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Prop 19's Battle Lines -- Who's For? Who's Against? [FEATURE]

With election day now less than a month away, California's Proposition 19 tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative is leading in most polls (although a Monday Reuters/Ipsos poll showing it losing by nine points sent a chill down the spines of supporters) and is well-positioned to make California the first entity anywhere to legalize marijuana. But what happens in the next 27 days is crucial, as proponents and opponents alike seek to come up with the votes to prevail.

our side
The battle lines are drawn. Lining up in support of Prop 19 are dozens of (mostly) retired law enforcement figures, including former San Jose Police Chief Joe McNamara and former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, as well as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and the National Black Police Association; four California US congressmen; dozens of state and local elected officials; local ACLU chapters; the California NAACP; the California Libertarian Party, the California Green Party; the California Young Democrats and many local Democratic groups; the Republican Liberty Caucus; organized labor groups, including the SEIU of California, the Western States UFCW, the longshoremen, and various union locals; clergy, including the California Council of Churches IMPACT and the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative; economist Dr. Jeffrey Miron; and a number of physicians, including former US Surgeon General Joyce Elders. California's burgeoning professional cannabis community has moved Prop 19 forward, with supporters including the Harborside Health Center, the Berkeley Patients Group, and the initiative's primary sponsor, Oaksterdam's Richard Lee.

On the other side
are the usual suspects: The California Narcotics Officers' Association, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, the California Police Chiefs Association, the California Correctional Supervisors Organization, the California Peace Officers Association, the California District Attorney Association, and local police associations. They are joined by all federal drug czars past and present, past and present DEA administrators, both California US senators and most of the congressional delegation, most newspaper editorial boards, the California Chamber of Commerce, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the California Beer and Beverage Distributors (who chipped in $10,000 to Public Safety First, a political action committee created to oppose Prop 19), Californians for a Drug-Free Youth, DARE America, and other anti-drug organizations.

But given marijuana's increasing popular acceptance, legalization foes aren't getting much traction anymore with "marijuana is the devil's drug" messages. Instead, they are forced into tangential attacks: Prop 19 will lead to more drugged driving; it will lead to workers high on the job, they say. It won't earn tax revenues because everyone will grow his own. It will create a "regulatory nightmare." Jacob Sullum at Reason magazine and veteran expert activist and Prop 19 steering committee member Chris Conrad's Prop 19 Fact Check and Rumor Control web page both do a thorough job of debunking those claims.

The opposition so far has been relatively low profile -- because it doesn't have any money. According to campaign contribution data at the California Secretary of State's office, Public Safety First has only managed to raise $178,000 to oppose Prop 19 this year, and more significantly, only has $54,000 in the bank right now. That's not enough to bankroll any kind of media campaign in the nation's most populous state.

That's a change from the past, when foes of drug reform initiatives could count on big money from special interests, as was the case in 2008, when a sentencing reform initiative that appeared headed for victory went down in flames after a big injection of funds from the powerful and wealthy prison guards' union. This year, the prison guards and their pile of cash are sitting it out.

The Prop 19 campaign fervently hopes they continue to do just that. Its worst fear at this point is a last-minute negative advertising blitz, and there is still time for that to happen. That's because, like the opposition, Prop 19 is essentially broke. Although it has raised more than $700,000 this year, it only has $67,000 in the bank. An independent pro-Prop 19 group, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), has another $100,000 in the bank, thanks to surprise donations from Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps and the DC-area store Capitol Hemp. SSDP is spending the money between now and Election Day on a Yes We Cannabis Fire Truck Tour doing voter registration and get-out-the-vote work on California campuses.

the other side
For the opposition, the lack of cash means it has to work to try to get its message out. Aside from the former drug czars coming out against the measure, a handful of debates, the penning of some op-eds, and a presence on the web, People First hasn't done much. It has held a handful of lackluster press conferences, which have generated some coverage, and spokesmen are always willing to give good quote when reporters call, but so far, that's about it.

