Young Dems, GOP Liberty Caucus back Prop. 19

Despite Chairman John Burton urging an endorsement, the California Democratic Party’s Executive Board chose this weekend to remain neutral on Proposition 19, the marijuana-legalization initiative on November’s ballot, and don’t hold your breath waiting for a California Republican Party endorsement.

But that doesn’t mean some Democratic and GOP blocs aren’t solidly behind it. The California Young Democrats, for example, endorsed it this weekend.

“A major part of our campaign strategy will be engaging young and first-time voters who are excited to come to the polls to support our initiative, and we think the Democratic Party will really benefit from the extra turnout that our campaign will provide,” said Yes on Proposition 19 Field Director James Rigdon.

The Young Dems tout the law-enforcement cost savings as well as the potential local tax revenue legalization and taxation could bring in. Far over on the other side of the aisle, the Republican Liberty Caucus of California – the Ron Paul-loving “Constitutional Republicans” – endorsed the measure this weekend, too, but in a legalzization-without-taxation stance.

“Clearly the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle free men and women living on free soil to grow and smoke marijuana,” said RLCCA Secretary Parke Bostrom. “Prop. 19 respects this right, while at the same time highlighting that under our Constitution, the federal government does not have authority to control the sale and possession of marijuana.”

RLCCA Chairman Matt Heath noted that although Prop. 19 would allow regulation and taxation of the drug, it doesn’t require it. “The RLCCA recommends voting ‘YES’ on Prop. 19, while at the same time strongly opposing any taxes and regulations that local governments may try to impose.”

John Dennis, the Republican nominee to challenge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the 8th Congressional District, said Prop. 18 would help “restore freedom to adults over what they choose to consume. In addition, it will help reduce violence between rival drug gangs and law enforcement along the U.S./Mexico border. While not perfect, Prop. 19 is a big step in the right direction.”

More on a new, well-known endorser of Prop. 19, after the jump…

Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders has joined with California NAACP President Alice Huffman and a retired Los Angeles Police narcotics detective in co-authoring the rebuttal to the measure’s opponents’ statement for publication in the state’s official voter guide.

The rebuttal essentially says that just like alcohol prohibition, outlawing marijuana hasn’t worked, merely creating a criminal market and high law-enforcement costs.

“Proposition 19 is a more honest policy, and a common sense solution to these problems. Proposition 19 will control marijuana like alcohol, making it available only to adults, enforce strong driving and workplace safety laws, put police priorities where they belong, and generate billions in needed revenue,” the rebuttal says. “We can make it harder for kids to get marijuana, or we can accept the status quo, where marijuana is easier for kids to get than alcohol. We can let police prevent violent crime, or we can accept the status quo, and keep wasting resources sending tens of thousands of non-violent marijuana consumers — a disproportionate number who are minorities — to jail. We can control marijuana to weaken the drug cartels, or we can accept the status quo, and continue to fund violent gangs with illegal marijuana sales in California. We can tax marijuana to generate billions for vital services, or we can accept the status quo, and turn our backs on this needed revenue.”

Opponents of the measure announced last week that the Democratic and Republican nominees for state Attorney General had co-authored the rebuttal arguments against Prop. 19.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    John Burton knows a lot about dope from personal experience.

  • Leonard Krivitsky, MD, DD

    It would be dramatic and powerful if Young Republicans in California joined Young Democrats in endorsing Prop. 19. It would show our respective Party elders that even if they choose to live their “political lives” in irrational fear of Cannabis, the new generation of both Parties will not support the Prohibition, as it is outdated, anti-scientific and IMMORAL!
    It is interesting that the opponents of Prop. 19 call themselves “Public safety first”. And this is when it has been conclusively shown by experts that Cannabis use suppresses violent behavior (as opposed to alcohol), and that Cannabis can even be potentially useful in addiction treatment, that is in helping people stay off booze and dangerous hard drugs or prescription drugs. Mexican drug cartels also oppose Legalization because if Cannabis is legalized all their illegal distribution networks are no longer needed. Recent scientific Conference in LA also stressed that current situation is unacceptable and unsustainable, and that it is supported by “prison-industrial complex” in this country because those are the people who benefit financially from more prisons and more prisoners. The so-called “public safety first” campaign against Proposition 19 is simply not entitled to use this name for their lies and distortions, because if we talk about “public safety”, it is the supporters of Prop. 19 and not its opponents who really care about it. Public safety will be much better served if the Proposition passes, rather than if it fails!

