Tuesday, September 1, 2015

ANTI-VAXXERS THREATEN FREEDOMS OF OTHERS

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2015, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
    “ANTI-VAXXERS THREATEN FREEDOMS OF OTHERS”


          Imagine a California where polio becomes a threat to children’s health as it was before the 1950s, when first the Salk vaccine and later the even more effective Sabin formula threw this dreaded and crippling disease and all its iron lungs into dormancy.


          Or a California where dozens of kids die every year from pertussis, better known as whooping cough for the gasping whoop children often make after their deep coughing. And more, like measles, mumps and rubella, to name a few.


          This was the threat that faced California after Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012 attached a one-sentence signing message to a law that aimed to make it tougher for parents to evade getting their kids vaccinated.


    Now a proposed referendum being circulated by anti-vaccination activists threatens to thrust the state back into those Dark Ages-style dangers.


    Brown’s short message in 2012 called on state health officials to provide a religious exemption on a form allowing parents to opt out of vaccinations and still register them for public or private schools.


          Checking the religious belief box allowed parents to claim their deep theological beliefs precluded vaccinations. Many with little religious belief lied when they took the checkoff. They either believed the widespread shibboleth that vaccinations are harmful or they were just plain lazy.


          Within less than three years, there followed outbreaks of both measles and pertussis. There is no proven link between these bursts of previously inactive diseases to Brown’s personal belief box, found a Johns Hopkins University study of a 2010 pertussis epidemic in California. But the report showed a link between the location of cases and the areas where parents most actively sought previous, harder-to-get, religious exemptions.


          Of course, no organized religion then or now, aside from the Black Muslim Nation of Islam, has opposed vaccination. The great preponderance of vaccination exemptions have come in wealthy coastal counties with virtually no Nation of Islam presence. So parents claiming a religious belief exemption must either have lied or possess a private religion.


          All this caused Brown to reverse himself this year and okay a law allowing vaccination exemptions only for medical reasons. This law, effective with the start of the next school year, still doesn’t demand all children be vaccinated before kindergarten and seventh grade; parents can home school their kids if they don’t want them vaccinated.


          The current referendum effort aims to put a measure on the November 2016 ballot and reverse the new law. Only two modern-era referenda have succeeded: one in 1982 cancelling government approval of a “peripheral canal” project to bring Northern California river water to the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, and one last year reversing state approval of an off-reservation Indian casino.


          It’s telling that religion has barely been mentioned in public meetings around the state pushing the anti-vaxxers’ referendum. Most speakers describe the vaccination mandate as a “fundamental human rights issue.” As an example, they argued in one San Diego County meeting this summer that “the state wants to get between a parent and a child.”


          The anti-vaxxers want to be free to leave their kids unprotected from potentially deadly diseases whose viral or bacterial causes are still present in the environment. They claim, for instance, that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is linked to increased autism rates. This myth, originally published in a medical journal, was debunked long ago and later denounced by the authors of the flawed British study, who admit their research was faulty. But it persists, even getting a full airing on the syndicated talk show of former CBS News anchorwoman Katie Couric, who later apologized for that.


          Essentially, parents who want to be free to keep their children unvaccinated and at risk for dangerous diseases would deny the freedom of other children with medical reasons that preclude vaccination to attend schools or enjoy theme parks and other public areas for fear of picking up disease from unvaccinated peers. It’s clear the belief of some parents in a discredited theory should not take precedence over the freedoms of other kids to live without fear of preventable diseases.


          But this conflict will never be voiced by anti-vaxxers who formerly could take the religious exemption even when they had no religion.


          Which makes it clear responsible Californians should refuse to sign the current referendum petitions when accosted outside supermarkets and big box stores by carriers being paid up to $9 for each signature they gather.


-30-
    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

FEDERAL REGULATORS AS BAD AS STATE PUC

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2015, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
    “FEDERAL REGULATORS AS BAD AS STATE PUC”


          For many years before formal investigations by both state and federal authorities began, it was clear the California Public Utilities Commission consistently favored big utility companies over consumers at every opportunity.


          But until a court order produced tens of thousands of emails between utility commissioners and executives of the companies they regulate, no one could prove either the cronyism that has long existed or the mechanism by which it operated.


          Now it is gradually becoming clear that national agencies like the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) also consistently favor big utilities over the citizens the commissions are sworn to protect.


