Pot Laws Up In Smoke?

man with marijuana plants CBS

There's less than a week to go in Campaign 2000, and attention is naturally focused on the presidential race and "big" issues like taxes and Social Security.

But on Tuesday, voters will also decide on many local issues, and as CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone reports, in one California county, the smoking-hot issue is whether marijuana should be legalized.

Those campaigning to legalize marijuana in Mendocino County are asking voters to back a rebellion.

Residents of the county's small towns and rugged coastline will vote on "Measure G", which would exempt users and small growers from most marijuana laws.

Norm Vroman is the chief law enforcement officer in a county believed to produce much of the nation's marijuana.

The district attorney is told his county is a good place to grow what he is also told is good quality pot. But Vroman says even if county residents vote to legalize it, he'll still be sworn to uphold federal laws against marijuana.

That said, Vroman adds, "I think the people of Mendocino county are sick and tired of laws that don't work."

Only a few lonely voices oppose this attempt to legalize.

"It sends a very dangerous signal, I believe, to our children," says County Supervisor Michael Delbar.

Marijuana growers like "Patrick" applaud county law enforcement for its hands off approach to this election.

Hearing that both the sheriff and the D.A. aren't speaking out against this measure, a lot of people across the country might ask what those are guys smoking.

Patrick doesn't wonder. "They ain't smoking nothing; but they got an extra helping of common sense somewhere down the line."

Mendocino County has seen repeated government efforts to control marijuana fail. And now, even cattle rancher John Pinches, a near lifelong Republican, figures it's time to end the resistance.

"We subsidize tobacco growers and we give wine growers awards at our county fairs but yet we throw marijuana growers in prison. Its absolutely ludicrous," says Pinches.

In much of the country, a proposal to legalize marijuana would create an uproar. But in Mendocino County, the voters handbook doesn't even contain an argument against the measure. No one bothered to write one.

Voters say it's high time that politicians listened to the grass roots.


  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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