  • concern californian


    Smells like special interest! Why else would wealthy business men like Jeff Wilcox and Richard Lee invested $1.3 million of there own money to hire a company to obtain the requisite signatures for the current proposed initiative? And what about all the donations to Oakland council member Nancy Nadel? I’ll tell you why; so Wilcox and his cohorts at AGRAMED could be granted one the limited permits for mass cultivation!! In turn, he and his investors can monopolize the marijuana market making themselves millions!! And by the same token, they will squash all the small dispensaries that already exist. This sort of thing reminds me of how large predatory corporations like Wal- mart operate… so if passed I guess we’ll all be shopping at Agra-mart for our corporate grown pot! Prop 19. Legalize Marijuana, the lie that Jeff Wilcox and his marijuana cultivation corporation Agra Med drafted, is not telling you about their underlying scheme. Prop 19 sounds like one man’s scheme to become the largest and richest dope dealer in the country!!

    Why I will be voting no, in favor of the current and un-broken (so why fix it) medical marijuana system

    People think its legalization, its being sold as legalization even though it’s the opposite of legalization. – Dennis Peron, author of Prop. 215 that legalized medical marijuana in California

    When most marijuana activists, growers and consumers first heard about an initiative that would legalize cannabis in California, they thought it was a pipe dream come true. To many, legalization implied that it would no longer be a crime to possess, consume or distribute marijuana. Cannabis consumers rejoiced at the idea of being able to buy from their neighbors or at parties just as they already do with no legal retribution. Small-time growers had envisioned being free to sell their product to those who sought them out, with no legal repercussions. Marijuana activists thought it meant that people would stop being arrested for pot, and that the drug war would finally be over. Now that the initiative is headed to ballot, many pro-legalization supporters are coming out against it. Why?

    Simply put, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative does not reflect most peoples ideas of what legalization would be. The media often incorrectly reports that this initiative calls for full legalization” of marijuana. It does not. In fact, it reverses many of the freedoms marijuana consumers currently enjoy, pushes growers out of the commercial market, paves the way for the corporatization of cannabis, and creates new prohibitions and felonies where there is none now. Apparently, to be pro-legalization and pro-initiative are two different things entirely.

    The late-Jack Herer, legendary marijuana activist known as the father of the legalization movement, vehemently opposed the initiative. In the last words of his impassioned final speech, moments before the heart attack that would eventually claim his life, he urged people not to support it. [1] Proposition 215 author, Dennis Peron, likewise denounced the initiative, saying it is not legalization, but thinly-veiled prohibition. [2]

    Compared to the present status of cannabis in California, many marijuana activists see this initiative as a giant leap backward. Ironically, it appears that marijuana is more legal in California today than it would be if this initiative were to pass.

    The initiative itself is a hazy maze of regulations and controls, some of which are ambiguous and confusing even for those well versed in marijuana law. Understandably, many who have entered the discussion seem to have bypassed the initiative altogether and gone straight to their own assumptions of what an initiative that claims to legalize marijuana might entail, injecting the debate with as many misconceptions as facts. However, for an issue that would have such a direct and unprecedented impact on our daily lives, it is crucial to decide your vote based on knowledge, rather than assumption.

    To clarify a few of the most glaring myths about the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative, I have compiled this guide to help you VOTE KNOW!

    Myth #1: The initiative will end the War on Drugs and substantially reduce marijuana arrests, saving millions in prison costs.
    Fact: Hardly. The federal drug war will continue to drone on, of course, and growing or possessing any amount of marijuana would still be illegal under federal law. Anyone growing or possessing cannabis without a doctor’s recommendation would still be subject to arrest and seizure by the federal police although on the bright side, the Obama administration recently announced it will no longer raid individuals who are operating in compliance with medical marijuana law.[3]

    Contrary to popular assumption, the drug war in California will not end, nor will it be impacted much by the initiative. This is because the initiative does not call for full legalization; it proposes to legalize possession of only up to one ounce. In addition, in California, there is no drug war being fought against possession of up to one ounce, because marijuana is already decriminalized.

    The penalty for carrying an ounce is a mere citation and maximum $100 fine.[4] Moreover, possession of one ounce is on its way to being downgraded from a misdemeanor to an infraction, because the state Senate voted in June to reclassify its status. [5] No one goes to jail for having an ounce or less in California, and no one is arrested, because it is not an arrestable offense.

