Legalization

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Senior US Appeals Court Judge Says Drug War 'Lost,' Country Should Try Legalizing Marijuana

U.S. federal appeals court judge Judge Juan Torruella says the United States should consider legalizing marijuana and perhaps other drugs as it is a better way to reduce drug abuse and crime.
Publication/Source: 
The Canadian Press (Canada)
URL: 
http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5jfyVtRpH9HS60T2KCmINiiIHujWA?docId=5090089

The Marijuana Legalization Movement Takes Aim at 2012 [FEATURE]

Disappointed yet emboldened by Proposition 19's eight point loss a week ago, state and national marijuana legalization leaders are already planning to push for initiatives in as many as five states in 2012. Meetings in California and Colorado in the past few days are laying the groundwork for legalization initiatives there, and similar efforts are being talked about for Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

Rep. Tom Ammiano will get even more attention now.
With election post-mortems already yielding to pre-planning the next campaigns, the legalization movement smells victory in the air not too far down the road. And the Yes On 19 campaign team is hitting the ground running.

"I just got out of a meeting where we're trying to put together an all-star team to be the board for a 2012 campaign," said Richard Lee, the Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur behind the Prop 19 campaign. "We're hoping to have a formal announcement Thursday, but we'll see how that goes."

If it happens, though, don't count on Lee to be kicking in a million-plus dollars again. "Part of the reason for building this coalition is that I'm tapped out," said Lee. "But I think we got our money's worth, we got a $100 million worth of free media."

The meeting Lee mentioned was of the group's steering board, said activist team Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris, who were there. "We're exploring another initiative run in 2012, and it's looking pretty likely because we achieved so much with this campaign, especially with the coalitions we built to support this effort," said Norris.

"There is a real interest in making sure the activist base is included," said Conrad. "We want to try to avoid the divisiveness of this campaign," he added, alluding to intramural attacks from some growers, the Stoners Against Prop 19 types, and elements of the medical marijuana community. "But people feel they have to have a certain thing, and how can you achieve unity like that? People have to be able to compromise," he said.

National reform groups are also feeling optimistic about 2012. "Even though we lost in California, Richard ended up doing a good thing for the movement," said NORML founder Keith Stroup. "When you look at what went on in the last six or eight months, I don’t think legalization was ever taken seriously by politicians and the press until now. It was probably worth the three or four million spent on that to force marijuana legalization into the national and international spotlight."

Despite this year's loss, "the big picture is Gallup polls showing support higher than ever," said Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mike Meno. "Even some Californians who voted against Prop 19 believe it should be legal. On the central issue, it seems the public is increasingly on our side and heading for a majority."

Prop 19 brought the issue center stage, Meno said. "This year, we had more mainstream press coverage than ever, the debate is out in the open, and many Americans are now for the first time in their lives really thinking seriously about legalizing marijuana."

"There seems to be a consensus around working toward 2012," said Meno. "It's a presidential election year, and there will be more young voters. If the polls continue to trend up, there's no reason not to optimistic that states like Colorado or Washington couldn’t pass something like Prop 19. We're looking at strategically supporting a pair of legalization initiatives in Colorado and California. Support is high, and we have two more years to build on that."

"If I were a betting man, I'd say there's a better than 50-50 chance we'll see initiatives in California and Colorado, said Drug Policy Alliance head Ethan Nadelmann. "It's hard to say about the other states at this point."

Nadelmann saw three possibilities for 2012 initiatives. "First is that badly drafted initiatives get on the ballot and then lose badly," he said. "But my hope is that well-drafted initiatives get on the ballot with strong majority support, and that inspires wealthy donors to provide backing. The third possibility is that well-drafted initiatives get on the ballot notwithstanding the fact they have less than 50% going in. The challenge in that case will be to ensure that even though they are likely headed for defeat, they move the ball forward like Prop 19 and Colorado in 2006."

Initiative campaigns will focus on a number of themes, said Nadelmann. "You have the continuing nightmare in Mexico, you have the surveys showing young people saying it's easier to buy pot than alcohol, and you have the continuing indictment of the failures of prohibition," he said. "And evidence that decriminalization is not enough. Decrim in California and New York did not prevent massive increases in arrests in the past 20 years and the racial disproportionality that accompanied them. Legalization may have its risks, but it's preferable to the status quo.

There are a few cautionary voices when it comes to another legalization initiative in California. "Another initiative here in California might be a good idea, but it's premature to say that," said Dale Gieringer of California NORML. CANORML supported Prop 19, but Gieringer from the beginning voiced doubts about its prospects for success. He has doubts again about 2012 in California.

