Critics of Proposition 64, including members of California law enforcement and medical experts, convened Wednesday at the Petersen Automobile Museum in Los Angeles to address their concerns over how legalizing marijuana could affect road safety.
"Make no mistake…Prop 64 was written by and for the marijuana industry," Dr. Kevin Sabet, co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said. "It was not written for the interest of public safety and our roadways."
Proposition 64 would legalize the use and sale of recreational cannabis for California residents aged 21 or older. Marijuana consumption would be permitted in private residences and users would be allowed to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana.
The measure would also aim to raise $1 billion annually in new tax revenue and to save the state millions of dollars.
The event Wednesday, hosted by AAA Automobile Club of Southern California, addressed public safety concerns that may come up if the measure passes. Critics are worried that drivers under the influence of marijuana would make traffic in Los Angeles worse.
"There's no easy way to determine whether a driver is impaired by marijuana," Kathy Sieck, senior vice president of public affairs for Automobile Club of Southern California said. "There's no blood test. There's no breath test, unlike [what] you have for alcohol."
A recent study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed that the percentage of fatal crashes involving drivers who used marijuana doubled in Washington after the state legalized the drug in 2012.
"I've personally handled many traffic collisions involving marijuana-impaired drivers," officer Carl Anna, a detective with the Los Angeles California Sheriff's Department said. He said it is a "scary proposition" for him to think that if the proposition passes, anybody could smoke marijuana at any time and drive.
Supporters of legalizing recreational marijuana said the measure would provide millions of dollars for California Highway Patrol to update DUI protocols. Proposition 64 would require a public safety campaign to educate potential consumers about the dangers of driving while under the influence.
"People are smoking and driving," Hilda Delgado, an event attendee and spokeswoman for the Yes on 64 campaign, said. "What Proposition 64 is going to do is regulate, control and tax marijuana, and most importantly, take it off the black market."
While the proponents would be glad to take marijuana out of the hands of drug dealers, opponents are worried that the drug will end up in the hands of children.
"When people hear the truth about Prop 64 and what it is really about …mass advertising, edibles, cookies, candies…things that can target kids…they don't like it," Sabet said.
Marijuana legalization was a prominent issue in California back in 2012, but the state legislature did not pass the bill.
A recent survey from the Institute For Government Studies showed that nearly 60 percent of Californians are currently in favor of Proposition 64.
Reach Staff Reporter Terrance Davis here.