Legalizing cannabis was supposed to be about social justice. About ending mass incarceration of people of color for possessing a small amount of marijuana. About safer legal access.

But there are many things legalization should not be about. It should not be about initiating and hooking more kids, or adding neurologically active and psychoactive substances to our food.

Yet all these things are happening. The cannabis lobbyists are no longer off-the-grid farmers from the Emerald Triangle. They are Altria, one of the world’s largest tobacco companies and Constellation, a major alcohol company. The halls of our state Capitol are replete with cannabis and hemp lobbyists successfully selling their goods.

As this legislative session winds down, at least two dangerous cannabis and hemp-related bills are moving forward.

Assembly Bill 1302, which recently passed by one vote, will assure that our kids grow up seeing billboards for cannabis, just as I grew up with the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel. When we legalized cannabis, Proposition 64 promised that California would have stringent protections for children, and prohibited billboards. The state turned around and allowed them through regulation.

A second bill, Assembly Bill 45, introduced by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, a Democrat from Woodland, claims to create a regulatory system for hemp, but poses different problems. An 11th-hour amendment deal only made public Thursday night will legalize production of a new class of smokable hemp products prohibited in previous versions. It will include flavored hemp e-cigarettes and cigarettes that attract kids — provided the flavors are “natural.” If AB 45 passes, smokable hemp will be the new path to introduce youth to smoking.

There is longstanding U.S. Food and Drug Administration policy to keep the pharmaceutical and food markets separate — you can’t sprinkle licensed pharmaceuticals into food. But AB 45 will undermine this policy by allowing addition of hemp-derived CBD, THC and the more than 100 other cannabinoids in hemp to food, supplements and pet products.

California is making progress in ending the injustices from the war on drugs. But we can allow safer legal access to cannabis and useful hemp products without going backward in our commitments to public health and food safety.

Dr. Lynn Silver is a pediatrician and senior adviser at the Public Health Institute.

Recommended for you

(3) comments

uffish thought

"Legalizing cannabis was supposed to be about...ending mass incarceration of people of color"

No it wasn't. And if people keep neurotically seeing everything through racist lenses then racism will continue to get worse, not better.


There has never - in the history of earth - been a drug ring as lucrative, destructive and evil as the triad of medical doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and drug distributors that systematically overprescribed and profited from opiate pain killers.

The fact that you even have time to worry about marijuana illustrates how broken the system is.

Drugs suck. Marijuana sucks. But it wasn’t marijuana that killed 57,550 Americans last year alone while putting a lot of extra zeros on the checks of doctors - pediatricians included.

Would you treat capillary bleeding before a gun shot wound? No? Then what sense does this make?


Good comments but the MOST abused drug not many talk about is alcohol. There are some interesting down stream benefits using CBD's and derivatives.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

More Stories