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The Golden ‘Stoner State’ isn’t all that laid back on pot

The Golden ‘Stoner State’ isn’t all that laid back on pot

Dennis Wyatt


POSTED November 21, 2017 4:41 p.m.
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A few years back, a reporter asked Gov. Jerry Brown what he thought of the movement to legalize marijuana.
His response was that he didn't think California wanted to be a "stoner state."

Brown wasn't taking a position per se given his comments weren't made in a vacuum. He had been talking about the impacts more widespread marijuana use would have on the California economy, and he wasn't referring to new jobs being created to grow legal pot or tax receipts from cannabis sales.

Since Sept. 1, I've heard of six cases, including someone relatively close, where they did not pass the drug test for employment with one of the fastest growing sources of jobs in the Northern San Joaquin Valley - Amazon.

It was no surprise. But what was remarkable were two things - all but one of the six would likely be called "clean, young people" not just by strangers but relatives and family acquaintances based on their general behavior and appearance. I get that looks can be deceiving but most would probably agree with the "clean, young people" moniker for the five individuals.

Apparently more than one of the six were irked or surprised that marijuana use would cost them a shot at a job.

Everyone needs to be clear on one point: The legalization of recreation marijuana per se didn't carte blanche change a well-established and extensive web of labor and liability laws.

You can rattle off all you want about studies or the lack thereof but one thing is crystal clear- users of marijuana all say it relaxes them. For all practical purposes it is a natural sedative, if you will. That means it slows down reaction times.

Amazon can ill afford to have workers with slower reflexes. Trucking firms can't afford it either. Neither can a whole host of employers requiring on sound or non-hazy judgment or physical labor.

You can probably cite people who aren't that affected by marijuana, especially days after they last used it. But it doesn't matter. There needs to be a standard not just for safety but for the legal system. You can be found to be impaired with less than 0.08 percent alcohol in your blood even if you haven't met the universal legal threshold of being drunk when you hit 0.08 percent or above.

While you might argue there is not exactly an abundance of what you might consider "definitive" research about varying degrees of being impaired in relation to the amount of marijuana smoked or consumed in relation to time passed, body weight and such, the general consensus of proponents of legalized marijuana use has been that it is essentially no-different than alcohol.

That is exactly why courts in other states where recreational pot was legal before it was in California - Colorado as an example - state courts have made it clear just because marijuana is legal to use doesn't change workplace rules and public safety laws.

Some who have failed drug tests argue there is a double-standard as traces of alcohol leave your system long before marijuana residue does. That isn't debatable. The problem is there is no way of knowing when you last used marijuana that can be determined by a test that meets established practices that the courts recognize.

Recreational pot may be legal - and its use accelerate once it can be sold legally in California after Jan. 1 - but there are way too many unknowns in terms of its use. That's not referencing arguments about physical issues that pot may impact but how it impacts societal concerns and even reactions of various users.

This is not a revival of the Mary Jane scare campaigns of the 1960s.

What happens if a marijuana user gets in a serious accident with major injuries or death? It is not out of the realm of possibility that medical records pertaining to the treatment of the driver that was determined to be at fault could be subpoenaed by the insurance company or a plaintiff's attorney.

If those records show traces of marijuana in the at-fault driver's bloodstream, you could see an impact on the size of judgments.

Could insurance companies to protect themselves start demanding drug tests before they will issue or renew policies? The anything goes mantra that some proponents of legalized pot have used on the premise that it isn't harmful to any large degree can swing both ways.

Witness the pushback in San Francisco over where legal recreational pot sales will be allowed starting Jan. 1 in The City.

Legal pot proponents want such sales to be allowed within 600 feet of schools that is the same in San Francisco for sellers of liquor and cigarettes. Medical marijuana dispensaries are now allowed in San Francisco 1,000 feet or more from schools and recreational centers that cater primarily to minors. The push is on by some Chinese-American organizations for an outright ban of retail pot sales in Chinatown and to require such future retail marijuana stores be at least 1,600 feet from schools. The Board of Supervisors is considering making it 1,000 feet - the same as for medical marijuana.

But the resistance is so great of those pushing for the longer distance that the San Francisco supervisors are struggling to get rules in place by Jan. 1.

If a city such as San Francisco that rewrites the definition of "liberal" when it comes to social issues is having such a struggle, it only underscores the observation that just because it is legal recreational pot use will not be an anything goes thing.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.

 

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