          Example A involves the now-closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, often known as SONGS. When that plant first lost power on Sept. 8, 2011, several months before it formally closed, the outage caused a blackout over an area as big as northern Europe, covering much of Southern California and northern Mexico. FERC’s initial investigation blamed a single bungling utility worker in Arizona, letting Southern California Edison Co., the plant’s operator, off the hook.


          FERC’s investigation did not freeze Edison’s internal emails, allowing the utility to destroy them. Edison in effect admitted this in a Sept. 16, 2011 letter to FERC just unearthed by the San Diego law firm of Aguirre & Severson.


          Said the letter, “It should be noted…that certain electronic documents related to the outages, particularly electronic mail, may have been deleted…prior to the receipt of your Sept. 12 letter (demanding those emails).”


          In short, said ratepayer attorney Maria Severson, “Edison destroyed evidence…within days after the blackout … Evidence shows that FERC did nothing to stop them.”


          Of course, neither FERC nor the NRC has done anything to penalize Edison for destroying evidence, and the NRC also has done nothing to sanction Edison for its big-money purchase of new steam generators for SONGS despite the fact executives knew in advance they were faulty.


          Edison is now trying to get almost $1 billion back from Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for that misdeed, but even if it gets all it’s after, customers will still be stuck with the lion’s share of the costs for decommissioning SONGS, unless the PUC does a sudden about-face and cancels a 2014 settlement with Edison. The corruption of that settlement has been well documented through emails proving the outline was agreed upon in private meetings between former PUC President Michael Peevey and Edison executives during a junket to Warsaw, Poland, the year before.


          The bottom line on SONGS is that only luck spared California the same sort of radiation exposure endured by Japan in the Fukushima disaster that hit about a year before SONGS closed.


          But federal negligence in protecting Californians goes beyond San Onofre. There’s also the NRC’s handling of potential danger from major earthquakes at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant near San Luis Obispo owned by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. In a meeting last spring, the NRC allowed PG&E to continue a $64 million study of earthquake dangers to Diablo Canyon, saying it knows no reason to shut down or limit operations at the plant.


          The PG&E report, for which the company now wants consumers to pay, has been called a “scientific fraud” by area activists and allied engineers, including former Republican state Sen. Sam Blakeslee.


          Said David Jay Weisman, head of the San Luis Obispo-based Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, “The NRC seems to always accept anything PG&E tells them.” PG&E is far from unique in its favorable treatment from that commission. The NRC has never denied a license request for an atomic power plant from any utility.


          “The NRC is a rubber stamp for the utilities,” Weisman said. In fact, the commission has “accepted” PG&E’s seismic study, but also gave itself 18 months to examine the report and then issue a final ruling on Diablo Canyon’s earthquake safety.


          All of which means that anyone unhappy with the pattern of utility favoritism at the PUC can expect little or no comfort and support from any federal commission.


          The patterns of behavior by FERC and the NRC are similar enough to what the PUC did for decades without any legal challenge that these two agencies also should get careful and constant observation to ensure against continued outright favoritism of the big utilities.


              -30-

    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

PROP. 47 LOOKING LIKE A WELL-INTENTIONED BLUNDER

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2015, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
    “PROP. 47 LOOKING LIKE A WELL-INTENTIONED BLUNDER”


          The more time goes by since last fall’s passage of the high-minded Proposition 47, the more it begins to look like a well-intentioned mistake.


          This was the ballot measure that turned some “minor” felonies into misdemeanor crimes, thus easing the crowding in state prisons and many county jails. It has unquestionably helped some ex-felons rebuild their lives.


          But as crime statistics for the first half of this year pour in from around the state, this measure looks worse and worse, on balance. The numbers are bearing out warnings Proposition 47 opponents made in their official ballot argument against the initiative before it passed by a whopping 60-40 percent margin.


          “Proposition 47 is a dangerous…package of ill-conceived policies wrapped in a poorly drafted initiative which will endanger all Californians, said opponents, led by Citrus Heights Police Chief Christopher Boyd, president of the California Police Chiefs Assn.


          Here’s a bit of what’s happened since passage: In San Francisco, car burglaries are up 47 percent this year over 2014, while car thefts have risen 17 percent and robberies rose by 23 percent. In Los Angeles, overall crime is up 12.7 percent this year and violent crime rose almost 21 percent. That’s after 12 straight years of crime decreases in the state’s largest city.


