Daily 49er

Highs and lows

Panel holds dialogue to discuss Proposition 64.

Roberto Herrera and Daniela Alvarez, Staff Writers

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Over 200 attendees filled the Beach Auditorium in the University Student Union as a three-person panel tackled the controversial topic of legalizing recreational marijuana Monday evening.

The panel, titled “The Pot Perplex: Would Legal Marijuana Be Good or Bad for Southern California,” was hosted by Cal State Long Beach, the Southern California News Group, and the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

It included an uneven panel with two advocates for Proposition 64 and one opponent.

Proposition 64, otherwise known as the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, will be on the Nov. 8 ballot. If passed, the initiative would allow adults aged 21 and older to possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes. Medical use of marijuana is currently legal in the state of California.

Users would be able to possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana, six marijuana plants in a single household and eight grams of concentrated marijuana oil — a resin extracted from the plant to create a honey-like substance more potent than its plant form.

Panelist Andrew Acosta, a media relations specialist and key campaign spokesperson for No on Proposition 64, believes the initiative could be dangerous for California’s youth.

“[Proposition 64] doesn’t outline what edibles should look like and kids in Colorado are eating them because they look like candy,” said Acosta. “If I leave a cigarette or beer out, my kid will not grab it, but if I leave a brownie out, she will eat it.”

Edibles consist of any kind of food that contains THC and can be foods that range from candy to pizza.

Additionally, Acosta said the initiative is an opportunity to monopolize the marijuana industry and make money in order to create a modern “gold rush in California,” as marijuana entrepreneurs will flock to California if Proposition 64 is passed.

Panelist Greg Akili, former national field director for the Campaign to Strengthen Social Security and Social Security Works and current civil rights activist, responded passionately to questions by grabbing two microphones at once.

For Akili, passing Proposition 64 is a step in diminishing institutional racism by reducing the disproportionate rate by which people of color are convicted for possession of marijuana.

“We are being arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at abnormal rates,” said Akili. “[Proposition 64] makes the target on our backs a little smaller.”

Stephanie Velazquez, a senior social work graduate student who uses medical marijuana to treat chronic pain and anxiety, argued the opposite, saying that it won’t benefit communities of color.

“I’d like for it to be recreational and for this ballot to pass, but I think they’re rushing it,” said Velazquez. “I think that the way they wrote it does more harm than good to people of color, especially for people who use it medicinally.”

Acosta argued that the sole goal of Proposition 64 is for those in the marijuana industry to prosper.

“Prop 64 is not about social justice, it’s about making money,” Acosta said. “You can’t have it both ways.”

Panelist Diane Goldstein, retired Lieutenant Commander of the Redondo Police Department, held a large binder filled with documents, reading from the pages frequently to state facts and correcting her opponent.

Goldstein agreed with Akili that Proposition 64 is more than just a way to increase revenue for California.

“We arrest more Latinos than African Americans in California [for possession of marijuana],” said Goldstein. “To say this is not a social justice issue is disingenuous.”

The second part of the panel focused on discussing Long Beach’s own ballot measures on the initiative, measures MA and MM. Mayor Robert Garcia briefly explained each measure before the beginning of the panel.

According to Garcia and Stefan Borst-Censullo, a Long Beach attorney with the Hoban Law Group, one of the nation’s first cannabis law firms, Measure MM would regulate medical marijuana dispensaries and eradicate taxes on recreational marijuana, while also requiring buffers between dispensaries and schools, parks and beaches.

Measure MA would authorize taxes on medical and recreational marijuana.

Mark Greenberg, chairman of the American Bar Association’s White Collar Crime Committee for Environmental Crimes, and Borst-Censullo discussed the pros and cons of each measure.

If both measures are approved, medical marijuana dispensaries and businesses will be allowed to operate in Long Beach while being subject to regulations contained in Measure MM.

However, Marijuana tax rates in Long Beach will depend on which of the measures gets more votes, ultimately setting the tax rates.

As for Proposition 64, it would create two new taxes.

One would be a cultivation tax of $9.25 per ounce for the plant’s flowers and an additional $2.75 per ounce for its leaves. The other tax would be 15 percent on the retail price of marijuana.

The initiative would control the location of marijuana dispensaries. Additionally, local governments would also be authorized to impose their own taxes on marijuana, as well as authorize a ban on marijuana within their jurisdiction.

If Proposition 64 passes, California will join Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Washington D.C. in legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.

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