"California voters don’t really like to have the same issue revisited in successive elections," he said. "There have been a bunch of issues that have failed under those circumstances," he recalled, ticking off parental concept for abortion, eminent domain reform, and a school voucher initiative. "I can't think of a case where people have been able to flip the vote in two years," the student of California politics said.

Gieringer also raised another potential problem. "Who is going to fund it? Richard Lee said he doesn’t have the money to do it again. You need a million dollars to get on the ballot," he pointed out. "If I were a major funder, I'd be looking at a less expensive state," he said.

Still, Gieringer said, CANORML would be holding a statewide conference in January to try to begin to see if there is a consensus that can be reached among the state's complex and fractious pot community.

It doesn’t have to be an initiative. There is the legislative process, and this year, Rep. Tom Ammiano managed to get his legalization bill through the Assembly Public Safety Committee. He'll be back at it next year.

"We will be reintroducing our bill to tax and regulate at the beginning of the next session," said Ammiano spokesperson Quintin Mecke. "We'll be looking at any possible changes between now and then."

Mecke credited Prop 19 with moving the issue forward. "I think Prop 19 has put marijuana firmly in the mainstream conversation and the public policy conversation is now being debated at the highest levels of government. People can't just make jokes about it anymore. We are getting close to challenging this notion that we can deal with marijuana simply through law enforcement."

And it doesn't have to be California.In Colorado, SAFER (Safe Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation) and Sensible Colorado last Thursday announced that they were pushing ahead with a legalization initiative for 2012. And Saturday, a statewide conference brought national movement figures including SSDP head Aaron Houston, Drug Policy Alliance head Ethan Nadelmann, Steve Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project, and Prop 19's Jeff Jones to Denver to help lay the groundwork. The Saturday summit was also the scene of the announcement of a second initiative campaign, Legalize It 2012, a Jack Herer-style "freedom based" measure, led by Laura Kriho of the Boulder-based Cannabis Therapy Institute.

"There is a great deal of interest in a 2012 statewide initiative to regulate marijuana and start treating it like alcohol," said SAFER's Tvert.  "I think we're poised to make this happen. We've seen support go up dramatically over the past five years and internal polls had it at about 50% this year. Attitudes here have reached a point where this is very realistic," he said.

"The folks in Colorado are determined to go forward even if the polls are not promising," said Nadelmann. "We are committed to trying to make this as smart and tight an initiative as possible, even though it will be difficult to raise money."

"We need to get a lot of folks opinion on this, particularly the medical marijuana industry here, where we have hundreds of licensed medical marijuana centers," Tvert said. "We hope to work with them to pass a law that will benefit everyone. There is no specific language yet, but that is what we are beginning to get together."

Tvert said he hoped the community would coalesce around one initiative. "People are doing polling and seeing what language will work," he said. "I hope in the end we will go forward with one initiative that will be the best law possible."

As noted above, similar efforts are underway in Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. The marijuana reform movement thinks it is can go over the top in the next election cycle. Only 103 weeks until we find out if they're right.

Bay State Voters Stoked to Weed Out Most Marijuana Laws

Location: 
MA
United States
Voters in more than a dozen state legislative districts backed dramatic expansions to legal access to marijuana in last Tuesday’s elections, and advocates plan to use the results to press lawmakers to loosen restrictions on the drug.
Publication/Source: 
Boston Herald (MA)
URL: 
http://news.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view/20101107mass_voters_back_loosening_of_marijuana_laws/

Californians Still Want to Legalize Marijuana, Despite Prop 19 Results

California voters rejected Proposition 19, the tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative, by just under eight percentage points, but a post-election poll has found that they still favor legalizing pot. The poll also suggests that if youth turnout had equaled that in 2008, the campaign to free the weed would have ended in a dead heat.

According to the poll, which was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, 52% said marijuana prohibition does more harm than good. And 49% said marijuana should be legalized, with 41% opposed and 10% undecided.

"There’s a fair amount of latent support for legalization in California," said Anna Greenberg, the firm’s senior vice president. “It is our view, looking at this research, that if indeed legalization goes on ballot in 2012 in California, that it is poised to win."

So why didn't Prop 19 win? One quarter of those who opposed Prop 19 had considered voting yes and 31% of the no voters said they believed marijuana should be legalized or have penalties reduced, but objected to some aspect of the initiative.