          Some saw Proposition 47 as a mere expansion on Gov. Jerry Brown’s prison “realignment” program, designed to reduce prison populations at the demand of federal judges up to the level of the U.S. Supreme Court. Convicts on a de facto basis were already seeing sentences reduced or being shifted from tougher state prisons to county jails. Many lesser offenders who might previously have gotten at least some jail time were going free on probation. Prior to Proposition 47, this had cut the prison population by almost one-fifth, while not causing crime rate increases in most places.


    But the initiative does much more than mere realignment, switching many crimes from the felony category to misdemeanors. This includes most drug possession arrests, petty thefts, forged checks and receiving stolen property, with property crimes having to exceed $950 to be a felony. One result: Myriad drug addicts have adjusted their practices, trying to hold their take from “minor” crimes under that amount. Because of crowding in local jails, it’s common for misdemeanor offenders to be turned loose soon after their convictions.


          Proposition 47 supporters also touted the fact their measure allows all those crimes to be treated as felonies if the accused has previous convictions for rape, murder or child molestation or is a registered sex offender.


          Not enough, said the opponents, noting that persons with prior convictions for armed robbery, carjacking, child abuse, assault with a deadly weapon and other serious crimes would still be allowed misdemeanor status for new non-violent offenses. They pointed out that thousands of convicts who stood to be released because their crimes would be converted into misdemeanors have prior records of violent crimes not listed among the most dangerous.


          At the same time, many convict firefighters (about 40 percent of crews battling major fires in California are convicts) have been released because of reductions in the category of their crimes.


          Prison-provided fire crews nevertheless retained the same manpower as last year during the early blazes of this wildfire season. No one yet knows if in-prison recruiting of some new firefighters will produce the same quality of work (several fires this summer spread far wider than officials expected) or whether more convicts on wild-land crews will now try to escape.


          Proposition 47 also earmarked much of the prison money it saves for mental health and drug treatment programs, aiming to cushion the effects of making most drug possessions no more than minor offenses.


          But enrollment in drug treatment programs has dropped, probably a sign that many addicts no longer feel pressured to kick their habits. They know they’ll never do significant time either for using or for most crimes that support their addictions.


          So it’s become quite clear the opponents made good points. On balance, Proposition 47 is turning out to be bad policy. Now it’s time for legislators to do what they can to fix the flawed measure. A start would be increasing the list of serious prior offenses than can turn the new “minor” crimes back into felonies.


          -30-

    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

ANTI-SEMITISM ISSUE AGAIN CONFRONTS UC REGENTS

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2015, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
    “ANTI-SEMITISM ISSUE AGAIN CONFRONTS UC REGENTS”


          Back in June, the president of the University of California promised on national radio that the UC Board of Regents would vote in its next meeting – in July – on whether to adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism.


          It didn’t happen. There was no vote, no discussion, not even an agenda item.


          No regent, including Gov. Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom or Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, spoke a critical word on the quiet disappearance of that item from the meeting.


          But the question is slated to reappear when regents gather again Sept. 16-17 in Irvine, not as a policy opposing anti-Semitism, but as a general discussion of “tolerance” on campus.


          UC administrators, of course, know all about tolerating anti-Semitism. No suspects have yet been found in several episodes of Nazi-like swastikas daubed onto university buildings and there have been no penalties for student government members who publicly questioned whether Jewish students can make fair and objective decisions or judgments on campus issues.


          That’s consistent with the lack of action against  students who set up mock roadblocks on the Berkeley campus where Jewish-looking students – and no others – were accosted by toughs carrying machine-gun mockups. This was some Muslim students’ idea of a legitimate protest against Israel’s anti-terror tactics, which have cut deaths by car- and suicide-bombings to a fraction of their former level.


          Toothless bromides about tolerance were all those events – and multiple others since 2010 – elicited from administrators and faculty apparently reluctant about doing anything to counter their system’s rising reputation for enabling outright anti-Semitism in the guise of a Palestinian-sponsored campaign to boycott Israel, divest from companies doing business there and create international sanctions against the Jewish state.


          No one suggests Israel’s policies should be immune from criticism, protest or debate. They are debated ceaselessly in countless Jewish forums.


