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Legal pot: Is Jerry Brown right that we'd be too stoned to succeed?

March 03, 2014|By Kerry Cavanaugh
  • A woman smokes marijuana during a Prohibition-era themed New Year's Eve party at a bar in Denver last year.
A woman smokes marijuana during a Prohibition-era themed New Year's… (Associated Press )

California voters — thankfully — will probably not have to decide in November whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Backers of the Control, Regulate and Tax Marijuana Act, which had the most funding and organized support of four potential state ballot measures, decided to aim for the 2016 election instead. This will let California learn from the mistakes and successes of Colorado and Washington state, which are rolling out legal weed this year, and help proponents devise a better regulatory model than the state’s confusing laws on the distribution of medical marijuana.

But the delay doesn’t mean legal pot isn’t on the minds of California’s political leadership, including Gov. Jerry Brown.

“How many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?” Brown asked on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together.”

We need alertness, the governor is saying, or else how can we be constantly vigilant against terrorism or the rising economic power of China? How can Californians or Americans remember that “if we see something, say something,” if the state or nation is consumed by the munchies? Or listening to ’70s rock?

Brown is latching on to an increasingly common refrain: that legalizing marijuana will lead to the dumbing down or slowing down of America.

Media mogul and author Tina Brown caused a stir this year when she tweeted upon the first sales of recreational marijuana in Colorado: “legal weed contributes to us being a fatter, dumber, sleepier nation even less able to compete with the Chinese.”

And New York Times columnist David Brooks, after admitting he smoked pot in high school, worried that the government was encouraging a slacker culture. The citizens of Colorado were “nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be.”

Will legalizing marijuana lead to a sleepy, slacker-filled country? Who knows? Brown and others are speculating and fretting with no research to back them up. But we do know this: Legalizing the sale and use of marijuana will mean fewer people getting arrested and going to jail, which will significantly change the lives of those individuals and their families.

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Follow Kerry Cavanaugh on Twitter @kerrycavan and Google+

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