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5 things to know about legalizing recreational pot in California

by Kristen Lepore | AirTalk®

The California Counts Town Hall was moderated by Larry Mantle, host of KPCC’s AirTalk, and Beth Ruyak, host of Capital Public Radio's Insight. It was hosted by California Counts, a collaboration with KPCC in Los Angeles, KQED in San Francisco, Capital Public Radio in Sacramento and KPBS in San Diego. Andrew Nixon

California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Will it be the fifth to legalize recreational pot this November? We traveled to Sacramento to host a live event about the pros and cons of Proposition 64, which would legalize adult use of cannabis.

The town hall was moderated by Larry Mantle, host of KPCC’s AirTalk, and Beth Ruyak, host of Capital Public Radio's Insight. It was hosted by California Counts, a collaboration with KPCC in Los Angeles, KQED in San Francisco, Capital Public Radio in Sacramento and KPBS in San Diego.

We were joined by a panel of six guests from all sides of the argument. They fielded questions from the audience on topics that ranged from environmental to social implications. 

Here are five things you should know.

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Denver-based writer Joel Warner said under Prop. 64, growers could apply for an unlimited grow license.

"On one hand, maybe it's good, but what happens to counties that have been long dependent on this?"

This is why the California Growers Association remains neutral on Prop 64, Warner said.

Kimberly Cargile, who is a member of the association said the group is neutral for a number of reasons. This includes concerns from smaller cannabis growers about the corporatization of the industry.

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There's a reason why California Highway Patrol officers oppose Prop 64, said Anne Marie Schubert, District Attorney for Sacramento County. She argued that there needs to be a “per se” law on driving while stoned. “Per se” is a legal term that refers to standards on impairment.

But it's more complicated than that, argued Richard Miadich, who helped author the legislation. "There just isn't the technology," he said.

Read more about that technology here.

"What we really need—the most effective way to prevent impaired driving—is more training and more officers," he said.

Prop. 64 would generate an estimated $1 billion annually in California. About $200 million of that would go to local law enforcements for grants, said Miadich.

Taxes generated by Prop. 64 would also go to other programs dedicated to youth education, prevention and treatment and environmental protections, he said.

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District Attorney Schubert said those in Sacramento County who are caught with possession of marijuana receive a $60 ticket. That's less money than what you would have to pay for a speeding ticket, she insisted.

But Kimberly Cargile, CEO of medical marijuana dispensary located in Sacramento, said that there are other related marijuana crimes that have a negative impact on society, including "the people who are charged with crimes they didn't commit."

Miadich argued that Prop 64 could save the state $10 million annually because of the decriminalization of cannabis.

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Studies have shown that legalizing marijuana has little impact on drug cartels, said Peter Hecht, senior writer for the Sacramento Bee and author of “Weed Land: Inside America’s Marijuana Epicenter and How Pot Went Legit."

"There is going to be a black market for many years to come," he said.

Warner echoed those sentiments.

"There will always be a black market demand," he said.

Most farmers say they need to make $1,200 a pound to survive.

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"We're removing the stigma and we're telling our kids it's OK," said District Attorney Schubert.

She argued that there are no studies to show the long-term impact of legalizing marijuana. And more specifically, she worries that we will see pot shops inundate communities of color.

Miadich insisted that tax revenue could have a positive impact on youth because it will fund education.

"Kids who don't have after school programs, get into drugs," he said.

He asked, “Do we want our kids buying pot from drug dealers?” He said it's time to develop a different system that "tries something new."

Listen to the attached audio to hear the lively discussion on recreational pot. 

Want more on Prop 64? Here's an FAQ on how it could change California. 

Correction: This story previously stated that farmers say they need to make $12,000 a pound to survive. The accurate number is $1,200. We regret the error. 

Guests

Kimberly Cargile, director and CEO of A Therapeutic Alternative, Inc., a medical marijuana dispensary located in Sacramento

Peter Hecht, senior writer for the Sacramento Bee and author of “Weed Land: Inside America’s Marijuana Epicenter and How Pot Went Legit”

Richard Miadich, managing partner with the Sacramento-based law firm Olson Hagel & Fishburn LLP

Lauren Michaels, legislative affairs manager for the California Police Chiefs Association 

Anne Marie Schubert, district attorney for Sacramento County

Joel Warner, Denver-based writer and former staff writer at the International Business Times, where he covered the marijuana industry

Series: California Counts

California Counts is a collaboration of KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio to report on the 2016 election. The coverage focuses on major issues and solicits diverse voices on what's important to the future of California.

Read more in this series and let us know your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #CACounts.

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