Opinion: California moves into its marijuana future on Jan. 1. Some readers are not eager to make the leap

A marijuana plant in a greenhouse in Mendocino County, Calif., in April.
A marijuana plant in a greenhouse in Mendocino County, Calif., in April.
(Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)

Starting on Jan. 1, marijuana — a Schedule I substance, meaning the federal government officially recognizes it as among the most dangerous drugs in existence — will be legal to grow and sell in California to recreational users.

The effort to decriminalize marijuana in California has been underway for decades, as the state became the first in the country to legalize medical cannabis, in 1996. In the years prior to Proposition 64 in 2016, letters to the editor on whether to legalize marijuana have generally been split between readers on the pro and con sides, with the more impassioned opinions coming from writers who favored decriminalization.

Now, with more sweeping state legalization just two days away, our letter writers are expressing mostly trepidation about what’s to come in California.


Jo-Anne Collins of Fountain Valley worries about stoned drivers:

Recently, the state’s top marijuana regulator spoke on many issues regarding the complexity of the “business of marijuana.” What she neglected to say in a recent interview is that there are no laws (or even guidelines) established for all police officers to follow when they suspect a driver is impaired because of marijuana use.

Remind me again: Why did we legalize recreational marijuana?

— Suzanne Rifkin, Oak Park

Unlike drunk driving, which has a specific series of tests that can be administered, marijuana-impaired driving has not been clearly defined. This is a very dangerous situation.

Saugus resident Wendy A. Robinson tells of a long-ago run-in with a marijuana-impaired motorist:

One day in 1971, I was driving my two babies in my large 1970 Pontiac GTO. The driver behind me was 17 years old, and he was under the influence of marijuana. He made a maneuver to change lanes, but he clipped the rear of my car and sent it spinning into oncoming traffic. I was hit again head-on.

I sustained major injuries to my face and leg and was hospitalized for six weeks. My 1-year-old suffered severe head trauma and was hospitalized, and my 2-year-old survived unscathed but was in shock.

Oh, and the young driver who caused it all? He ran but was caught by bystanders, who turned him over to police. Eventually, he was acquitted of hit-and-run charges after the jury determined he did not know what he was doing because he was high.

Suzanne Rifkin of Oak Park wonders about fetal development:

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, we are seeing a 7.5% annual increase in pot use by women in their first two months of pregnancy. One in 14 women who are pregnant have used pot, which could put their babies at risk of developing breathing difficulties or maintaining their body temperature.

Pot is associated with causing or exacerbating mental illness, respiratory illnesses, decreased motivation and impaired driving, which will increase the number of car accidents in our state.

Remind me again: Why did we legalize recreational marijuana?

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