stop it, many were part of the problem. During one raid the state police arrested Detroit Mayor John Smith, Michigan Congressman Robert Clancy and Sheriff Edward Stein.

The Mexican cartels are ready to show, that when it comes to business, they also like to be nonpartisan. They will buy-out or threaten politicians of any party, make deals with whoever can benefit them, and kill those who are brave or foolish enough to get in their way.

If you support prohibition you've helped create the prison-for-profit synergy with drug lords.

If you support prohibition you've helped remove many important civil liberties from those citizens you falsely claim to represent.

If you support prohibition you've helped put previously unknown and contaminated drugs on the streets.

If you support prohibition you've helped to escalate Murder, Theft, Muggings and Burglaries.

If you support prohibition you've helped evolve local gangs into transnational enterprises with intricate power structures that reach into every corner of society, controlling vast swaths of territory with significant social and military resources at their disposal.

Prohibition is nothing less than a grotesque dystopian nightmare. We have to regulate and we have to do it now!

Posted by Malcolm Kyle on Sep. 17, 2010 @ 5:37 am

Why did so many cities and towns ban dispensaries? What about the homicides and robberies? Why did the Sunset district residents not want a dispensary in their neighborhood? Can you really be serious that schools have lower than average marijuana use? You must be joking. As a reporter you really haven't been paying attention to the chaos of 215--the fact that most "patients" are not sick, for example. Maybe it is alarmist to say that the stench of marijuana will fill neighborhoods, but the initiative creates the conditions for it to happen. 215 was supposed to be about a few very sick patients; in fact it spawned a monster of proliferation of thousands of not sick people and grow operations and city councils tied up in knots. Why is 19 going to be different? Very little is certain about this initiative--caveat emptor.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 17, 2010 @ 3:56 pm

Cannabis is less physically addictive than caffeine, while the so-called "gateway drug" theory is a complete fantasy, and it was just recently called "half-baked" as a result of a scientific study. CNN reported that Cocaine use has dropped sharply, by 30% since 2002. I worked in addiction medicine for years, and this is what I can advice on the matter: Any suppression of Cannabis use will be immediately followed by an increase in alcohol/hard drug/prescription drug abuse! You don't believe me, Mr. Kerlikowske? Then maybe you will believe the Big Alcohol lobby that is financing the Cannabis Legalization opponents for exactly this reason. Right now Cannabis is just simply perceived as a much safer alternative to alcohol/hard drugs, which is precisely how it should be perceived. To have a society in which there is NO psychoactive substance use is an illusion, and it will be good for our government to realize this. So then, it becomes a matter of "safer choices", just like with the sex education, especially after we realized that "abstinence" may not be one of the viable choices! And Cannabis is, without a shadow of a doubt, a much safer choice than alcohol, hard drugs or dangerous, physically addictive prescription drugs, such as opiate pain pills! Just very recently a research study in addiction medicine has determined that Cannabis may actually serve as an "exit" substance for recovering alcoholics/hard drug addicts. People have written to me many times, relating how Cannabis helps them to stay away from alcohol, cocaine, "meth" and benzodiazepines. For some reason, these four drugs are especially prominent when it comes to an "exit substance" function of Cannabis. Then, of course, there is a potential of Cannabis in chronic pain, where other drugs may be ineffective (or physically addictive), with very important potential consequences for our wounded veterans, many of whom have chronic pain. Mr. Kerlikowske, be very happy that the cocaine abuse rate is dropping. Do not interfere with these dynamics, and then we can possibly achieve what has already been achieved in the Netherlands where the drug overdose rate is 85%(!!) lower than in the US, and that is with much more liberal Cannabis possession laws than in this country! Please check these numbers for yourselves, by all means. Mr. Kerlikowske, it is time to give up "dogma" and to start listening to the experts, if we really want to lower the alcohol/hard drug use in this country, and the accompanying dependencies and overdoses!

Posted by Leonard Krivitsky, MD on Sep. 20, 2010 @ 6:15 am

Related articles

  • All together now

    It takes a village — and a Google Doc — to legalize pot: California's Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2014, a new crowd-sourced legislation proposal

  • Industrial hemp legalized in California

  • Feds force pot clubs to deal in cash, then ban use of armored cars