          But adopting the State Department’s definition would let UC officials know when protest becomes bigotry. The State Department criteria, recently reaffirmed, are simple: If an action aims to delegitimize Israel, denying its very right to exist because it is a Jewish state, that’s anti-Semitic. If a protest demonizes Israel in ways not employed against any other country, that’s also anti-Semitism. And if a protest employs a double standard judging Israel differently from other countries, that’s anti-Semitic, too.


          Here’s one clear-cut example: When Israeli terrorists firebombed a Palestinian home and killed a child this summer, government officials immediately condemned the act and began a manhunt for the perpetrators. Palestinian officials and police have never tried to capture any countryman who killed Jewish citizens of Israel. Similarly, campus protestors who vilify Israel for the baby killing ignore the many more similar acts against Israelis. That’s as clear as a double standard can get.


          While Napolitano and the regents spent part of the summer backing off a tough stance against anti-Semitism, both the state Senate and Assembly passed a resolution calling on UC campuses to condemn it in all forms, a recognition that this age-old prejudice has morphed into new forms on campus, partly because of the presence of students from countries where anti-Semitism is official policy.


          A formal definition is needed, say groups that battle anti-Semitism, because of confusion over the relationship between Jew-hatred and animosity toward Israel.

         
          Since the Assembly under Atkins’ leadership passed its resolution unanimously, it seems logical she should lead her fellow regents back to specifics, rather than going along with the milquetoast attempt to simply discuss tolerance. The university already has myriad policies encouraging tolerance and excoriating “hate speech.”


          While those policies have not been enforced against anti-Semites, they effectively prevent hate activities directed against African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Muslims and other groups.


          “Action on anti-Israel behavior devolving into anti-Semitism is still on the table,” said a hopeful Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, lecturer at UC Santa Cruz and co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative, which fights on-campus anti-Semitism. “We need a formal definition of what Jewish students are experiencing as anti-Semitism.” Without that, she said, administrators struggle to separate ordinary student protests from acts of hate. This may be one reason many egregious anti-Semitic acts have elicited no punishment.


    It’s high time the Board of Regents realizes that if it lapses into generalities and refuses to adopt specific guidelines like those of the State Department, it will be promoting an age-old hatred.



     -30-       
Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is tdelias@aol.com

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

CANOE THEORY AT WORK IN GUV’S CEQA EXEMPTION DEALS

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2015, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “CANOE THEORY AT WORK IN GUV’S CEQA EXEMPTION DEALS”


          Gov. Jerry Brown has never professed to be the model of political or ideological consistency. In fact, he’s a decades-long advocate of the “canoe theory” of politics, which goes like this: You paddle a little to the left and you paddle a little to the right, and you keep going straight down the middle of the steam.”


          You also keep all sides guessing a lot of the time and you make sure opponents of some of your policies are allies on others.


          So the governor who once proclaimed that “small is beautiful” and announced an “era of limits” for California apparently has no stomach for limits on huge developments.


          That’s the meaning of the agreements he made with legislators to exempt some of the most significant building projects on California drawing boards from many environmental regulations. These deals were part of the horse-trading that led to easy passage of the new state budget.


          Brown’s press release on the budget, of course, made no mention of such deals, which also exempt the project-enabling bills from thorough legislative hearings because like the developments they promote, they are fast-tracked.


          Yes, the same governor who demands that Californians cut gasoline use by 50 percent before 2050 and who is forcing electric companies to draw the bulk of their energy from renewable sources by 2030 has no qualms about facilitating a $200 million high-rise development in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles or the Golden State Warriors’ proposed new arena in the Mission Bay area of San Francisco, near the Giants’ AT&T Park.


          This is the same governor who has not opposed changes in the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA, that allow developers to qualify initiatives okaying their projects for local ballots and then let city councils adopt those initiatives without a public vote or debate.


          That’s what happened in both Inglewood and Carson, medium-sized Los Angeles County cities where okays for competing 70,000-seat National Football League stadium plans came like greased lightning last winter, with no public input. Brown previously had quickly approved the Legislature’s easing of regulations on another, now inactive, NFL stadium plan for downtown Los Angeles.


          Brown’s collusion in efforts by developers and their pet legislators to ease the path of massive, neighborhood-changing projects stems from his late 20th Century years as mayor of Oakland, where state regulations stymied or delayed several housing and school projects he wanted.


          It was like a rude awakening to the real world for the onetime seminarian.


