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And now, a bit of tax-board marijuana humor.

Best headline I’ve seen in a while on a government news release: “Cannabis Learning Tour Provides Tax Policy Insight into Budding Industry.”

Get it? BUDDING.

Hey, I know it’s not subtle, but most of the releases I see are utterly humorless.

Fiona MaThis one came from the Board of Equalization, announcing that members Fiona Ma and Vice Chair George Runner took a listening and learning tour through Humboldt County this week with leaders in the area’s cannabis industry. Up there in the “Emerald Triangle,” it’s a substantial chunk of the local economy. Ma and Runner sought perspective on the product, from seed to sale, to help shape tax policy; the release didn’t mention whether they inhaled.

“I am proud to be a part of these informational meetings as part of a broader effort to engage stakeholders who will play an integral role in the regulation of this industry,” Ma said in the release. “Our goal is to encourage this industry to come out of the shadows, to register, to become legal, and that is where we must find a balance for the future of our state.”

George RunnerRunner said the tour “provided helpful insights into how we can work with the medical marijuana industry to promote compliance with California tax laws. This is a growing industry [ed. note – pun intended?], but we’re currently missing out on a great deal of revenue that is owed to the state.”

State law requires medical marijuana sales be taxed at the local tax rate where the product is sold or will be used, so Runner and Ma want state and local governments get what they’re due.

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Brownie Mary Democratic Club rises in East Bay

The East Bay has its first marijuana-oriented Democratic club.

As Brownie Mary Democratic Club, created to advocate for the rights of California marijuana. has been chartered by the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee with members including Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward; county Democratic chairwoman Robin Torello; and county committeewoman Ginny DeMartini. It’ll be chaired by committeewoman Denise Martellaci and vice-chaired by committeeman Rick Trullinger.

“The Brownie Mary Club will help bridge the cannabis community throughout Alameda County and educate our elected and future elected with cannabis reform issues,” Martellacci said in a news release. “Our Brownie Mary members are representatives from a wide spectrum and will demonstrate to the Democratic community our seriousness and abilities to meet our 2016 goal of full marijuana legalization for adults in the state of California.”

Members of the club are already walking precincts for cannabis-friendly candidates, and plan to help with phone banking and fundraisers. But its first order of business was to make endorsements – no surprises in the state, congressional and legislative races – including Rebecca Kaplan for Oakland mayor and taking a “no” position on Proposition 46 and a “yes” on Proposition 47.

The new club also is working on a pending Alameda County ordinance that would limit use of e-cigarettes, by advocating for patients who vaporize their medical marijuana.

It’s named for “Brownie Mary” Rathbun, a renowned activist who baked brownies for AIDS patients in San Francisco in the run-up to California voters’ approval for legal medical marijuana in 1996.

The Alameda County club is the sixth such group chartered in the state, after Riverside, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Francisco. The previous clubs were a visible presence at the March 2014 state Democratic convention in Los Angeles, and succeeded in getting the party to add a platform plank supporting “the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana in a manner similar to that of tobacco or alcohol.

Also represented in the club are cannabis reform groups California NORML, the Drug Policy Alliance and the California Cannabis Industry Association, along with cannabis advocates Dan Grace of Dark Heart Nursery, Sean Luce of Berkeley Patients Group, attorney James Anthony, and Hank Levy, CPA. Union representative Debra Pearson, with SEIU Local 1021’s Alameda County Committee on Political Education, and campaign strategist Mark Goodwin are also on board.

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Nehring ad: Newsom’s policies encourage addiction

Ron Nehring, the Republican challenger to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, has launched his first video ad, claiming Newsom’s policies will lead to more drug addiction.

http://youtu.be/K3yUym9DqPM

Nehring spokeswoman Nyna Armstrong said the ad will run online only, at least for now. “Then, we’ll decide what our ad buy will be based on the response that we get.”

