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Pros and Cons of Marijuana Legalization Aired at City Council Meeting

La Mesa Patch (2010-10-27) Kenneth Stone

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Pros and Cons of Marijuana Legalization Aired at City Council Meeting

Council members hear out speakers, including Congress candidate Ray Lutz, but don't weigh in. At least two are publicly neutral.

Proposition 19 is on the Nov. 2 ballot, but it wasn't on the posted agenda at Tuesday night's council meeting. That didn't stop the marijuana-legalizing measure from being hotly debated at City Hall.

With council members listening quietly, a parade of speakers including 52nd Congressional District candidate Ray Lutz took advantage of the meeting's public-comment period to argue passionately for and against the proposal to legalize marijuana possession for adults 21 and older.

Ben Cisneros, a regional coordinator for "Yes on 19,'' was the first to speak. Wearing an old Padres ballcap and a green-and-white T-shirt, he likened current marijauana laws to liquor Prohibition of the 1920s, which he said "ended as a failure." He noted that laws barring pot use haven't stopped people from smoking marijuana, including "the last three presidents."

He called the measure "absolutely the right thing to do for California and La Mesa" and said marijuana prohibition is a policy "we can't afford."

Begging to differ was Shirley Forbing, who followed Cisneros to the lectern.

"Hardly anybody has talked about the kids," Forbing said.

A former San Diego State professor who now campaigns against drug abuse, Forbing said alcoholism rates rose after Prohibition ended in 1933 and cited studies she said indicated that marijuana's active ingredient, THC, stays in the body 28 days after smoking.

"It causes lung cancer, COPD" and other ailments, she said. "It goes to the fatty tissue of the brain and the sex organ."

Forbing, who distributed glossy fliers from Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana, also noted what she called the potential loss of $9.5 billion in federal funds to California if the laws took effect.

She was followed by La Mesa resident Evelyn Hogan, a staff member of Communities Against Substance Abuse (CASA), who argued that legalizing marijuana for adults wouldn't stop kids from using it.

"It's been illegal for 100 years to sell tobacco to minors," said Hogan, the mother of a teenager. "Why is this going to be any different?"

She opposed "legitimizing a dangerous drug" and asked if the city is prepared to monitor children's use of marijuana. "Is [Police] Chief Lanning prepared to do that, to put this on his plate? ... This type of legalization is not going to keep it out of our kids' hands."

Democrat Lutz, running against incumbent Rep. Duncan D. Hunter for Congress, cited financial reasons to legalize—and tax—marijuana, saying: "Everyone's cut to the bone, but a huge economy is [going] untapped."

Lutz, who made a similar appeal to the El Cajon City Council the same day, also noted public-safety concerns over the current laws, referring to "out-of-control border crime" related to wars between drug cartels, implying these would lessen.

In an e-mail to La Mesa Patch afterward, Lutz said: "Far too often, there is no representative of progressive values at these [council] meetings, and it tends to be a self-perpetuating illness of this East County. I believe strongly that Prop. 19 is a step in the right direction."

Finally came Royal Magnus of Alpine. A management consultant who said he worked for 25 years in a drug-prevention program that mainly targeted methamphetamine, Magnus said an ounce of marijuana, allowed under the proposal, would make 30 joints, and adults "will sell it to the kids. It will happen."

Magnus, who said he was invited to the meeting by Hogan of CASA, also asserted that local governments would lose federal contracts if Proposition 19 passes.

Council members listened longer than the 15 minutes set aside for public comments but couldn't take action, since it wasn't on the published agenda. Other elected bodies have taken up Proposition 19, however, including the Grossmont Union High School board, which went on record opposing legalization.

But asked after the meeting how the council might vote on Proposition 19, Councilwoman Ruth Sterling said: "I think they probably would have rejected it."

However, councilmen Ernie Ewin and Mark Arapostathis—both seeking re-election—are publicly neutral on the issue.

In candidate questionnaires posted last month, Ewin didn't take a stand, saying: "All that I can assure you with regard to local government's role in administering such legislative changes, is that I strive to uphold the laws set by the will of the people according to our state constitution."

And schoolteacher Arapostathis said: "I will support the decision made by the voters. If Proposition 19 is passed, I will work with our chief of police to educate the public on how the change in the law would affect the citizens of La Mesa."

Mayor Art Madrid is on record as opposing it, saying in his La Mesa Patch questionnaire: "I do not support Proposition 19 for a variety of reasons, not the least of which will be the problems created by those who will abuse its use."

In her questionnaire, mayoral candidate Laura Lothian supported Proposition 19 and wrote in part: "If we decriminalized marijuana and regulated it, violence might decrease in Mexico and America, our prisons might not be so full, and we could collect some serious revenue."

Council candidate Patrick Dean supports Proposition 19. Fellow candidate Ian Shiff has not taken a stand.

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Title Pros and Cons of Marijuana Legalization Aired at City Council Meeting
Publisher La Mesa Patch
Author Kenneth Stone
Pub Date 2010-10-27
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Note Features Ray Lutz
Keywords CA 50 Congressional District
Media Type Linked Article
Media Group News
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Topic revision: r3 - 25 Feb 2013, RaymondLutz
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