          But that’s no justification for depriving citizens of their right to input on projects, as Brown has now done several times, all while trying to maintain an image as America’s most environmentally-conscious governor.


          For the 45-year-old CEQA, which remains the same law today that onetime Gov. Ronald Reagan originally signed, the deals Brown has agreed to amount to a “death of a thousand cuts,” says one official of the Natural Resources Defense Council.


          Essentially, the exemptions for the largest projects now planned for California, the ones with the most potential environmental impacts, mean that the very wealthy can skirt the law by lobbying Brown and local legislators and city council members (read: making campaign donations), while homebuilders and others must live within the regulations.


          The latest ones also mean that residents of Hollywood and San Diego’s Mission Bay, like people in cities like Hermosa Beach, Lawndale, Torrance and Manhattan Beach who are certain to affected by whichever new stadium goes up near the already clogged I-405 San Diego Freeway, will have little to say about their futures.


          If this is what Brown really meant when he campaigned in 2010 on a promise to devolve more government authority to locals and away from the state, it will surely go down as one of the least green and least positive legacies of his long political career.


    -30-       
    Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is tdelias@aol.com


HUGE OIL COMPANY GAINS A SIGN OF GAS PRICE GOUGING

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2015, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
    “HUGE OIL COMPANY GAINS A SIGN OF GAS PRICE GOUGING”


          The days when oil companies could deny they’ve gouged California motorists through much of this year should have ended with the second-quarter financial reports of Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp., which together control about 40 percent of the California gasoline market.


          But their denials won’t end despite the humongous windfall financial gains they and other gasoline refiners reaped from a spring of obviously excessive gasoline prices. When the same companies unveil their third-quarter financial reports, the refiners’ take will likely be even higher.


          Valero saw California gasoline profits rise from $24 million last year to $294 million in the April-through-June period this year. Per-barrel profits rose from 99 cents in 2014 to $11.23 this year.


          Tesoro, meanwhile, reported a record profit of $668 million in the same time period, far outstripping its previous record of $415 million, set in 2007. Tesoro gasoline is sold under brand names like Arco, Shell and USA.


          Valero and Tesoro are the only oil companies specifically breaking out California refining profits in their corporate reports. Chevron, with large refineries in Richmond and El Segundo, does not distinguish California profits from other operations. But 54 percent of that firm’s refining is done here, and its company-wide refining profits rose $214 million in this year’s second quarter, the lion’s share no doubt coming from the pockets of California drivers.


          And yet, the oil industry’s regional umbrella organization, the Western States Petroleum Assn., continues to insist that oil companies did nothing out of the ordinary to create those record profits.


          It was all because of supply and demand issues beyond the control of the oil companies, insisted WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, in a response to a previous column alleging gas price gouging. She did not dispute that refiners exported gasoline to Mexico and Central and South America sufficient to supply California for three full days, or 10 percent of a month’s supply for the entire state, just before prices rose by more than $1 per gallon in many places on and immediately after July 1.


          In a blog post, Reheis-Boyd called those exports a “tiny volume” of fuel.


          And Valero Vice President Bill Day claimed in a telephone interview his company made more money because it made more gasoline – 88 percent more this spring than last. This left unexplained the higher prices and an 1,150 percent profit increase. Said Day, “Ask the dealers why prices were higher.” Three station owners told this column they charged more because Valero raised wholesale prices.


          Profits from the July price spike won’t appear in company reports until after Oct. 1; the second-quarter results reflecting earlier hikes imposed on motorists.


          Oil company executives admit the supply shortages to which they frequently expose California are highly profitable. In a conference call with stockholders, Chevron investor relations general manager Frank Mount said “Tight product supply, primarily on the West Coast, boosted refining and marketing margins and increased earnings by $165 million between quarters.”


          Chevron helped create that tight supply by shipping more than 400,000 barrels of California-refined gasoline to other countries just before the latest price spike. If tight supply means huge new profits, why would companies increase their stockpiles?


          All this angers the Silicon Valley-based billionaire Tom Steyer, who has funded several state ballot measures. In a press conference, Steyer asked that state legislators pass new laws forcing disclosure of oil refiners’ California profits. He would also require advance notice of planned outages and increased penalties for illegally conspiring to raise prices. “Oil refiners are getting rich at our expense,” Steyer said.


