By Casi McIntyre
The legalization of recreational marijuana has been rolling from state to state and due to increasing support for Proposition 64, more local dispensaries could be hitting San Luis Obispo County soon.
City and county leaders â€” from agricultural officials to law enforcement authorities â€” are already preparing for a high voter turnout in favor of the ballot measure, especially given how much green proponents have raised.
The â€œyesâ€ campaign for Prop. 64 has raised $18 million, while opponents have raised $2 million, according to published reports. A recent Gallup poll showed 60 percent of Americans are in favor of the legalization of marijuana, while 40 percent were against.
Despite what the polls show, a Cuesta college political science instructor disagreed.
â€œI donâ€™t think it will be much of a landslide,â€ Victor Krulikowski said, adding,â€œThereâ€™s a lot of conservative people and a lot who are concerned about the consequences of the law.â€
However, another Cuesta political science instructor has a different take.
â€œThe measure will probably pass,â€ Kathryn Logan said. â€œIf money drives elections, then this would also serve as an indicator.â€
With the legal age for consumption of weed set the same as for alcohol, many Cuesta students have expressed that if the proposition passes, they may choose smoking as an alternative to a night of drinking downtown.
â€œI find that when it comes to the negatives of smoking weed, thereâ€™s a gray area and people donâ€™t quite understand how it could benefit them,â€ said Andrew Rydianski, a second year Cuesta student.
Prop. 64 would allow people 21 or older to possess one ounce of marijuana and to grow up to six plants in their homes. Smoking the drug in public and driving while under its influence would remain illegal.
Even with passage of the proposition, marijuana would remain classified as a Schedule I drug â€” along with ecstasy and heroin â€” by the Federal Drug Enforcement agency . While California would allow the legal recreational use of marijuana if the proposition passes, federal laws banning use would still apply.
California accounts for nearly half of all marijuana sales in the country, both legal and illegal. If legalized, the state is predicted to pull in an additional Â $138 billion in tax revenue over one year, according to the Tax Foundation.
Revenue from tax money would be used to fund drug and youth programs and deal with environmental damage potentially caused by illegal marijuana production, the ballot measure states.
Cuesta College plans to stick to Californiaâ€™s laws if the legislation passes and wants to eliminate all smoking on campus, according to Dan Troy, vice president of the college.
While predictions of SLO County revenue are still cloudy, the stakes are high.
With voters of the state expected to approve the measure, SLO County is getting ready with rules and regulations. In fact, the board of supervisors recently adopted a temporary county urgency ordinance that bans new cultivation of medical marijuana in anticipation of Prop. 64 passing.
The ordinance states that people who already have medical marijuana prescriptions can grow up to six plants in no more than a 500-square-foot area, but the ordinance prohibits newcomers from trying out their green thumb.
The SLO County Sheriffâ€™s Department is also on high alert if the proposition is passed.
â€œThe sheriff has a general concern about the proposition because he has seen what has happened in Colorado with large proliferation of dispensers,â€ said Tony Cipolla, spokesperson for the SLO County Sheriffâ€™s Department.
Colorado has also seen a spike in emergency room patients suffering from car accidents with drivers who are under the influence of marijuana,Cipolla said.
â€œThey [Colorado] have more dispensaries than Starbucks and McDonaldâ€™s combined and with that there are bound to be problems,â€ Cipolla said.Â
In order to combat increased use among minors, the Sheriffâ€™s Department has stepped up its community outreach through drug awareness with the Gang Resistance Education and Training program.
â€œThere will be a heightened awareness [â€¦] the Sheriff is concerned with making sure it stays out of the hands of our youth,â€ Cipolla said.
With SLO County being a large farming area, the agricultural community has raised concern about the safety of growing marijuana.
The San Luis Obispo Farm Bureau has been informing workers and owners about the proposition through workshops and is currently developing cultivation policies, according to Joy Fitzhugh, government specialist for the SLO Farm Bureau.
â€œThe Farm Bureau wants to make sure it [cultivation] doesnâ€™t impact close neighbors or schools,â€ Fitzhugh said. â€œThe Farm Bureau wants to make sure that the growing of marijuana is held to the same standards as any other cropâ€.
The SLO Farm Bureau is aware of the risks that come with growing more marijuana in the county, she said, adding that, â€œSafety is the growerâ€™s concern, as they are worried about external threats like theft and trespassing.â€
Students see the legalization of recreational marijuana as a given.
â€œThis is California, itâ€™s like bringing sand to the desert,â€ said Niko Lucero, a first year student interested in entertainment.
â€œI think it will be good for the general public because the tax money can be used for positive things,â€ Lucero said, adding â€œThe government already tried prohibition with alcohol and we know how that worked out!â€