When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana last year, it opened the floodgates to $700 million in legal sales, orchestra “weed concerts” and the world’s first pot credit union. So what would California look like if it legalized recreational marijuana use? The issue could be on the ballot as early as next year, and a task force led by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is studying how the state should prepare for possible legalization. Would pot be sold, as some entrepreneurs envision, in high-end marijuana resorts? Would enforcement become comparable to that of alcohol? In this hour, we imagine a future California where marijuana is legal and examine the economic and cultural implications.

What If California Legalized Marijuana? 24 April,2015forum

Christian Hageseth, founder of the Green Man Cannabis Ranch
Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford School of Medicine
W. David Ball, assistant professor at Santa Clara University Law School

  • Mason Gibb
  • Dls2k2

    If mj **WERE** legal. Sheesh. What has happened to KQED??

  • Guest

    Correct English would be “WERE” legal. Thanks KQED. Maybe you meant to type it as slang e.g. “wuz”? I expect it was Penny Nelson who misspelled that. When Krasny is away the KQEDers play.

  • Chemist150

    The states water resources would go up in smoke.

  • Chemist150

    Good point. You only need leaf if you’re not an experienced smoker with a high tolerance. It’s much more mild and pleasant and wears off after about an hour. The hyper concentrated bud is not much fun.

    • Chemist150

      Which I hope leaf is available if legalized. It’ll suck if you can only buy super bud.

      • Gee Whiz

        That’s the truth. I made the mistake of an edible. I took a 40 year hiatus on pot and what’s out there now is supercharged. I can’t say I like it but my tolerance is nil and need to learn to titrate appropriately. Most users do not want to be incapacitated or paranoid. There needs to be proper labeling for each product.

      • Mason Gibb
  • sorbs

    Speaking as a long time consumer of cannabis, I think it’s important to mention how refreshing it is to be able to walk into a well-lighted, well-appointed retail location, be offered a wide selection of quality product by well-trained and knowledgeable staff, make a selection and watch it being accurately weighed out, pay for the purchase, and leave.

    Taxes in Colorado do add 25% to the price–but I’ll continue to pay that for at least the foreseeable future, just to ensure the quality and quantity of my purchases.

    • I don’t use MJ, so it’s good to know that a long time consumer appreciates and would pay a higher price for the retail model of legalized pot. I have a good friend who, for years, was a big-time pot dealer “to the stars”–lots of local NBA and NFL clients, and now operates a small chain of dispensaries here and in Sacramento. He has enough serious bankroll, and a whip-smart business acumen to establish a “clean, well-lighted place for weed”, and has even suggested a franchise-type of model that incorporates all of the various paraphernalia and clothing/gifts/lifestyle products along with a branded marijuana line.

      There’s a lot of money to be made, jobs to be created, and tax revenues to be collected that will most definitely be a great boon to our state’s economy.

      • Mason Gibb
  • I don’t use marijuana. I’ve never really liked its effect upon me–I don’t drink either (and I’m the Bar/Beverage Manager at my restaurant; go figure). But I’m ALL for it to be legal for recreational, medical, *whatever* kind of use possibly exists.

    If I had a kid (and I don’t/won’t), I’d much prefer them to use pot than alcohol in their substance experimentation. Pot, especially if it’s vaporized, is so much more benign, both physically and mentally, than booze. Girls, in particular, are much less likely to be taken advantage of than when under the influence of too much alcohol. Most kids experiment with substances–it’s unreasonable and dangerously naive to try to shelter one’s child from them. It’s far better to give them solid, truthful information, realistic guidelines, and model responsible usage, taking into consideration that child’s individual surroundings and family history of addiction issues. Of course, I’m sure people will say,”but wait until it’s YOUR little girl (or boy)”, but this is exactly the tact my parents took with me, and my brother and sister, and I’m satisfied with the results.

    However, unlike *legal* alcohol, which is FAR more physically damaging and toxic, pot, if vaporized and not smoked unfiltered, has few if any damaging physical effects, and does not produce the dangerous, even fatal withdrawal syndrome that alcohol does during detox. I’ve known several people who found their lives negatively affected from using too much pot, and one of them, who also had problems with cocaine and alcohol and went to a supervised detox program, said that pot was by far the easiest substance to deal with in the recovery process.

    Pot already is a MASSIVE part of the California economy. The revenues from taxing and licensing/controlling marijuana will be a HUGE boon to our state budget, and will surely provide a wealth of jobs to contribute in a very positive manner to our state’s economy. Putting marijuana to the economic test on the very biggest possible stage of this country’s largest state economy will provide great academic and statistical information and precedent for economies everywhere considering legalization. I say we do it…and SOON!!

    • Chemist150

      Most pot today is too strong to enjoy if you don’t have a tolerance.

    • Gee Whiz

      I couldn’t have articulated the argument better… and I DO have a child. I am very proud that she is not much of a drinker because she has seen the stupidity of many drunks and weighed the pros and cons of various mind altering drugs as a socializing alternative. Marijuana is her preferred choice and uses it as others use an occasional beer or wine.