Other than for the lack of cash, opposition from the usual suspects is pretty much as expected. What is surprising is the emergence of a vocal anti-Prop 19 movement with the marijuana community.  From cannabis connoisseur Dragonfly de la Luz and her Stoners Against Prop 19 to Vote No on Prop 19, with its warning of a "Prop 19 cartel," to medical marijuana dispensary operators like HopeNet, the Green Door, and the California Cannabis Association, a fifth column within the marijuana movement is seeking to defeat Prop 19.

Their arguments, which can be read on their web sites, are varied, but boil down to a couple of main claims: that passage of Prop 19 will somehow hurt medical marijuana patients or dispensaries, and that Prop 19 is "not legalization" because it sets possession limits and allows for taxation and regulation of cultivation and distribution. There is an additional fillip of conspiracy-tinged fears that Prop 19 will lead to a corporate takeover of the pot industry. Left unspoken is the economic self-interest of growers and dispensary operators.

Those arguments have been heartily answered in detail by, among others, Chris Conrad (here), national NORML outreach director Russ Bellville (here). Those readers interested in the battle over clauses, intentions, and meanings can compare the two sets of sites and decide for themselves.

"They have said nothing we have not been able to disprove," said Conrad, "but it doesn't matter because they're not reality-based. They're like our own little Tea Party, with a politics of fear and conspiracy stuff, tangents about corporate takeovers, and libertarian anti-tax and anti-regulation notions."

"We want parity and equality, and that means if you sell something, you have to pay taxes," said Mikki Norris, Conrad's long-time partner in life and activism. "The anti-tax thing has inserted itself into every movement, including this one."

Richard Lee giving up on the presentation (but not the initiative)
Tensions boiled over during a debate last weekend at the Cow Palace in San Francisco during the International Cannabis and Hemp Expo, a pot industry trade show. Medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee, the primary motivating force behind Prop 19, was subjected to loud heckling and shouting as he attempted to explain why pot people should vote for the initiative. A disgusted Lee finally rolled away in his wheelchair, leaving Conrad to carry on.

Nevertheless, Conrad sees the "Stoners Against Prop 19" types more as a distraction than as serious opposition. "I don't think they're that important, really," he said. "We have some serious opposition, and we're waiting for those ads to come out, we're waiting for the school bus full of children with the stoned driver. We're more worried about that kind of opposition in the works than we are by these people."

For Dale Gieringer, long-time head of California NORML, opposition to Prop 19 inside the marijuana community is overstated, but could impact the election result in a tight race. "It's a tempest in a teapot, a minority of a minority," said Geiringer. "But this looks like it's going to be a very close election, so it's possible they could affect the outcome."

Despite the heated rhetoric and venom on display in recent weeks, both sides should treat each other with respect, he said. "There are too many people casting aspersions about others' intentions in this," Gieringer said. "There are good people on both sides of Prop 19. There are some very dedicated supporters of legal marijuana who simply do not like the wording of Prop 19 for one reason or another."

But not voting for Prop 19 is the wrong choice, said Gieringer. "Some will conscientiously not vote for something that's not to their taste, but I don't think that's a wise thing to do in a close election. This election is about do you favor legal marijuana or not, and all the other concerns can be adjusted afterward," he said.

"They don't want to pay taxes, they're afraid it opens things up to big business," said Gieringer. "Others think it doesn't go far enough, and there are medical marijuana people who are afraid this will somehow infringe on patients' rights under Prop 215 and Senate Bill 420. I don't agree with that analysis."

Neither does Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's largest medical marijuana defense group, and one deeply rooted in the California medical marijuana scene. As a group concentrating on medical marijuana, ASA is neutral on Prop 19, but, in response to numerous questions from members and other interested observers, ASA has created a Prop 19 FAQ on its web site.

"Does Prop 19 hurt patients?" was the question. "No. While it is possible there will be unanticipated consequences and legal controversy, nothing in the text of Proposition 19 is designed to deny any rights to medical cannabis patients," was ASA's answer.