    One often-quoted statistic in the initiative debate is that misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests reached 61,388 in 2008.[6] However, it is important to note that this statistic does not refer to any arrest demographic that the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative would affect. This statistic refers only to possession of more than one ounce, possession by minors and possession on school grounds —offenses, which the initiative will not legalize. It does not refer to nor does it include marijuana arrests for possession of one ounce or less, because this is not an arrestable offense. Therefore, the initiative would have no impact on reducing these arrests rates.

    Statistically, the demographic that accounts for nearly one-quarter of total arrests for marijuana possession in California happens to be those in the 18-20 age group. Nevertheless, because the initiative explicitly makes it illegal for even adults age 18-20 to possess marijuana, these arrests will not decrease, and the drug war against young adults will rage on.

    Furthermore, since the initiative would keep possession of amounts greater than one ounce illegal and likewise maintain the illegality of private sales of any amount, the overall impact that the initiative would have on ending the drug war, reducing arrest rates and saving on prison costs would be negligible, at best.

    As an example of how highly misunderstood this initiative and its potential impact on the drug war is, the California NAACP recently pledged their support for the initiative based on the belief that it will put an end to the disproportionately high number of African-American youth going to jail “over a joint. [7] But in reality, the initiative will have no impact on this phenomenon whatsoever. As it is now, the State of California does not jail people for having a joint; it is not an arrestable offense. In addition, as mentioned above, possession of up to one ounce is on its way to being reclassified from a misdemeanor to an infraction, which carries no criminal-record stigma. The state however, does incarcerate people for selling small amounts of marijuana. In addition, since this initiative keeps private marijuana sales illegal, no matter the quantity, there will be no decrease in the number of African Americans or anyone else arrested for selling a joint.

    Not only does the initiative do little or nothing to end the drug war, but ironically, it could in fact expand the drug war, because it imposes new felonies and prohibitions against marijuana that do not exist currently.

    Contrary to the belief that it will keep people out of jail for marijuana, this initiative actually creates new demographics of people to incarcerate. (See Fact #2 and Fact #3) It is difficult to see how the government would save on court and imprisonment costs if the initiative merely shifts arrests from one demographic to another.

    Myth #2: The initiative will keep young adults out of jail for using marijuana.
    Fact: This initiative would put more young people in jail for pot. If it becomes law, any adult 21 or over who passes a joint to another adult aged 18-20 would face six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. [8] (NORML’s Web site reports that the current penalty for a gift of marijuana of 1 oz. or less is a $100 fine.[9])

    Myth #3: You’ll be able to light up freely in the privacy of your home.
    Fact: That depends. Under the initiative, even adults consuming marijuana in the privacy of their homes could face arrest if there are minors present (not something one would expect from an initiative that claims to treat marijuana like alcohol and tobacco)[10]. Current marijuana law contains no such restrictions. Thanks to Prop. 215, which legalized marijuana for medicinal use, cannabis consumers have been legally free to smoke in the privacy of their homes since 1997. This initiative seeks to undermine that freedom, making it illegal to smoke marijuana if there are minors present. (The initiative is ambiguous with regard to whether present means being in the same room as the consumer, the same house, the same apartment building, or within wafting distance apparently leaving this up to the interpretation of judges.) There is no exception for medical marijuana patients or for parents consuming in the presence of their own children.

    Myth #4: Under the initiative, anyone 21 or over will be allowed to grow marijuana in a 5×5 space.
    Fact: Not quite. This allotment is per property, not per person. If you share a residence with other people, you will be sharing a 5×5 grow space, as well. Even if you own multiple acres that many people live on, if it is considered one parcel, the space restriction of 5×5 (3-6 plants) will still apply. [11] Plus, if you rent, you will be required to obtain permission from your landlord whom they may be unwilling to grant since doing so will subject them to forfeiture by the federal government.

    Myth #5: Adults 21 and over will be able to possess up to one ounce of marijuana without penalty.
    Fact: Perhaps the most ironic piece of the puzzle is that the initiative to legalize marijuana actually makes it illegal to possess marijuana if it was purchased anywhere other than the very few licensed dispensaries in the state.[12] So if this initiative passes, better not get caught carrying marijuana you bought off your neighbor, your current dealer, or at a party; you could get arrested. Moreover, if you do buy from a licensed dispensary, better keep your receipts, because the burden of proof will be on you. Not only is this inconvenient, but it sets the industry up to be monopolized.

