How The AIDS Crisis Shaped This LA Council Member's Views On Legalization

We are just a week and half away from a historic vote in California on Prop 64, which is of course the ballot measure that would legalize recreational cannabis use in California. Late last month, Brandon Killion of Civilized Studios and Civilized contributor Sharon Letts attended the State of Marijuana conference in Long Beach and chatted with several people about the significance of the upcoming vote. Over the course of the next two weeks, we'll post edited segments from some of those interviews to our special section dedicated to the coming votes in nine states on cannabis legalization questions, Ballot 2016.

We begin with a chat with Paul Koretz, a Los Angeles City Council member and longtime advocate for medical marijuana patients in California. We have included and edited transcript and video of that conversation:

Why are you so passionately engaged in this issue?

"I've been involved in medical marijuana issues for decades. I was on the West Hollywood City Council and saw so many people with AIDS that were helped by medical marijuana, when there was no other treatment. And some of them are still alive today decades later because of it. So that's what motivates me to be involved."

Are you a supporter of Prop 64?

"I am, although I can't say I care as much about recreational marijuana as medical marijuana, because I've known people whose lives have been saved and extended. But I don't have any objection to it."

"I support Prop 64. I think it'll help legitimize the use of marijuana, which gives support to patients across the state."

"What I'm hoping is it changes how the federal government treats medical marijuana. And treats it as not the most dangerous drug. The category it's in is disastrous. Hopefully having states like California pass Prop. 64 will change that."

Will it have an impact on the economy?

"I think this will create a lot of jobs. It's going to be a huge economic driver. Again, it's not my focus. My focus is to help patients with all kinds of diseases, but this will be a huge economic driver for the city, the county and the state. That's a positive we can't ignore."

What improvements are needed to the medical marijuana program?

"It makes no sense that we don't allow growing in the city of Los Angeles. But we allow the sales of medical marijuana at dispensaries as if it popped up by immaculate conception. It makes no sense that we catch and jail people as they transport medical marijuana to the dispensaries, but then the sale is legal. There are a lot of holes in the process and we have to deal with them in an intelligent. common sense way, so that our patients have true access and the people who are supplying it to them aren't being jailed and having their lives ruined."

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In the past few months, the stream of alarming news about the dangers of vaporizer cartridges has put some cannabis consumers on high alert. Since March, more than 2,000 people have gotten sick, and 40 people have died from illnesses related to vaping (VAPI, or vaping associated pulmonary injury). It is believed that the large majority of those who had become ill had used THC oil carts bought from illicit markets.

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