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Throughout California there are local initiatives on the ballots to ease restrictions on the sale and use of marijuana. The state has already established states’ rights for California farmers, retailers and consumers. Now is it time for local governments to allow the free market to prosper. Passing these initiatives is a giant step toward economic recovery, states’ rights, and the rights of small businesses and individuals. Laws or restrictions on the individual and business should only be imposed if the costs to self or society outweigh any benefits.

Like wine, marijuana can be grown all over the world, but California is blessed with an ecosystem that produces the finest and most expensive weed on the market. This is a multi-million dollar industry that contributes 5 percent to state tax and any local taxes imposed. There are no ‘weed Walmarts’ selling merchandise from China and taking profits out of our state. Marijuana producers are our neighbors, they take care of their families and they deserve the same rights and dignity as any other farmer in our state. They work hard and invest their money. They have the right to grow and sell their produce and to live without fear of governmental or personal persecution. Retail stores pay rent, insurance, utilities, taxes and hire employees. The profit is generated in our state and stays in our state.

The customers that shop in stores are taxpaying citizens and members of our community. Yes, there is a growing demographic of people that are using marijuana instead of pills or chemicals for their illnesses. Good for them. The immediate and long-term side effects of marijuana use are minimal. Man-made products can be deadly and often produce physical and emotional side effects that are worse than the original illness.

But the rest of the customers that purchase marijuana are simply adults of legal age. In this country we are free men. We do not need a reason or ‘doctor’s excuse’ to live our lives as we choose. We want the same safety and convenience to purchase marijuana that we have with any other product we choose to consume. The short- and long-term effects of marijuana to self and society are far less than that of booze or tobacco. Congress has never had the right or power to create restrictions that infringe on the individual rights of man.

Government officials suggest that crime will go up if there are marijuana stores, but removing marijuana from the streets will have the opposite effect. They separate the legitimate producer, retailer and consumer from the criminals. This will allow law enforcement to better utilize their resources and focus on hard-core crime.

Opposition to marijuana initiatives are primarily from individuals and agencies that are funded with taxpayer dollars. Government agencies and employees are hired to serve and protect the citizenry, not to sell out the citizenry to the highest bidder.

City councilmembers are elected to represent the best interests of the community, but they are being trained by lobbyists to undermine small business growth and the individual rights of the citizens. Law enforcement officials are also attempting to block marijuana initiatives for fear of losing their power and control. Law enforcement’s job is to serve and protect the community, not to protect the drug cartels’ turf.

The state of California is criticized for restrictions on the individual and business, but it is not the state that is restricting the free market; it is the local municipalities. It is time for “We the People” to stand up against government oppression and for the individual rights of man.

Libi Uremovic lives in Imperial Beach.

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