"Does Prop 19 overrule the medical marijuana laws of California?" was the question. "No. Proposition 19 is designed to, among other things, '[p]rovide easier, safer access for patients who need cannabis for medical purposes.' Although a statement of purpose is not necessarily controlling, courts generally look to it in interpreting the statute's language. The purpose of Proposition 19 is not to overturn Proposition 215 or any other state or local medical cannabis law," was ASA's answer.

"Will Prop 19 allow localities to ban medical marijuana dispensaries?" was the question. "Unclear. Currently, there is no legal authority stating that localities must regulate dispensaries under Proposition 215 and SB 420. Proposition 19 allows for local regulation of medical cannabis sales, but also allows localities to ban such activity. If Proposition 19 is adopted, it is unclear how the courts will integrate both laws with respect to dispensaries," was ASA's answer.

It is worth noting that many California communities already ban dispensaries. Other, more medical marijuana friendly, locales regulate and tax them.

"People are concerned when voters are considering something so similar to a right already afforded them and that a new law might somehow restrict those rights," said ASA spokesman Kris Hermes. "There are many questions unanswered, especially around the issue of distribution. We're fighting right now to prevent local governments from adopting bans against distribution. Given that Prop 19 allows for wet and dry localities, and because we haven't completely ironed out the issue of whether local governments can ban medical marijuana distribution, this could infringe on those rights, especially if courts side with law enforcement against having a patchwork of different rules for different counties," Hermes said.

"There are also entrepreneurs who see their business being threatened by a huge influx of legal marijuana," said Hermes. "For some people, there is definitely a financial interest at stake, but ASA doesn't feel that should be a reason to oppose the initiative."

"What's not so clear is whether local governments might not have more power to tax, regulate, and potentially ban medical marijuana collectives," said CANORML's Gieringer. "The initiative gives very strong authority to local governments to do such things. It's not clear what their authority is now. Many patients feel that, under current law, local governments have to accept collectives and maybe dispensaries. My reading is that that is not required by Prop 215, but might arguably be required by SB 420. But SB 420 is a statute and can be changed by the legislature at any time. I wouldn’t be surprised if they start tinkering around next year regardless of Prop 19. But the stronger the vote Prop 19 gets, the stronger the position of both patients and other users next year."

On November 3, regardless of the intricacies of the arguments over Prop 19, the rest of the world is going to wake up to a headline from California. Is it going to be "California Legalizes Marijuana" or is it going to be "California Rejects Marijuana Legalization?" California voters have 27 days to decide.

If California Legalizes Marijuana, How Will Obama React?

Location: 
CA
United States
If Prop 19 passes and marijuana is legalized, California could become a "test-case" state in challenging federal laws on the matter. But what would this mean, practically? Well, a lot of it hinges on how President Barack Obama reacts.
Publication/Source: 
The Huffington Post (CA)
URL: 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-weigant/if-california-legalizes-m_b_753514.html

California's Prop 19: Leading the Way to Marijuana Legalization

Next month, Californians will vote on Proposition 19: the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. Prop 19 would make recreational use of marijuana entirely legal — and allow cash-strapped cities to raise funds by taxing it. The latest Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 52% of likely voters support Prop 19, with just 41% who oppose it.
Publication/Source: 
TIME (US)
URL: 
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2023860,00.html

Which Way on Election Day? Pollsters Analyze Prop 19 and Its Chances [FEATURE]

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/yeson19button.jpg
four weeks to go!
California's Proposition 19, the tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative, is certainly the most talked about ballot measure in the land this year. It is just as certainly the most polled of any initiative this year.

No fewer than a baker's dozen polls have surveyed Golden State voters since May of this year, and at least one more will appear the weekend before election day. The average for all the polls so far has Prop 19 winning 47.4%, with 43.2% opposed and 9.4% undecided.