    What’s more, if your city decides not to tax cannabis, then buying and selling marijuana in the city limits would remain illegal. You would be permitted to possess and consume marijuana, but you would be required to travel to another city that taxes cannabis to buy it.[13] This is a move towards decreased, not increased, access. And since the initiative is so ambiguous that cities are destined to be tied up in a legal quagmire over how to interpret it, many local governments might find it simpler just to opt-out and send its citizens elsewhere. Indeed, 129 cities did just that with medical marijuana, banning it outright, while still others have established moratoriums against dispensaries. In fact, of the entire state, only the city of Oakland has endorsed the initiative. A vote for the initiative will therefore not ensure local access to purchase marijuana legally.

    Myth #6: The initiative will free up cops to focus on bigger crimes.
    Fact: Decriminalization has already achieved this. The California Police Chiefs Association publicly admits that they do not waste their time on cases involving an ounce or less.[14] Moreover, many cities have already passed measures that require law enforcement to make marijuana possession their lowest priority.

    What the initiative would do is create new prohibitions and felonies where there was none before, obligating police officers to spend valuable time enforcing them. The cases cops presently de-prioritize are minor offenses, like simple possession. Nevertheless, the initiative takes minor offenses and reclassifies them as crimes that are more serious (e.g., passing a joint to an adult 18-20). Law enforcements’ time is freed up by the elimination of prohibition, not by exchanging old prohibitions for new ones.

    Myth #7: Marijuana tax revenue will go toward education and health care.
    Fact: As it is now, state budget cuts have resulted in the closing of state parks, and health care for impoverished children has been revoked, not to mention thousands of government lay-offs. However, marijuana taxes will not be earmarked for health care, public education, the re-opening of state parks, or rehiring of laid-off government employees. Instead, the initiative specifically states that any marijuana tax revenue can be used toward enforcing the new prohibitions that the initiative enacts.[15] In this regard, not only does the initiative not end the drug war, it apparently taxes the drug to fund the drug war.

    Myth #8: Marijuana growers will be able to sell cannabis legally.
    Fact: Currently, marijuana growers in California who have a medical recommendation can and do grow and provide marijuana legally. Entire economies in Northern California exist on this industry. However, the initiative would make it illegal for anyone to sell marijuana, unless they own a licensed dispensary.[16] (See Fact #9)

    Many have suggested that growers could open marijuana-tasting venues, similar to wine-tasting at vineyards. A grower might have a chance of opening such a place, but only if he gave his product away for free, because selling it would be illegal unless he successfully navigated the notoriously difficult and prohibitively expensive process of obtaining licensure.

    Myth #9: Anyone can obtain a license to legally sell cannabis and compete in the market.
    Fact: Few people will be able to compete in the multibillion-dollar marijuana market if the initiative passes. This is because the licensing process, engineered in Oakland, is exceptionally restrictive. Of the more than a thousand dispensaries operating in California until a recent L.A. crackdown, only a handful was licensed. (Conveniently, Richard Lee, the millionaire behind the initiative, owns one of them). In Oakland, the city that is setting the precedent in the tax cannabis push, a license costs $30,000. Per year. Not to mention the rigorous application process, in which even well established, law-abiding dispensaries have been denied.

    Furthermore, Oakland has started a trend of capping the number of licensed dispensaries allowed to operate (in Oakland, that number is four). This all but guarantees that the average, small-time marijuana grower will be shut out of this multibillion-dollar industry, concentrating the profits of the potential economic boon in the hands of a small minority of wealthy entrepreneurs who are already making moves to monopolize the industry. Under this initiative, the marijuana industry will not be a free market in which everyone has a chance to compete. Instead, the initiative could mark the beginning of the corporatization of marijuana. (See also Fact #15)

    Myth #10: Medical marijuana patients would be exempt from the initiative.
    Fact: This is not exactly true. While amendments were made ostensibly to prevent the initiative from affecting current medical marijuana law, a careful reading of the initiative reveals that this is not, in fact, the case. Certain medical marijuana laws are exempt from the prohibitions the initiative would enact, while others are glaringly absent.

    Cultivation is one such law that is noticeably non-exempt.[17] In spite of the fact that the tax cannabis Web site says otherwise, the only medical marijuana exemptions that the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative actually makes are with regard to possession, consumption and purchase limits, which only ensure that patients would still be allowed to buy medicine at dispensaries. The word “cultivate” is conspicuously absent. Whereas today a person with a doctor’s recommendation has the right to grow up to an unlimited number of plants, the initiative would drastically reduce that number to whatever can fit in a 5’x5’ footprint (around 3-6 plants per property, not per person). This will force many patients to resort to buying instead of growing their own medicine, because of the inconvenience caused by producing multiple grows a year rather than growing a year’s supply of medicine at one time, as many patients currently do outdoors. In addition, growing indoors which typically requires special grow lights, an increase in hydro use, and a lot of time and attention is a comparatively expensive endeavor.

