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Don't rush recreational marijuana in California

Don't rush recreational marijuana in California
Medicinal marijuana on display at the Avalon Wellness Center in Long Beach. (Los Angeles Times)

On New Year's Day, Colorado becomes the first state to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana, and Washington will begin permitting pot shops a few months later.

It's only a matter of time before California follows. There are four potential initiatives to legalize marijuana being considered for the November ballot, according to the Sacramento Bee. A recent Field Poll found 55% of California voters support legalization for the first time.

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In reality, marijuana is already practically legal in the state. California's medical marijuana law allows pretty much anyone to get a prescription for pot and fill it at a storefront dispensary. We just make people pretend they're "patients" going to get their "medicine."

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But just because legalization in California is inevitable doesn't mean we should hurry.

Look at the goofiness and confusion that continues to surround the medical marijuana industry in the state. Dispensaries are legal in some cities, not in others. Cities pass ordinances regulating pot shops, courts overturn the rules. Voters passed the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and the legislature authorized dispensaries in 2004, yet the regulatory environment is still hazy.

Legalization proponents should let California sit on the sidelines for another year or two, while the sales and recreational-use experiment plays out in Colorado and Washington. Postpone the ballot initiatives to 2016. California does not need to be a leader on legalized marijuana.

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Follow Kerry Cavanaugh on Twitter @kerrycavan and Google+

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