  • Gee Whiz

    I have friends who now have a medical marijuana card to access the tincture for their child’s epilepsy. It’s the only thing that works.

  • Chemist150

    The last prop for legalization seem to leave out the medical marijuana and the Emerald triangle lobbied against it and instilled fear of loss for those with medical marijuana. The result was that they voted against legalization for fear of losing their marijuana rights (pretty stupid). There are those making a lot of money on marijuana being illegal and don’t want it legalized.

    • Mason Gibb
  • sorbs

    One of the panelists mentioned the restaurant/bar model for distribution as an alternative to the liquor store model. I don’t think most restaurants are going to want their revenue-producing tables locked up for a minimum of two hours per party–and if they’re going to be responsible, the restaurant/bar will closely monitor their patrons to make sure they’re not heading out to drive while under the influence.

  • Gee Whiz

    I am happy to see a conversation on a topic that doesn’t make me wonder if being a KQED member is membership into an white affluent granola club.

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    Like the fingers of the hand which are free to move independently — as long as they stay connected to their source — every freedom must be limited and rooted in social responsibility to be sustainable.

    I’m concerned about what limits and responsibilities will be clearly thought-out — and legally imposed — along with any legal freedoms to use marijuana. For example, I saw a woman smoking pot in a fancy RV parked at Bayside, windows up, with a toddler strapped into the back seat. Not only was the child, with far less body weight, being seriously intoxicated per force, but she would have to drive both of them immediately thereafter, exposing many others to her compromised abilities while navigating a “deadly weapon!”

    An 800 number to allow citizens to report such behavior (just as with gross polluters) is one idea. Scientifically deriving mandatory time periods for effects to wear off enough for safe and effective work, driving, and child care is another.

    I also think we should mandate a big percentage of pot tax revenue to public education for prevention and treatment of defined inappropriate and abusive uses; AND to fund public instruction for ALTERNATIVE methods of deep relaxation and stress-reduction that are scientifically proven — and deliver these benefits without negative side-effects.

  • MattCA12

    Sometimes I think the last thing California needs is a million new potheads. But then I see the DEA head resigning because US agents were having sex parties in Bogota funded by Colombian drug cartels…and I realize the sheer stupidity and waste that is the American “war on drugs”.

  • eldueno

    when, not if California joins other States to decriminalize the use of MJ allowing it to be bought and sold as other substance used by folks to intoxify themselves, the state will realize more in tax revenue and spend less in enforcing a stupid prohibition. In 10 years we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.

  • blc49

    To those who would rather their child use marijuana than alcohol, most kids I have seen use both. Telling kids marijuana is safe won’t keep them away from alcohol; it is not a winning parenting strategy. My son became addicted to marijuana before I was aware he was using it;got it from older kids and even other parents. Do not say it could not happen to your kid; that is what I said. He also used alcohol, but became obsessed with pot. He had car crashes while high on pot; we had to take the car away; academic problems, work problems, dropped out of all activities, in short, unmotivated underachiever. He was suspended twice for bringing marijuana to school and almost didn’t graduate. Counseling and other interventions were futile. After several more horrible years of escalating consequences he has stopped using drugs and alcohol for now, but we still support him as he can’t lead a normal life. This is not to mention the toll on our health, employment, finances. W/o our support he will be homeless, in jail, or you will be supporting him as a taxpayer. I have seen many others like him in rehabs who started with pot and ended with heroin, middle class kids. These are the lucky ones whose parents can afford rehab (I won’t even start on how difficult it is to get insurance to pay for rehab.) In California marijuana is already decriminalized and legal for anyone over 18 to get a medical card for any purpose, even to feed an addiction. As a college teacher of at risk students, I can say that further promoting this drug culture and expecting positive results is insane.

    • I”m replying to this waaay after the fact; I just read this today. I’m very sorry and empathetic for your situation. This is truly every parent’s worst nightmare about what could happen when their teenager starts experimenting with substances. But at the risk of sounding uncaring, or crass, this outcome is not the norm.

      Most kids try both alcohol and marijuana during their teenage years, and grow up to be social drinkers, and use pot in a manner that does not negatively affect their lives. We hear about the cases that end up in addiction because it’s not very newsworthy to report on a kid who drank and got stoned at some high school parties with his friends, continued to drink and get stoned in a mostly responsible manner during college, probably with a couple of occasions that taught him what it feels like to go too far, and then went on to an adult life in which intoxicating substances were an aspect of his social life that didn’t adversely affect his way of life–essentially, what MOST of us experience.

      I think it’s VERY important that kids are exposed to realistic and truthful drug and alcohol education, because there always will be those individuals for whom substance use and abuse will become a grueling saga for themselves and everyone around them. Most parents are also very aware of their own family history with addiction issues, and the unique personality of their child that might predispose him to problems with substances that other kids won’t have.

      I don’t think that legalizing marijuana is necessarily promoting drug culture. Cigarettes and alcohol are legal, both with potentially very harmful addiction potential. And yet, both substances are commercialized and advertised, AND are inundated with anti-abuse messages; their abuse carries a very strong social stigma. I sincerely doubt that if marijuana becomes legal, that it will diverge in any significant manner from how alcohol and cigarettes are promoted and received by our culture.