    The initiative would further impact medical marijuana patients by banning medicating in the privacy of their own homes if there are minors present, as well as in public (currently perfectly legal[18]) an invaluable liberty to those with painful diseases who would otherwise have to suffer until they got home to relieve their pain.

    Finally, the medical marijuana laws that are exempted from this initiative apparently only apply to cities. For medical marijuana patients who live in an area that has county or local government jurisdiction, according to a strict reading of the initiative, medical marijuana laws are not exempt.[19]

    Myth #11: Marijuana smokers will be free to smoke cannabis wherever cigarette smoking is allowed.
    Fact: Actually, that is the way it is now in California. There is no law prohibiting medical marijuana from being smoked wherever cigarette smoking is permitted.[20] Young adults taking bong hits in Golden Gate Park on a Sunday afternoon is just part of the San Francisco scenery. However, if this initiative passes, that freedom would disappear and we could see cops policing smoking areas to enforce this law.[21]

    Myth #12: Currently imprisoned non-violent marijuana offenders would be released.
    Fact: The initiative makes no call to release prisoners who are behind bars for any marijuana offense, no matter how minor. In fact, because it introduces new prohibitions where none exists now, the initiative could potentially be responsible for locking even more people up for marijuana.

    Myth #13: Counties in which marijuana cultivation currently thrives will experience increased economic growth.
    Fact: Entire economies could collapse in counties that currently rely on cultivating marijuana. Right now, the multibillion-dollar marijuana industry is legally subsidizing thousands of incomes in areas where unemployment is skyrocketing. For example, Mendocino County, the biggest pot-producing county in the U.S., reports that a full two-thirds of its economy is dependent on marijuana.[22] Much of this is due to current state medical marijuana laws, which allow people to legally cultivate plants and provide them to marijuana pharmacies. But this economy supports more than just farmers.

    Many local storeowners report that without marijuana farmers patronizing their businesses with cash, they would go out of business. Moreover, legitimate medical marijuana growers employ tens of thousands of seasonal workers, mostly young adults, who have managed to eke out a living in a region where none other exists, and who otherwise would have few local options to support themselves. The more humble among them are able to make a living that sustains them modestly throughout much of the year. Thousands more are able to subsidize low-paying jobs, make up for shortages in their college funding, and start creative projects such as fashion design, music production, or art. However, because the initiative would limit the number of plants one could grow from up to an unlimited amount to about six, thousands of small-time medical marijuana farmers and the young adults they employ would face economic displacement and hardship, or join the ranks of the unemployed. (For more on this, see Fact #15.)

    Myth #14: The initiative will create an employment boon similar to California’s wine industry.
    Fact: Comparisons with the wine industry are no true basis for determining the potential revenue recreational marijuana could create, because the wine industry does not operate under the same restrictions the marijuana industry would face. Namely, there is no cap on how many wineries can operate in California, or how many grapes each vineyard can grow. There are currently almost 3,000 vineyards in the state, whereas since the April crackdown in L.A., there are fewer than 300 dispensaries (of which only a few are licensed). Moreover, if cities continue to follow the trend set by Oakland and cap the number of licensed dispensaries allowed to operate, then the thousands of people currently legally employed by dispensaries would dwindle drastically.

    Myth #15: The initiative will limit the viability of Mexican drug cartels.
    Fact: Mexican drug cartels are already being undermined tremendously thanks to the legions of small-time farmers growing in California. The Washington Post reported on October 7, 2009:

    Almost all of the marijuana consumed in the multibillion-dollar U.S. market once came from Mexico or Colombia. Now as much as half is produced domestically, often by small-scale operators who painstakingly tend greenhouses and indoor gardens to produce the more potent… product that consumers now demand, according to authorities and marijuana dealers on both sides of the border. Stiff competition from thousands of mom-and-pop marijuana farmers in the United States threatens the bottom line for powerful Mexican drug organizations in a way that decades of arrests and seizures have not, according to law enforcement officials and pot growers in the United States and Mexico. [23]

    These mom-and-pop growers do not fit the stereotype of the gang-war era drug pusher or Mexican drug cartel growing marijuana irresponsibly and setting forests on fire. Many of them are law-abiding citizens, legally growing medical marijuana under Prop. 215. They are the people you see at your local organic health food store, or shopping in the community, putting much-needed cash directly into the local economy while the national economy flounders in recession. These small-time marijuana farmers use the money they earn from providing medicine to finance their kids education, help out their laid-off parents and put themselves through school. In some cases, entire communities depend on them.

