One reason given by Proposition 19 supporters for legalizing marijuana is that California is in dire fiscal straits, and taxing the cannabis crop could ultimately enrich state and local coffers by $1.4 billion a year. But again, critics say that argument is misleading. The act essentially requires local governments that choose to regulate and tax marijuana to establish new bureaucracies and departments, and much of the new revenue could be eaten up by the cumbersome process of permitting and licensing sales, consumption, cultivation and transportation.
Far from helping the state's economic outlook, Proposition 19 could cause substantial harm. For instance, it would put employers in a quandary by creating a protected class of on-the-job smokers, bestowing a legal right to use marijuana at work unless employers could actually prove that it would impair an employee's job performance. Employers would no longer have the right to screen for marijuana use or discipline a worker for being high. But common sense dictates that a drug-free environment is crucial at too many workplaces to name — schools, hospitals, emergency response and public safety agencies, among others.
The multiple conflicts with federal law, and the strong probability of confusing and contradictory municipal laws that would result from its passage, overwhelm the hypothetical benefits of Proposition 19.
This is the first of The Times' endorsements in the Nov. 2 election. Upon publication, they will be collected at latimes.com/opinion.