Newsom campaign spokesman Sean Clegg seemed angry that a reporter had contacted him seeking comment.

“This is not an ad,” he replied by email. “This is a video produced to hoodwink journalists into writing that he has an ad. There is no real TV buy. If I send you the video my eight-year-old son made will you post that too?”

Nehring’s ad features a series of women speaking to the camera. “In America, one baby is born addicted to drugs every hour. More lives destroyed. If Gavin Newsom gets his way, drug abuse in California will skyrocket. More women addicted to drugs.”

“These are our daughters. Mothers. Sisters. Friends,” it continues. “You can’t be pro-woman, and be pro-more women addicted to drugs. There’s nothing Democratic. Nothing progressive. About addiction.”

Yet Nehring’s ad never mentions how Newsom’s policies would further drug addiction.

Newsom last year was tapped to head the American Civil Liberties Union’s panel studying marijuana legalization in California, with an eye toward drafting a measure for 2016’s presidential-year ballot. He said at the time, and has reiterated since, that he can’t support a status quo of high prison and police costs associated with marijuana enforcement that disproportionately affects minority communities. He recently said the same on KQED’s “Forum” radio show, saying he favors taxing and regulating marijuana to keep it out of children’s hands.

The jury is still out on whether recent recreational legalization in Colorado and Washington state have led to increased use or abuse, with organizations and agencies on both side offering conflicting reports.

Nehring, a former state GOP chairman from El Cajon, offered a 2010 RAND Corp. study to bolster his claim that “drug abuse in California will skyrocket;” the study actually projected “consumption will increase, but it is unclear how much.”

Nehring issued a statement saying California faces big challenges with poverty, unemployment and failing schools, and “we don’t solve them by swinging wide open the doors for more drug abuse and dependency. That’s a distraction that takes our state in exactly the wrong direction.”

Nehring said he supports reforming drug policy by focusing on treatment instead of imprisonment, as the Project SAM organization advocates. “Gavin Newsom will claim that there are only two choices: the status quo or his legalization idea. Yet, there is a third and better way that puts the emphasis on treatment while avoiding creating the conditions that will lead to skyrocketing addiction in California.”

Newsom differs from several prominent fellow Democrats such as Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who oppose legalization. Attorney General Kamala Harris has said California should wait and learn from Colorado and Washington, while her Republican challenger, Ron Gold, is more forthright in his support of legalization.

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Pot measures seek signatures at Miley Cyrus show

Proponents of a San Jose medical marijuana initiative will gather signatures outside San Jose’s SAP Center on Tuesday night as Miley Cyrus brings her “Bangerz” tour to town.

Miley CyrusKnow thy demographic: The first rule of ballot measures.

The Medical Marijuana Regulation for San Jose Act (MMRSJ) was created in response to what proponents say was the city’s failure to provide workable regulations for its cannabis clubs. It’s supported by the Silicon Valley Cannabis Coalition, Americans for Policy Reform, Control & Regulate San Jose, and most cannabis clubs in the city, they say.

“MMRSJ puts in place reasonable regulations and creates a commission to address any impact to the community. For the past 5 years, without regulations, we have had the wild-west in San Jose. That needs to stop,” proponent Dave Hodges founder of the All American Cannabis Club, said in a news release. “It is crucial that we collect enough signatures to make the San Jose ballot. We have been here before with the city, and the regulations they proposed forced us to do a referendum. We must put reasonable regulations in place to stop the city council from creating something we cannot live with.”

Proponent John Lee, founder of Americans for Policy Reform, said closure of cannabis clubs shouldn’t be indiscriminate. “It should be based on the community needs. If a cannabis club is disturbing the neighborhood and creating a nuisance, then of course it should be shut down. On the other hand, a well run cannabis club can have a positive impact and enhance their community.”

They’re hoping to finish their signature drive by April 20. 4/20. Of course.