    However, if this initiative passes, the growers that are single-handedly undercutting the Mexican drug cartels would no longer be able to legally operate and the face of the marijuana industry could change from the local one we recognize to an impersonal corporate entity, leaving a spate of displaced marijuana farmers in its wake.

    One corporation that is poised to take the place of the mom-and-pop growers is AgraMed. While Oakland’s city council prepares to consider a proposal in July to license four commercial indoor marijuana farms in the city, AgraMed has plans to build a 100,000-sq.-ft. marijuana mega-farm near Oakland International Airport that, according to projections, could generate 58 pounds of pot a day and $59 million a year in revenue. The company’s president, Jeff Wilcox a member of the steering committee of the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative reportedly hopes to “bring a degree of corporate structure to the marijuana industry. [24]

    The language that backers of the initiative use itself is cause for concern among pro-marijuana supporters. Instead of speaking out against the injustice of jailing people over a plant that is widely known not only to be harmless, but beneficial, these multimillionaire supporters of the initiative speak only of their intentions to corporatize marijuana. The owner of one leading marijuana dispensary that already earns well over $20 million a year was quoted in the New York Times as having aspirations to become the McDonald’s of marijuana.”[25] The proprietors of Oakland’s new I-Grow hydroponics store want it to be known as the Wal-Mart of grow stores. [26] Meanwhile, Marijuana, Inc., a multimillion-dollar corporation, has plans to build cannabis resorts in the Northern California counties that currently survive off the medical marijuana industry.[27] They intend to create golf resorts with acres of marijuana gardens featuring hundreds of strains. (Apparently, under this initiative, corporations would be permitted to grow quite large quantities of cannabis, while cultivation would be restricted to 5 x 5 plots for everyone else.)

    The accusations that medical marijuana growers oppose the initiative out of greed are clearly grossly unfounded. It is obvious who has intentions of increasing their bottom line. Small-time marijuana farmers simply want to continue making a humble living off the land. They are the ones who built the marijuana industry, but this initiative seeks to allow corporations to take their hard work and turn it into profits for themselves, locking farmers out of the industry entirely.

    We have seen this trend before in the United States. Our history is replete with small farmers being taken over by huge corporations. Hundreds of thousands of mom-and-pop businesses have been forced out of business by conglomerates like Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and Monsanto, which those who benefit from such takeovers have justified by calling it “progress.” But is it? And is this the sort of “progress” we want to see take over the marijuana industry? Is this the world Peter Tosh had in mind when he implored us to “legalize it?

    Marijuana may well be the final bastion of farmer-owned, worker-owned, business autonomy in this country. Will we allow it, too, to go the way of nearly every other homegrown industry in the history of the United States? We all hope for legalization. But must we have such a drastic, Faustian trade-off for this freedom? And is it really freedom if we must lose our autonomy to gain it?

    One farmer’s response to the news of Marijuana Inc.’s resort aspirations poignantly sums up the pending reality should the initiative pass:

    Marijuana, Inc., has big plans to invade the Emerald Triangle and surrounding counties to really capitalize on marijuana tourism. Maybe that sounds like fun to people that are not from around here, but it is really going to take away a lot of opportunity from the locals who make this place what it is. I feel that the people here who created this industry are going to be left in the dust for the most part… There is just too much money at stake and that is what these people are all about. This is the equivalent of the giant hotels popping up on the Hawaiian Islands and the locals being told, you can still work at the resort. We will need maids and groundskeepers who’ll work for minimum wage…[28]

    What is currently a small-time, largely organic industry on which entire economies survive, and without which entire economies would collapse, could soon become dominated by corporations if this initiative passes. The days of “knowing your dealer” and what goes into your pot could soon be over, and marijuana, a sacrament too many, could become corporatized. Are corporations inherently evil? No. But if we have the option to keep millions of dollars in our own communities, spread out over hundreds of thousands of people, it hardly seems sensible to outsource this employment to corporations and into the hands of a few.

    Is it possible to have marijuana legalization without legalizing corporate takeover of the industry? Absolutely. Will those who are passionate about marijuana live to regret voting in an initiative that treats marijuana as a publicly traded commodity and turns it into something as abhorrent as Wal-Mart and McDonald’s? Absolutely. Do we have to settle for this? Absolutely not.

