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Tobacco researchers offer dim assessment of a marijuana legalization measure proposed for California ballot

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SAN FRANCISCO — A marijuana legalization measure likely to end up on the California ballot this year does not do enough to prioritize public health over business interests with the financial incentive and political clout to downplay any adverse effects of allowing people to use pot recreationally, two researchers with expertise in curbing tobacco use said Tuesday.

Stanton Glantz and Rachel Barry of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco said that while they support legalization, they worry the initiative as currently written would create a legal marijuana market dominated by large players with the incentive and political clout to downplay the adverse health effects of pot, just as tobacco companies did decades ago.

"The goal of any marijuana regulatory framework should be to treat marijuana regulation like tobacco regulation, allowing sale and use to be legal, while simultaneously creating an environment where falling numbers of people are interested in buying and using it," they wrote in a 50-page analysis of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

Barry and Glantz published their critique the day after the California Medical Association endorsed the initiative spearheaded by former Facebook President and backed by Lt. Gov. and the nation's leading marijuana advocacy groups.

Dr. Donald Lyman, a co-proponent of the initiative and former chief of the California Department of Public Health's Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Control, said in a statement that the UCSF researchers disregarded the detailed product-labeling requirements, advertising restrictions and other safeguards written into the ballot measure.

"With due respect to Ms. Barry and Dr. Glantz and their unquestionably proud legacy in the field of tobacco research, their analysis is not just factually inaccurate in several key areas but its fundamental premise — that marijuana must be regulated exactly like tobacco — represents an awkward minority opinion not widely shared within the public health community," Lyman said.

The initiative's backers have until July 5 to gather the signatures needed to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

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