Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims joined several other public safety officials and religious leaders Tuesday to urge a vote against Proposition 64, the marijuana legalization initiative on the Nov. 8 state ballot.
At Harvest of Harmony International Church in northwest Fresno, the sheriff cited marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington state as examples of how legalization had increased crime, endangered public safety and increased traffic fatalities.
“Legalization will increase our quality of life issues,” Mims said.
Bishop Ron Allen, founder of the International Faith Based Coalition, said marijuana legalization would be especially detrimental to people of color.
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“If marijuana is legalized, it will be in underserved areas of communities,” he said. “Imagine marijuana stores next to liquor stores. Why would we want to hurt our youth for money?”
Kevin Sabet of the organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana said: “Legalization is not a smoke-out from the ’60s. It’s a way to get rich on the back of young people. We want books, not pot shops.”
Advocates of legalization argue that the detrimental effects of legalization are not so clear cut. They cite a Denver Post report that deflects a crime spike away from the drug.
But at Tuesday’s gathering, Doug Villars of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen argued that traffic collisions are up in Washington state since legalization and that traffic fatalities have doubled. Villars argued that the degree of marijuana intoxication cannot be measured, as can alcohol consumption, making enforcement problematic.
“Let’s not put the cart before the horse,” he said. “We need to figure this out before legalization occurs.”
According to factcheck.org, research remains inconclusive on whether legalization has caused increases in traffic collisions and fatalities.