Lee and Hodges also are proponents for a statewide marijuana legalization measure – the Marijuana Control, Legalization & Revenue Act – that’s struggling to gather signatures by mid-April in order to qualify for this November’s ballot.

“Don’t worry, we will be collecting signatures for the 2014 statewide legalization at the show as well,” Hodges said.

We weren’t worried.

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Lawmakers urge Obama to reclassify marijuana

Eighteen House members, including six from the Bay Area, wrote to President Obama today urging him to use his authority to move marijuana off the federal government’s list of most-restricted drugs.

Marijuana currently is listed on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, a list for drugs deemed to have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the United States and a lack of accepted safety under medical supervision. The lawmakers’ letter says this “makes no sense” for marijuana, and calls on the president to instruct Attorney General Eric Holder to reclassify the drug.

“Classifying marijuana as Schedule I at the federal level perpetuates an unjust and irrational system,” the letter says. “Schedule I recognizes no medical use, disregarding both medical evidence and the laws of nearly half of the states that have legalized medical marijuana.”

The letter comes days after Obama told the New Yorker magazine that he believes marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, a comment that has brought criticism from anti-drug activists.

Among those signing the letter were Reps. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton. The only Republican among the 18 signers was Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach.

The Controlled Substances Act gives authority for rescheduling controlled substances to Congress, but it also grants executive branch authority to the U.S. Attorney General and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Several rescheduling bills have gone nowhere in recent years.

“President Obama just told the nation during his State of the Union address that because Congress has been unable to act, he would take executive action where he could on behalf of helping the American people,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access. “The president has the authority to reclassify marijuana and could exercise that authority at any time.”

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Ammiano: No marijuana legalization bill in 2014

With two marijuana legalization ballot measures already seeking petition signatures and two more under review by the state attorney general, a lawmaker who’s been a longtime legalization supporter says this isn’t the right year for California to take the plunge. (See update below.)

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, believes the Golden State’s lawmakers should watch, wait and learn from the experiences of Washington and Colorado, which already have legalized marijuana. Meanwhile, he said, he’ll carry a bill again to create a regulatory structure for medical marijuana so patients have a safe supply.

Here’s his full statement:

Tom Ammiano“It’s clear to me – as we work to pass smart marijuana laws – that momentum is growing. If the critical mass has not been reached, it looks very close when the President of the United States recognizes the negative effects of our excessive laws against cannabis, as he did in his recent New Yorker interview. We can’t afford to spend these resources when the only result is the loss of so much human potential. As President Obama suggested, we can’t afford a system that disproportionately falls on the poor.

“Another sign of momentum: the recent California legislative analyst’s evaluation of two marijuana legalization initiatives showing that they would save tens of millions of dollars and generate significant revenues. Although my focus has been on medical cannabis for those who need it, I have always been a supporter of legalization. Some have suggested we have to see what happens with legalization in Washington and Colorado before we act.

“No. We already know that what we’re doing here in California is not working. We can’t perpetuate problems while we wait. Let’s watch Washington and Colorado, but we have to keep California moving ahead.

“This year, I will again have legislation to create a regulatory structure for medical marijuana. Nearly two decades after voters legalized cannabis for those who have a medical need, we still see a chaotic environment of prosecutions, threats and confusing court decisions. Having lived through the worst years of the AIDS epidemic, I have seen what a lifesaver cannabis can be for those who are sick.

“We need to have a regulatory structure to make sure that patients have a safe supply, free of criminal influence. We also need this to ensure that growers are environmentally responsible, and to make sure that medical recommendations are based on real needs, not some doctor’s profit motive.

“I will continue to work with all responsible parties to make sure this is the best bill we can offer and one that we will pass this year. This is the time to strike.”

UPDATE @ 12:26 P.M. WEDNESDAY: I misunderstood Ammiano’s intent. Spokesman Carlos Alcala says Ammiano “supports legalization, and thinks it is time, but does not see that as an option in the Legislature. He is focused on medical marijuana regulation in the Legislature.”