      • blc49

        I think you are minimizing the problem. Statistics show that 1 in 6 of those who use early become addicted to marijuana. My son is not the only one. There are 20 million addicted people and 90 million affected family members who also affect the health care system and the workplace. This is 1/3 of society that you are ignoring. Yes, this is mostly alcohol because it is legal and used more. Statistics also show that those who use marijuana have poorer life outcomes than those who don’t. You are saying that parents should just roll the dice and hope that their kids are the winners, while for the losers, it’s just tough luck. Prevention means keeping all kids safe, not just giving up on them.

        • Look, I get that you have had a really hard time with addiction and how it affected your family. You’ve been traumatized, your life has been turned upside down, maybe permanently, and your son will always carry with him the consequences of addiction. That really, really sucks. It also serves as a dire warning for parents to take a close, realistic look at the kid they’re raising.

          But I do not think that I am being naive or callous by believing that MOST people encounter substance use at some point in their lives, usually during the young adult years, and come through it largely unaffected. All of us have known, or have close to them friends or family members with substance abuse/addiction problems. But all of us also have known, or have close to them friends or family members with financial problems, domestic abuse, criminal problems–the list of things that people do that can really harm them if done in an abusive manner goes on and on.

          There must be realistic and intelligent lines drawn when we, as a society, decide to criminalize or prevent access to something that many or most of us can responsibly use. Credit cards can utterly ruin a young person’s financial prospects, perhaps even for a lifetime. Imagine your son or daughter’s life ruined because they rang up $50,000 of credit debt, can’t buy a car, rent an apartment, or pass a background check for a job, and now depend upon you for the foreseeable future, and all of the family drama attached. But we do not criminalize or totally ban credit cards; rather, we work to place reasonable regulations upon them, not letting greedy banks have undue influence on young, financially naive credit users, but assuming that most adults will learn to use credit and loans in a responsible manner.

          Domestic abuse is a particularly reprehensible stain upon society, and we have created very strict rules regarding how people can behave in relationships. Society is very clear that domestic abuse is a line that may not be crossed without serious consequences. Imagine your son or daughter’s life ruined because their significant other is abusing them; all that you have to do to keep them safe, and all of the family drama attached. But we do not outlaw the relationships; we assume and actually celebrate that most adults will navigate the relationship field without undue harm, and we castigate those who do cause the harm.

          A severe, life-threatening problem like substance addiction, domestic abuse, financial travails & etc can really destroy those closest to its zone of damage. But it is not callous to suggest that others without these problems should be allowed to live their lives without having to suffer the same consequences of those who are wrapped up in those problems.

          I still believe that the majority of young adults who will not experience addiction issues should be allowed to consume marijuana, alcohol, and cigarettes within the reasonable restrictions set forth by our society, and with guidance and education from their caretakers, who include parents, educators, and really, society as whole. Those caretakers, especially those really close to that young adult, will have a very good idea if their young adult needs special attention that the average kid might not require–and perhaps those special kids should be prevented or very highly supervised/restricted from substance use. Your individual tragedy should serve as a serious warning to parents to be very careful when it comes to deciding how much freedom they will allow their own young adult. But not at the expense of everybody else’s freedoms.

  • Gram Farmer

    If we end up legalizing cannabis for recreational use in CA. We REALLY need to not forget about the medical patients. We can’t price out the medical patients that REALLY need low cost good quality medicine. We also need to allow anyone in the state to allow them to grow their own medicine.

  • Happy

    Have they perfected a test for drivers under the influence of marijuana?

  • Nancy Martini

    As a high school teacher, it is very clear that most students assume legal = safe, so it’s ok to use it more. If we don’t add an educational curriculum to this change in our culture we are shortchanging the health and future success of many of our students, especially the young men. I believe this was done very methodically in the Amsterdam school system.

    “This is not your parents weed” is not a benefit to growing brains susceptible to addiction, depression, and apparently worse from edibles that taste like candy. And many kids use it with alcohol and energy drinks, if not stronger chemicals. They don’t know that 1+1 does not equal two to your brain and organs.

    • I agree, and respect your experience as a high school teacher. (My dad taught high school for 30+ years, and I got a window into what teachers experience.) The message that marijuana is much less harmful in terms of toxicity than either alcohol or cigarettes could very easily be misunderstood by the adolescent mind, giving the message that it’s OK to consume a lot more marijuana because it doesn’t harm your physical being as much as other substances. This cannot be allowed to happen, should marijuana become legal.

      You mentioned that Amsterdam’s education system found a successful way to educate their kids about responsible pot usage. Hopefully California educators will translate the Dutch system to what will work for our multi-cultural, multi-ethnic Californian kids. I know our teachers are up to the challenge.

      It’s definitely possible to become a responsible marijuana user, just as it’s possible to become a moderate social drinker. Past drug education has been very much all or nothing, with no grey areas, since drugs are illegal. Our educators have a great challenge to develop a successful drug program that recognizes the difference between marijuana, and say, cocaine or methamphetamine, especially if it does, indeed, become legal for adult usage.

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