The vote for legalized recreational marijuana use may have already been cast in California and elsewhere in the court of public opinion, but Walnut Creek city officials and police agencies aren’t so sure – pointing to problems that have popped up in cities where legal restrictions have been relaxed.
The City Council opted to state its opposition to a measure legalizing recreational use and sale of the leaf with a 4 to 1 vote against passage of Proposition 64 Tuesday night – council member Bob Simmons the only dissenting vote.
In an appearance before the council, Walnut Creek Police Chief Thomas Chaplin cited the experiences of his colleagues in Washington state and Colorado, two states where whole economies have sprung up around a burgeoning marijuana industry, and argued against passage of the measure.
Chaplin told the council how law enforcement has been unable to keep up with a resultant increase in marijuana-related crimes in those states, saying that passage of the proposition would create a heavy burden on police services and negatively impact public safety here at home.
Marijuana may already be a prevalent party favor in California, legal for those who use it for medical purposes, and popular with others for whom it has been the longstanding drug of choice. Passage of Proposition 64 would impose a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana products and place a cultivation tax on the plant itself, something those who favor its legalization seem okay with.
“I don’t use but I see no problem with smoking it,” Carey Levine of Walnut Creek offered Wednesday. “It seems pretty benign, particularly when you compare its effects to those created by alcohol use.”
Levine said she could understand law enforcement’s concern about the lack of enforceable limits and standards for those who, say, indulge and then drive – something that has led to accidents in marijuana friendly states and resultant questions about penalties.
“I totally get that,” she said. “How do you measure it? It’s not like the blood alcohol thing. They would have to have some sort of measure in order to prosecute someone… I see that.”
Currently, it is illegal to light up in public, to drive under the influence, to sell to anyone under 21, and to have more than six plants on hand for cultivation.
With its vote Tuesday night, Walnut Creek joins Solano County and 11 other California cities in voicing opposition to Prop 64.
Many people contacted in Walnut Creek Wednesday seemed unaware of their council’s action the preceding night, and at least one seemed unconcerned with their decision to oppose Prop 64.
“It’s okay,” said Veronique Price-Hayden. “Governments are often behind when it comes to the will of the people. This is going to happen eventually.”