The poll did not ask those respondents specifically what was wrong with the initiative. It would have legalized the possession of up to an ounce of weed for people 21 and older and it would have allowed them to grow up to 25 square feet and keep the resulting harvest. It would also have given cities and counties the ability to permit, tax, and regulate commercial marijuana sales and cultivation.

The poll did find, however, that Prop 19's provision making it difficult for employers to fire workers just for testing positive for marijuana may have hurt. Voters said by 50% to 44% that employers should have the right to fire workers who test positive even if they are not impaired.

This issue isn't going away.

CA
United States

Fight to Legalize Marijuana Targets Colorado

Location: 
CO
United States
Sam Kamin, a professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, says Colorado will be the next battleground in the national conflict over marijuana legalization. His statement comes following local votes on medical marijuana bans throughout Colorado and the defeat of California Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana for adults older than 21.
Publication/Source: 
The Denver Post (CO)
URL: 
http://www.denverpost.com/commented/ci_16518167?source=commented-

We'll Be Back, Prop 19 Proponents and Allies Vow in Press Conference [FEATURE]

According to final numbers from the California secretary of state, Proposition 19 picked up more than 3.4 million votes even as it lost 46.1% to 53.9%. At a teleconference Wednesday, Prop 19 backers were declaring victory even as they acknowledged they hadn't gone over the top this year. And they announced that they weren't going away.

Dale Jones speaks with reporters Tuesday night
"We won," said former Orange County Superior Court Judge Jim Gray. "The implementation of Prop 19 will be delayed, but the ultimate outcome is not in doubt. I'm encouraged that the end is in sight. Let's get at it!" he declared.

"The l-word has become acceptable," said former LAPD Deputy Chief Steve Downing. "You saw and heard a public debate the likes of which has never been heard in California or the nation. Change requires both compassion and enlightened self interest. The campaign has a good measure of both. Cannabis prohibition is an unjust law, it does more harm than good, and we have finally debunked prohibitionist scare tactics to the point all they had left was to attack the mechanics of the initiative itself," Downing said.

The initiative was attacked by opponents on the right as poorly written and leading to "chaos" because it allowed cities and counties to decide whether to permit, tax, and regulate marijuana in their jurisdictions. It was also attacked within the marijuana movement itself for a number of reasons, though most drug policy reformers regarded the reasons as spurious or reflecting self interest by persons in the medical marijuana trade.

"We have a path forward to make this happen and we will continue this coalition," said Dale Sky Jones, spokesperson for Yes on 19. "I'm very excited about the results from Prop 19. We have a tremendous electorate behind us. This is a matter of not if but when, and we are looking forward to working with state officials to craft new language. We want to bring the opposition to the table," she said. "We are looking for their plan, and we will hold them accountable."

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) played a prominent role in the Prop 19 campaign, and former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper was on the teleconference to assure listeners that LEAP will continue to work with Prop 19 proponents in the future.

Election Night proponents gathering, Oakland
"Police are on the front line of the war on cannabis and are paying a large price in terms of strained police-community relations," he said. "I will encourage them and politicians to say out loud what they have been whispering, that it is time to end marijuana prohibition. They know that the drug war has failed and that cannabis prohibition in particular is a costly absurdity. I will encourage them to move forward from whispered support to full-throated support for ending this prohibition," Stamper vowed.

"I was among those who tried to discourage Richard Lee a year and a half ago from going forward in 2010," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, whose political action committee raised more than a million dollars for the campaign. "But he was right. Even if this did not prevail on Election Day, the transformation of the public dialogue nationally and internationally has been stupendous. It has provided an opportunity for leaders in Latin America to say we need a discussion. There has been a transformation in the public dialogue and media coverage unlike anything before. Prop 19 got more votes than Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina. This is a major, major victory," he declared.

It is on to 2012, said Nadelmann. Marijuana legalization initiatives could be on the ballot in up to five states, he said.

"California looks good in 2012, and so do Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Nevada," Nadelmann prognosticated. "We will go forward where more than 50% of the population support it. The defeat at the polls was a mere bump in the road compared to the positive discussion and the opening up of the debate on marijuana."

Separately, California NORML, which endorsed Prop 19, agreed that legalization is just a matter of time, but that obstacles remain. "It's not a question of whether marijuana will be legalized, but when and how," said CANORML coordinator Dale Gieringer.  "The Prop 19 campaign deserves credit for putting legalization on the map, and for attracting important new allies to the movement.  This campaign has shown there is an emerging majority for legalization in California.  However, it remains to be seen whether an initiative can be written that could attract majority support given the obstacles of federal opposition."

