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The Times recognizes the shift in policy and evolution of regulations now that four states have legalized adult recreational use of marijuana.

 In News, Opinion

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board has endorsed Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. The Times recognizes the shift in policy and evolution of regulations now that four states have legalized adult recreational use of marijuana. Proposition 64 offers a pragmatic approach that allows legislators the flexibility to develop and adjust regulations to address unintended consequences.

The LA Times Board sees the measure as a reconciliation of mixed messages from federal drug policy and the failed war on drugs. This is a dramatic shift from six years ago when the Times editorial board opposed Proposition 19, which they called a “poorly drafted mess that would have created a regulatory nightmare.”  That measure failed with a close but insufficient 46% in favor.

The support of Proposition 64 is in light of half the states now allowing medical marijuana, Canada’s pending legalization next year along with statements from both presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump that they would not use federal prohibition against marijuana to undermine state legalization efforts.

Voters will have to ask themselves whether the time has come to treat marijuana less like heroin and more like alcohol — as a regulated but acceptable product for adult use. Do the risks of legalization outweigh the costs of prohibition? Does Proposition 64 strike the right balance between allowing adult Californians to make their own recreational choices and protecting their health and safety? Does the measure put cannabis-industry profits ahead of public health? What does it mean that marijuana will be legal under California law but still illegal under federal law?

On balance, the proposition deserves a “yes” vote. It is ultimately better for public health, for law and order and for society if marijuana is a legal, regulated and controlled product for adults. Proposition 64 — while not perfect — offers a logical, pragmatic approach to legalization that also would give lawmakers and regulators the flexibility to change the law to address the inevitable unintended consequences.

The reality is that California has already, essentially, legalized marijuana. Virtually any adult can get a medical marijuana recommendation and buy pot products legally at a dispensary. And those who can’t be bothered to fake a headache or back pain can buy it on the black market without fear of going to jail.

Proposition 64 would end the need for such ruses and deal a blow to the illegal market, which thrives on prohibition. If it is passed, adults 21 and older would be allowed to grow, buy and possess marijuana for their personal use in private homes or at businesses licensed for on-site consumption. The state would license and regulate businesses that grow, process, deliver and sell marijuana. Pot shops could not sell tobacco or alcohol. Cities would have the ability to set local regulations and even ban marijuana businesses, but they couldn’t bar adults from growing, using or transporting marijuana for personal use.

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