5 Former DEA Administrators urge Governor Brown to Oppose Prop 64

Below is a letter addressed to Governor brown from 5 individuals that served as Administrators of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. You can see the letter here.

Dear Governor Brown,

As former heads of the Drug Enforcement Administration, we write to ask you, the State’s highest level and most visible political leader, to take a position on Proposition 64 before the election next Tuesday. For the reasons set out below, we urge you to oppose Prop 64. Your voice, Governor, is critical.

As you know, Prop 64, if passed by the voters, will legalize the commercial cultivation, production and sale of marijuana in California. It is useful to look at how this experiment with commercial legalization has worked out in Colorado, the first state to do so. The results of the Colorado experiment are troubling. Since the Colorado law was enacted in 2013:

  • Regular use of marijuana has increased substantially in Colorado and faster than the national average. More problematic is the fact that marijuana use by teenagers in Colorado (12‐17 year olds) is 74% higher than the national average and, indeed, is now the highest teenage use rate in the U.S. The main reason for the increase in marijuana use at all levels is that legalization vastly reduces the perceived risk of this drug.
  • Reliable studies have shown that regular use of marijuana by teens results in an average decline in IQ of 8 points. With increasing numbers of users, legalization will inevitably result in a dumbing down of California’s youth and its future workforce. A vote for Prop 64 is gambling with the State’s future in a globally competitive world.
  • The THC content of marijuana sold today is, on average, six times more potent than thirty years ago and, therefore, more addictive. Indeed, there is a 1 in 6 probability that a teenager who regularly uses marijuana will become addicted to it.
  • Marijuana related traffic deaths in Colorado have increased by 62% since 2013. In the State of Washington, fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used marijuana has doubled since legalization there. And yet, unlike alcohol, there is no test set forth in Prop 64 for what constitutes driving under the influence of marijuana, in part because THC is stored in body fat and the brain for days.
  • Emergency room admissions and poison center calls have risen sharply in Colorado since legalization. Calls to poison control alone rose 109% in Colorado between 2012 and 2015. Washington State has seen similar increases.
  • Although voters in California are being told that the crime rate will go down if marijuana cultivation and sales are made legal, in Colorado the crime rates have gone up, for burglaries, car thefts, murders, etc.
  • Voters are told that the black market for marijuana will end to the detriment of organized crime. Yet this is not the case in Colorado. The black market is thriving, including unlawful, unlicensed and untaxed large‐scale marijuana cultivation and illegal sales, much of which is backed by organized crime, including the Russian mafia and the Mexican drug cartels. Moreover, arrests for illegal marijuana dealing in Colorado, particularly for Blacks and Hispanics, have increased.
  • The taxes on legally produced and sold marijuana is far less than the costs to society from legalization.
  • In urban areas such as Denver, marijuana retail outlets are disproportionately concentrated in lower‐income neighborhoods.
  • Commercialization of marijuana and profits have given rise to a powerful marijuana lobby in Colorado that has filed suit over restrictions on advertising targeting children and sponsored efforts to allow marijuana to be smoked at restaurants. Although Prop 64, like Colorado’s law, restricts advertising directed to children, Prop 64 places no restriction on advertising on television and other electronic media to which our children are exposed. By contrast, cigarette advertising has been banned from TV since 1971. If we thought Big Tobacco was bad, wait till Big Marijuana hits California.

It is reasonable to expect all of the above to occur in California if Prop 64 is enacted. At the very least, California voters should be urged to go slow and study carefully the lessons from Colorado. Your fellow governor, Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado, urges caution and recommends that California and other states considering legalization wait a couples of years as more data about the Colorado experiment becomes available. Let us at least see if these negative trends continue before taking this plunge. This means that Californians, many of whom will listen to you, should vote against Prop 64.

Is it wise social policy to adopt a measure that will substantially increase the numbers of marijuana users, including our youth? As you observed on Face the Nation in 2014: “. . . [I]f there is advertising and legitimacy [accompanying marijuana legalization], how many people can get stoned and still have a great state?” That question is more compelling than ever. Governor Brown, we implore you to make your voice known on this issue soon.

Respectfully Yours,