    Myth #16: The price of marijuana will drop.
    Fact: The value of marijuana might decrease if it becomes more commercially available and more people grow their own, but the price of a product depends less on its value and more on the degree of competition that exists with regard to selling it. Since your options for purchasing marijuana would be among only a handful of licensed dispensaries in the state, there is no guarantee of a decrease in price. Less competition means higher prices.

    Indeed, by AgraMed’s own estimation, in order to make $59 million a year off 58 pounds per day, they would have to charge $175 per ounce wholesale (roughly $2,800 per pound) and that is if they produced 58 pounds 365 days a year. If they managed to produce that output only 5 days a week, that price would leap to $245 an ounce (about $3900 per pound). With shelf-prices at dispensaries often set at double the wholesale purchase price not to mention the compulsory tax added onto every ounce (which Richard Lee stated in an interview was “recommended” to be $50)—the price of marijuana could potentially be higher than it is in our current market, in which the price of a pound has already fallen to $2,000, according to a recent National Public Radio report; a direct result of healthy competition, not its opposite.[29]

    Myth #17: We can vote in the initiative and fix the tangles as they come up.
    Fact: Initiatives create permanent statutes. Once an initiative is voted into law, it cannot be reversed. It remains law forever. It is worth noting that this initiative makes some unusual provisions with regard to amendments. For starters, it allows the legislature (traditionally hostile toward marijuana legislation) to amend the initiative without voter approval. Furthermore, it allows amendments, but “only to further the purposes of the Act.”[30] Under a monopolized, corporate-controlled distribution process, the purposes might become more narrowly defined.

    Many of the issues that pro-legalization supporters have with the initiative could be easily rectifiable with a few sentences and an amendment-submission to the Attorney General’s office. It would have required very little on the part of the initiative authors to remove the vagueness from the wording that bans smoking cannabis in any “space” where minors are “present, for example, or to add an exemption for medical marijuana patients and parents consuming in the presence of their own children. It would have required very little to write into the initiative a line that would exempt medical marijuana patients from the public smoking ban and protect their right to grow medicine in amounts sufficient for their individual needs. After all, these are items that should not be considered luxuries under legalized marijuana; they should be rights. And we should settle for nothing less.

    Unfortunately, the deadline to make changes to the initiative before the November elections has already passed, and to achieve these changes via subsequent voter referendums would be a complicated and drawn-out process that could take years. Making the initiative acceptable before voting it into law is therefore essential.

    Myth #18: This is our only chance to take a step in the direction of legalization.
    Fact: This is only our first chance it will certainly not be the last. There were three other initiatives that sought to be placed on the ballot this year; all three would have legalized not only possession, but also private distribution among individual adults. Some even called for the release of non-violent marijuana offenders. However, staffed exclusively by volunteers, all failed to gather the required number of signatures for the petitions. (Richard Lee invested $1.3 million of his own money to hire a company to obtain the requisite signatures for the current proposed initiative.[31])

    What now?

    The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative are not the only path to legalization. We have come so far, and are now so close it is imperative that we let the next step be the right one. Legalized marijuana is within reach, yet the movement could be set back with such a problematic initiative at the helm. Instead of rushing to pass a measure that prohibits marijuana under the guise of legalization, we can draft an initiative that calls for true legalization and that has the full support of marijuana law reform organizations and leaders of the movement.

    The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative is rife with ambiguity, expands the War on Drugs, undermines the medical marijuana movement, arrests more people for marijuana, offers no protection for small farmers and insufficient protection for medical marijuana users, has a high potential for monopolization, provides no regulations to prevent corporate takeover of the industry, cartelizes the economy, and divides our community into poor, unlicensed, mom-and-pop gardener versus rich, licensed, corporate farmer. Moreover, since the one thing that is clear about the initiative is that it is vague, it could very easily prove to be a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences. Beyond its vagueness, which itself is problematic, these side effects are inherently socially dangerous. The impact that such a failed legalization initiative could have on the movement nation-wide could be disastrous.

    This is not a question of whether to legalize or not to legalize. Legalization is the goal and it is inevitable. The question is whether we want to rush in and settle for an initiative that is so poorly worded as to be ambiguous, and so vague as to be open to vast interpretation from judges or wait for the wording and other inconsistencies to be corrected for 2012. If we hold out for a perfect initiative, we will wait forever. But if we at least hold out for an initiative that is direct, unambiguous, well defined and clearly written, we will have an unprecedented opportunity to inspire the world to join the movement to legalize marijuana.