If the California legislature fails to act, marijuana legalization will be back on the ballot, most likely in 2012. Proponents are already working on crafting new language based on the election results, and there are plenty of ideas out there. At least four initiative proposals were floated for this year's election. Now, it's a matter of uniting the movement for the best language possible and crafting language that blunts the opposition's most effective messages.

Oakland, CA
United States

No Marijuana Legalization in California This Year

California's Proposition 19, the tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative, has been defeated. A little over two hours after the polls closed at 8 pm Pacific Time, the measure is trailing 44% to 56% with 25% of the votes counted, but even the campaign is conceding the loss.

As the polls closed, Oaksterdam waited
"We appreciate the tremendous victory in pushing this issue forward," said Dale Jones, Yes on 19 spokesperson. "We've taken this further than ever before. It's just a matter of taking the next step forward," she told the crowd inside Oaksterdam University, with the video also being projected onto the university's great wall for a crowd of hundreds outside. "We made this happen. This the debate heard 'round the world," she said.

"We are going to keep fighting," Richard Lee said. "We made big breakthroughs with this campaign, with all the allies we've gotten on board," before thanking those arrayed on the stage behind him, including Dan Rush of the UFCW, LEAP, the Drug Policy Alliance's Steve Gutwillig and Ethan Nadelmann, East Bay activist couple Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris, NORML's Allen St. Pierre, a pair of phone bank volunteers, campaign figures Jeff and Dale Jones, and even his mom and dad.

"We have a coalition moving forward, you have not seen the last of the group that brought you Prop 19," Jones said.

"We are going to stay here and keep building," said Rush. "We are going to continue this fight together and across the nation. Next time we're going to take Colorado and Michigan. We're going to keep riding this train.

"This is a watershed moment in a very long struggle to end the decades-long failure of marijuana prohibition in this country," said DPA's Steve Gutwillig. "Tonight was an enormous step in placing this movement in the mainstream of American politics. That's what happened tonight."

Gutwillig vowed that two to five legalization initiatives will be on the ballot in 2012. "Marijuana prohibition is going down," he said.

Maybe in 2012.

CA
United States

Massachusetts Marijuana Questions a Clean Sweep?

If I haven't misread the state web page at 1:18am, the local marijuana questions in my former home of Massachusetts appear to be a clean sweep. These include both medical marijuana and regulated (legal) marijuana.

Good job, Bay Staters! Thank you for providing some light tonight.

Location: 
MA
United States

Prop 19 Counting on Broad Coalition, Late Ad Blitz to Prevail [FEATURE]

Los Angeles Times readers woke up Monday morning to find a Proposition 19 ad wrapped around Section A. A day earlier, they were greeted with a full-page ad in the Sunday newspaper. The print ads are part of a last minute advertising campaign that also includes ads on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and "Colbert Report," millions of ad impressions on Google and Facebook, and a radio ad campaign highlighting the disproportionate harm that marijuana prohibition causes for communities of color is hitting five Southern California stations, three of them Spanish-language.

two page ad wrapping Sunday's LA Times
The ad campaign is being funded by a $1 million donation last month from financier George Soros and is being run not by Yes on 19, the official Prop 19 campaign committee, but by a political action committee controlled by the Drug Policy Alliance.

The ad campaign is part of a frantic effort to sway voters and get out the vote as the clock ticks down toward Tuesday night. A barrage of recent polls have shown the measure losing, but Yes on 19 said Sunday that victory is still within reach.

The campaign cited youth energy, the get out the vote effort using state of the art technologies, general voter disaffection, and pollsters' likely undercounting of turnout generating by interest in the measure. "Together, these factors put 19 in a better position to win on Election Day than is indicated by the mainstream media narrative," campaign consultants Dan Newman and Chris Lehane argued in a memo Sunday.

"In the final days of this historic campaign, millions of Californians will be exposed in every media platform to the Yes on 19 message," said Stephen Gutwillig, DPA's California director. "We’re communicating to young voters in particular because they bear the brunt of marijuana enforcement and their turnout is crucial to Tuesday’s outcome."

Soros and DPA are by no means alone in joining the fight to legalize marijuana in California. In addition to advancing the public discussion on marijuana policy -- a Google search for "California Proposition 19" generates nearly 7.9 million hits -- the fight to pass Prop 19 has also generated the broadest outpouring of support for pot legalization ever. From labor to law enforcement, from identity politics organizations to the blogosphere, from entrepreneurs to elected officials, from law professors to doctors, from political organizations all across the ideological spectrum, a nice chunk of US civil society has rallied around Prop 19.

