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Before you vote to send California to pot . . . .
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It sounds like a pothead’s nirvana.
California voters legalize recreational marijuana in November and the good times start rolling.
Life can’t get better, right? Enjoy a joint or two, get the munchies, and call for pizza delivery.
Sounds sweet except for one little problem. In time — as things stand now — it is highly likely that a lot of pizza places will stop delivering pizza or else jack up the price. That’s because passage of recreational marijuana in November will eventually trigger more random drug tests.
The reason is simple. All it takes is for one big time damage award resulting from an accident caused by a delivery driver who tested positive for marijuana in their system — it lingers for up to 28 days — and insurance companies will send premiums sky high. The alternative, of course, would be monthly random drug tests which can get a bit expensive.
But, you argue, this hasn’t happened elsewhere. I’ve got bad news for you. As singer Larry Gatlin noted in his Top 40 hit “All the Gold in California”, it doesn’t matter where you’ve played before California is a brand new game.
Tort law in the Golden State — along with workmen’s compensation guidelines — are on steroids compared to the other 49 states.
Even if you don’t approve of marijuana use especially for recreational purposes but have libertarian leanings, voting for legalizing it is still pure insanity.
That’s because approval in November would not happen in a vacuum. It will not automatically suspend driving under the influence laws, workplace regulations, liability rules, or workmen’s compensation policies relative to marijuana use.
Argue all you want but marijuana impacts motor skills and reaction time. If something makes you mellower it isn’t making you sharper. Alcohol starts to dissipate hours after it is consumed. Traces of marijuana linger for up to 28 days. Granted, there may end up one day be a test that can be used to set a legal limit for traces of pot in your system but it isn’t in place today. Plus, like with alcohol, you could still suffer criminal and civil damages for levels below the legal limit if it is determined in a court of law your reaction had been compromised and you were under the influence.
If you don’t think legalizing marijuana won’t trigger liability lawsuits then you are ignorant of California’s unique playing rules and haven’t spent much time in a room with a personal injury lawyer.
And if you naively believe politicians in Sacramento will amend liability and other laws to accommodate your new legal habit, you need to stop inhaling.
Republicans aren’t prone to make such changes to benefit pot users and Democrats get a big chunk of their campaign money from lawyers, insurance companies and large corporations.
Go ahead. Don’t be pragmatic. Vote to put the cart in front of the horse.
Pizza delivery is just one instance. There are trucking firms, employers that use forklifts, jobs that use equipment that can maim and kill if not used properly, and even Uber drivers.
Drug tests — although they may be random — will become the norm in a lot of industries and much more frequent. It’s called self-preservation.
You may start using marijuana recreational once it becomes legal — or use it more frequently.
You might assume you can’t lose your job if its legal and you test positive for it being in your system. Guess again. Courts in Colorado — the home of legal Rocky Mountain recreational pot highs — have unanimously upheld state laws allowing employers to fire workers that test positive for marijuana.
Governor Jerry Brown — in responding to a reporter’s question a few years back about legalizing recreation marijuana use — said that the last thing California needed was a stoned workforce.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is using legalizing marijuana as the vehicle he wants to ride to replace Brown as governor, is not pragmatic. And why should he be? After all he openly defied state law on gay marriage when he was mayor of San Francisco. But there’s a big difference between the legal marital status of people and actions that expose employers, fellow workers, and others to risk and liability.
There are also real issues of federal consequences. And while those can be avoided by the most part if the Department of Justice opts to not prosecute for low level use, the use of it can still slam the door on many employment opportunities under federal law.
If you still say you’re voting for legalizing marijuana and don’t care if you have to drive to Domino’s to get your pizza instead of being able to have it delivered, be careful not to get in a serious accident. Come back positive and you may find your insurance rates soaring.
That could happen now but it doesn’t very often. But once two things are clear — insurers have increased liability and marijuana users become a bigger risk to represent — if you have any trace of marijuana in your system when you are in an accident your rates will go into orbit or you may find yourself without insurance.
Go ahead and dismiss it as an improbable scenario.
But before you do, you might want to find out what is behind the high cost of doing business in California. I’ll give you a hint. It has a lot to do with employer liability and workmen’s comp payouts.
Forget Acapulco gold. The new premium standard will be California gold and the only ones that will get the high are tort and personal injury lawyers.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.