Over the Hill

Who knew SLO County was pro-pot?

I would have never bet that the majority of San Luis Obispo County voters would choose to legalize marijuana. It seemed as unlikely as a square egg. But still it happened.

Proposition 19 on our Nov. 2 ballots asked if recreational marijuana should be officially permitted under California law. The vote in SLO County was 51 percent yes to 49 percent no.

But Prop. 19 still won’t become law. It lost statewide by a 53.8 percent no vote to a 46.2 percent yes vote. It only attracted majorities in 11 of California’s 58 counties.

Eight of those pro-marijuana counties sit on the coast, adjacent to each other. Santa Barbara County is at the bottom and Sonoma County is at the top. The other three are Alameda County on the east side of the San Francisco Bay, and Alpine and Mono counties on the Nevada border.

Of the 11 pro-marijuana counties, San Luis Obispo had the lowest yes percentage. Santa Cruz County had the highest at 63.8 percent. Next was San Francisco with 63.2 percent and then Marin County with 62.1 percent.

The results were also interesting in Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties. They’re adjacent to each other in upper Northern California and together are known as the Emerald Triangle. Their main cash crop is reputed to be marijuana.

I’ve seen several TV reports on the Emerald Triangle marijuana business, including interviews with the farmers and middlemen. So I was surprised that Prop. 19 lost in all three counties.

That just betrays my marijuana ignorance. Better-informed reporters say the Emerald Triangle marijuana people feared legalization because it would increase competition, depress prices and incite new taxes and regulations.

That reminds me of a New Yorker cartoon in the early 1930s during Prohibition. It shows two bootleggers driving a poorly concealed truckload of illegal liquor. A sign on the truck says, “Why Repeal The 18th Amendment? ENFORCE IT!”

As for me, I voted no on Prop. 19. But I can see advantages to legalization. It probably would increase competition, which could deflate the high prices and profits that attract criminals. And marijuana taxes could help our poverty-stricken schools and governments at every level.

But I won’t vote yes until we’re able to detect marijuana levels in the brains of drivers and machinery operators, as we now detect alcohol levels. I also want reliable information on how marijuana smoke affects human lungs. And I don’t want marijuana oversight left in the hands of local officials, like those in the city of Bell, who may find temptation irresistible.

Reach Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.

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