Wednesday, June 12, 2024

California Gov. Jerry Brown Vetoes Smoking Ban, But Don’t Spark One Up Just Yet

“If people can’t smoke even on a deserted beach, where can they?” There must be some limit to the coercive power of government.” With that clear message, California Gov. Jerry Brown late last week vetoed two bills that would have banned toking up at the beach or in a park.

As California prepares for adult recreational cannabis sales beginning in January, the sticky issue of where consumption is legal has become a logistical problem. When Californians overwhelmingly voted in favor of Proposition 64, the legalization measure, last November, they sent a message loud and clear to the state politicians: We want to legally grow, sell, purchase and consume marijuana.

But the ballot initiative included onerously restrictive language as to where citizens could legally consume the herb. As the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board wrote on Monday:

Not in public places, such as streets or in parks. Not in a car. Not in any space — such as a bar or office building — where tobacco smoking is already banned. Not on the premises of any business where tobacco or alcohol is sold. Landlords and property owners also can ban smoking in apartments and hotel rooms.

Basically, the only place, other than a private home, where one could legally smoke marijuana would be at a business licensed for on-site consumption, such as a marijuana lounge or an Amsterdam-like cafe. Proposition 64 gave local governments the option to permit or ban that sort of on-site consumption. But so far, many California cities, including Los Angeles, have no proposals to allow for such places.

And the two bills vetoed by Brown last week would have made the problem worse. The two measures would have banned the use of cannabis — smoked or vaped — on all beaches and state parks. Brown vetoed similar legislation last year.

Now, let’s be crystal clear: Consuming marijuana in public  is not permitted in California. And Brown’s veto pen did not change the law. Smoking tobacco would be OK, but not marijuana.

Under one of the proposed measures, a person getting caught smoking marijuana at the beach or park would be subject to a $100 fine. But with court assessments added, the penalty could have added up to $485.

Clearly, those who supported legal marijuana legislation did not vote for this kind of restrictive policy. What these laws do in practice, is create criminals of those who choose to consume cannabis.


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