    Many pro-legalization activists are rallying behind the idea of taking the time to craft an initiative that will be a clear step up from the current cannabis situation of in California and will result in increased access not its opposite. Both NORML and the MPP, the foremost cannabis law reform organizations in the country, have suggested we wait and make another attempt at legalization during the 2012 elections. Dale Gieringer, Director of California’s NORML, said, I do think it’s going to take a few more years for us to develop a proposal that voters will be comfortable with.”[32] Likewise, Bruce Mirken, MPP’s Director of Communications, was quoted as saying, “In our opinion, we should wait and build our forces and aim at 2012.[33]

    Ultimately, the decision is not up to any organization; it’s up to YOU. How will you vote? Read the initiative for yourself and just VOTE KNOW!

    “I hope people find the hope and inspiration to broadcast this, understand (the initiative), read it, and know that it’s a step backwards. And we can do better. We will do better.” – Dennis Peron

    Sidebar: What it Actually Says

    About possessing marijuana bought somewhere other than a licensed outlet:
    Section 3: Lawful Activities: Section 11301: Commercial Regulations and Controls: (g) prohibit
    and punish through civil fines or other remedies the possession, sale, possession for sale, cultivation, processing, or transportation of cannabis that was not obtained lawfully from a person pursuant to this section or section 11300; [Section 11300: (i) possession for sale regardless of amount, except by a person who is licensed or permitted to do so under the terms of an ordinance adopted pursuant to section 11301.]

    About the punishment for giving marijuana to adults age 18-20:
    Section 4: Prohibition on Furnishing Marijuana to Minors: (c) Every person 21 years of age or over who knowingly furnishes, administers, or gives, or offers to furnish, administer or give, any marijuana to a person aged 18 years or older, but younger than 21 years of age, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of up to six months and be fined up to $1,000 for each offense.

    About smoking in the presence of minors:
    Section 3: Lawful Activities: Section 11300: Personal Regulation and Controls: (c) “Personal consumption” shall not include, and nothing in this Act shall permit: (iv) smoking cannabis in any space while minors are present.

    About using marijuana tax revenue to fund law enforcement against pot prohibition:
    Section 11302: Imposition and Collection of Taxes and Fees (a) Any ordinance, regulation or other act adopted pursuant to section 11301 may include imposition of appropriate general, special or excise, transfer or transaction taxes, benefit assessments, or fees, on any activity authorized pursuant to such enactment, in order to permit the local government to raise revenue, or to recoup any direct or indirect costs associated with the authorized activity, or the permitting or licensing scheme, including without limitation: administration; applications and issuance of licenses or permits; inspection of licensed premises and other enforcement of ordinances adopted under section 11301, including enforcement against unauthorized activities.

    About medical marijuana exemptions:
    B: Purposes, 7: Ensure that if a city decides not to tax and regulate the sale of cannabis, that buying and selling cannabis within that city’s limits remain illegal, but that the city’s citizens still have the right to possess and consume small amounts except as permitted under Health and Safety Sections 11362.5 and 11362.7 through 11362.9. (Note: The word “cultivate” is conspicuously absent here as well as in the exempted Health and Safety Sections that pertain to medical marijuana laws.)

    About leaving medical marijuana cultivation law in the hands of local government:
    Section 11301: Commercial Regulations and Controls: Notwithstanding any other provision of state or local law, a local government may adopt ordinances, regulations, or other acts having the force of law to control, license, regulate, permit or otherwise authorize, with conditions, the following: (a) cultivation, processing, distribution, the safe and secure transportation, sale and possession for sale of cannabis, but only by persons and in amounts lawfully authorized. (Note: This section provides no exemptions for medical marijuana law.)

    About the right to cultivate:
    Section 3: Lawful Activities: Section 11300: Personal Regulation and Controls: (ii) Cultivate, on private property by the owner, lawful occupant, or other lawful resident or guest of the private property owner or lawful occupant, cannabis plants for personal consumption only, in an area of not more than twenty-five square feet per private residence or, in the absence of any residence, the parcel.

    Concern Californian

  • This is for concerned californians. Go ahead and vote no you idiot, you will accomplish nothing. It sure likes the measure will pass without your help, and you are a blowhard who writes a whole freaking novel just to illustrate what an innefectual individual you are. Whaaaaa.