          If lawmakers don’t act by mid-September, he said, he might next year fund and run a ballot initiative imposing those rules, working with the Consumer Watchdog advocacy group. “Lack of transparency keeps prices artificially high,” Steyer added. “Normally, when profits and margins increase this much, a competitor steps in with lower prices. Why doesn’t the California gasoline market operate that way?”


          Whether by coincidence or not, gasoline prices dropped a bit the day of Steyer’s remarks. WSPA executives offered no explanation.


          Steyer’s comments suggest the California gas price gouging story is far from over, especially since he doesn’t deny he might run for governor in 2018. A highly visible record of fighting the oil companies could give him a strong campaign calling card.


-30-

    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

MARIJUANA HARM IGNORED IN PUSH FOR LEGALIZATION

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, AUGUST 28, 2015, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
    “MARIJUANA HARM IGNORED IN PUSH FOR LEGALIZATION”


          Four potential ballot initiatives completely legalizing marijuana are in the works for California’s next general election, with pot advocates yet to choose the variation that will get their concerted push.


          But one thing for sure: Whichever one they send out for signature gathering will say nothing about the detrimental effects of the mind-altering weed, well known as a proven demotivating factor for heavy users.


          The eventual pot legalization initiative (its official name is yet to be determined) will likely tax pot producers and dealers just like other businesses. And it will contain rules against anyone under 21 obtaining it, like measures adopted in Colorado and Washington.


          There will also be no nonsense about doctors’ recommendations, now required for medical marijuana use under Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Those recommendations, often faked, now facilitate cannabis use for plenty of folks with no discernible medical problem. This, of course, does not change the fact marijuana has helped plenty of cancer patients and others who need their pain alleviated, as well as helping vision problems and other ailments marijuana often eases.


          Essentially, all this means there is no longer much, if any, stigma attached to using marijuana. Entrepreneurs all over California are already gearing up to market everything from bongs to cannabis-laced fudge the moment legalization arrives.


          But as acceptance of marijuana has increased, both nationally and in California, the dangers also have risen. A 2014 study in the medical journal Current Addiction Reports (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40429-014-0019-6) found that using pot only once a week can lead to cognitive decline, lower IQ and memory problems. Other studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine and other peer-reviewed medical magazines report a link between recreational pot use and brain abnormalities in young adults. Some law enforcement officials report more serious problems, too.


          Not to worry, say legalization advocates, because the age limit will keep marijuana away from teenagers. The identical rule, of course, applies to alcohol, and how successful is that in preventing teenage and college drinking?


          Acceptance of pot is so widespread that two of California’s most conservative Republican congressmen, Tom McClintock of Roseville and Dana Rohrabacher of Orange County, along with liberal Democrat Sam Farr of Monterey County, are now pushing to prevent any federal interference with legalizing the weed.


          The GOP dominated House of Representatives passed the so-called Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment earlier this year on a non-partisan vote, seeking to prevent the federal Justice Department from stopping legalization anywhere. And a McClintock-sponsored amendment that barely failed in the House would have forbidden federal prosecution of pot dealers and users anyplace where state laws allow recreational marijuana.


          All this ignores the sometimes fatal effects of pot use reported in a new study from the Arizona Department of Health Services. Examining all deaths of Arizona children under age 18, the department concluded 128 fatalities in 2014 resulted from substance abuse. Marijuana was the most prevalent substance associated with child deaths, linked to 62, far more than alcohol or methamphetamine. This, when just 7.5 percent of Arizonans use marijuana regularly, compared with 52 percent who use alcohol. So there’s little doubt pot is a more serious problem for youngsters who use it than beer or liquor.


          Translate the Arizona numbers to California, six times as large but with no similar tracking of teenage deaths, and the likelihood is that more than 300 youthful fatalities here were tied to pot use last year.


          Says Sheila Polk, county attorney for Yavapai County, Ariz., northwest of Phoenix, “Legalizing an addictive drug that is linked to…increased psychosis and suicidal ideas, lowered IQ, memory loss, impaired learning and academic failure means more damaged lives and lost opportunities for our youth. It’s unconscionable to experiment this way.”


          Wrote Republican William Bennett, the nation’s first drug czar and a former secretary of education, “Overseeing or encouraging more marijuana use is just about the last thing a government trying to elevate (living conditions) would do. At stake is the safety of our youth.”


    Sadly, it’s unlikely voters will hear anything much like this when the drumbeat for legalization begins in earnest late next year.

 
    -30-

    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net