Prop 19 logo projected onto stadium side, World Series game, spotted Thursday night (twitpic.com/31xdog)
According to the Prop 19 campaign's endorsements page, it has law enforcement backing from the National Black Police Association, the National Latino Officers Association, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, former San Jose Police Chief Joe McNamara, retired California Judge Mike Grey, and dozens of other former and current police officers.

Prop 19 has been endorsed by more than a dozen prominent physicians, led by former US Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, and more than 75 leading law professors. It has been endorsed by dozens of California elected officials, the Berkeley and Oakland city councils and the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox even spoke out about it last week, saying "May God let it pass."

The measure has the backing of the California Green, Libertarian, Socialist, and Peace and Freedom parties, the Young Democrats, the Republican Liberty Caucus, and the Progressive Democrats of America, as well as 10 county Democratic Party organizations. The California NAACP, the Latino Voters League, the Northern and Southern California ACLU chapters are all on board, too, along with dozens of other state and local organizations. A mother's group was organized for the occasion.

In a real breakthrough, Prop 19 has also picked up significant support from organized labor. The Service Employee's International Union (SEIU) of California, the United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council, and the longshoremen's union have all put their names and their political machines behind the initiative. So have a number of locals across the state.

Rolling Stone magazine publisher Jan Wenner kicked in $2,500, while insurance magnate Peter Lewis donated more than $200,000, Facebook co-founders Dustin Moskovitz and Sean Parker gave $70,000 and $100,000 respectively, while Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap president David Bronner kicked in $75,000, Men's Warehouse owner Robert Zimmer gave $50,000, and Washington, DC, activist and hemp store owner Adam Eidinger kicked in $25,000.

Other sizeable reported late donations from less prominent figures have come in as well. In the month of October, not counting the Soros million, the Prop 19 campaign has generated nearly $900,000 in donations.

All that money is making the last minute ad blitz possible. But that's not all that's going on in the final days. A massive phone banking and get out the vote effort has been joined by FiredogLake and its JustSayNow campaign, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, StoptheDrugWar.org, DPA, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, California Young Democrats, and California College Republicans.

For example, at UC-Berkeley, students are mobilizing around the initiative and are identifying it as the most important issue for young people in this election. In addition to tabling and canvassing, they held rallies this weekend, as did supporters in other parts of the state, all in an effort to create visibility and remind people to vote.

"Students are waking up and taking notice," said Kat Murti, a former president of Cal Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Yes on 19's Bay Area regional director. "Thousands of students lose financial aid each year due to marijuana offenses, including Berkeley students. This issue clearly affects and motivates them like no other political topic."

Let's hope that's the case, and that the ads, the media buzz, and the organizing draw out enough "unlikely voters" to change the world with a win on Tuesday.

CA
United States

Final Field Poll Has Prop 19 Down

Proposition 19, the tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative is trailing 42% to 49% in the last Field poll of the campaign season. A Field poll last month had the initiative winning by the same margin.

The Field poll results are in line with other recent polls. The Talking Points Memo Poll Tracker, which does not include the latest Field poll, has Prop 19 losing 49.6% to 43.4%. Only two polls out of 10 in the past month show the measure winning.

It appears support for Prop 19 peaked in September, before any serious opposition emerged. The measure polled ahead in all five polls that month.

But the election isn't over until everyone votes on Tuesday, and the Yes on 19 campaign is in full-blown get out the vote mode until the polls close. Rallies, newspaper and electronic media ads, and phone banking will continue up until the last minute.

Still, the Field poll suggests a victory on Tuesday may be hard to come by. Only slim majorities of Democrats (51%) and independents (57%) favor the initiative, while nearly two-thirds (65%) of Republicans oppose it. Prop 19 is only polling at 49% in the San Francisco Bay area and 50% in the rest of northern California, and is trailing in Los Angeles County (38%), the Central Valley (39%), and the rest of southern California (41%).

The measure was trailing among men, 44% to 48%, and by a larger margin among women, 40% to 50%. It trailed in all age groups except voters under age 40, who favored by a margin of 54% to 38%.

Prop 19 didn't have majority support among any ethnic group in the latest Field poll. It fared best with whites (46%), followed by blacks (45%) and Hispanics (35%). But it got creamed by Asian ethnic voters. Only 22% of Chinese-Americans supported, only 19% of Korean-Americans supported it, and only 10% of Vietnamese-Americans supported it.

Can a surge of "unlikely voters" prove the polls wrong? Stay tuned.

CA
United States

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