The numbers would have been better for Prop 19 except for Monday's Reuter/Ipsos poll, which bucked the trend to show Prop 19 losing by 10 points. It is one of only three polls that show the measure losing; one was a Field Poll in July and the other was another Reuters/Ipsos poll in June.

Here are the results of the 13 polls, beginning with the most recent:
 

DatePollSupportOppose
10/04/10Reuters/Ipsos43.0%53.0%
10/03/10Public Policy Institute of California52.0%41.0%
09/21/10SurveyUSA47.0%42.0%
09/21/10Field Poll49.0%42.0%
09/16/10PPP (D)47.0%38.0%
09/01/10SurveyUSA47.0%43.0%
08/11/10SurveyUSA50.0%40.0%
07/25/10PPP (D)52.0%36.0%
07/11/10SurveyUSA50.0%40.0%
07/05/10Field Poll44.0%48.0%
06/27/10Reuters/Ipsos48.0%50.0%
05/26/10Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (D)49.0%41.0%
05/16/10Public Policy Institute of California49.0%48.0%

While support for Prop 19 has been nearly unchanged in the last six months, as this Talking Points Memo graph demonstrates, opposition has been declining and the gap between yes and no votes is growing--except in Monday's Reuters/Ipsis poll.

"What is remarkable is that the polls agree so closely," said Jay Leve, CEO of SurveyUSA. "Initiatives are among the most difficult things for pollsters to poll, because many of them are about arcane things that nobody knows about, like 30-year bond issues, so the polls can be all over the place. But in this one, the issue is pretty clear, and that's reflected in the agreement among the polls."

"Our surveys get more accurate the closer we get to election Day," said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, which had Prop 19 trailing by four points in July, but leading by seven in September. "In our second survey, we were able to read voters the actual ballot question," he noted.

Field will be taking one more poll before the election, DiCamillo said. "We will release our final poll the weekend before the election," he announced. "It will be much more insightful."

But with less than a month to go, things are looking pretty good for Prop 19. Liberals, Democrats, and young voters consistently showed strong support for Prop 19 across all the polls, suggesting, somewhat paradoxically, that voters motivated by support for Prop 19 could help the campaigns of Democrats gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown and Sen. Barbara Boxer, both of whom have come out in opposition to legalization. Likewise, if surging Brown and Boxer campaigns bring out Democratic and liberal voters, they are going to be likely to vote for Prop 19 despite the positions of their gubernatorial and senatorial candidates.

But Republicans, who oppose Prop 19 by margins of 2-1, are also counting on a massive turnout. If the primary is a reliable indicator, they could see just that. In 2008, Democrats made up 42% of the electorate and Republicans just 30%, but Republican enthusiasm this year could close that gap. In the primaries, where only 33% of the electorate voted, 44% of Republicans did, while only 32% of Democrats did. A strong GOP turnout combined with weak turnout among Democrats could spell doom for the measure.

If polling for some groups has been consistent, that hasn't been the case for others, especially black voters. For example, at one point, the Field Poll had Prop 19 losing by 12 points among black voters, while just weeks later Public Policy Polling had it up by 36 points. Black voters only account for 6% of the state's electorate, so the results may suffer from too small a sample size.

Pollster Nate Silver of Fivethirtyeight.com had another possible explanation, one he called the "Broadus Effect," after one Calvin Broadus -- better known as the rapper and major pot aficionado, Snoop Dog. It's a variation on the "Bradley Effect," named for former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who lost a mayoral race despite leading in the polls before election time.

The "Bradley Effect" posits that polls can be skewed by respondents who reply with what they think are the politically correct answers, rather than what they really think. Silver noted that automated robo-phone polls were showing higher support among blacks than polls done with human poll-takers.

"This might also explain why the split is larger among black and Hispanic voters," Silver wrote. "Marijuana usage is almost certainly more stigmatized when associated with minorities, and drug possession arrests occur much more frequently in minority communities. This is in spite of the fact that rates of marijuana consumption are only a smidgen higher among blacks than among whites, and are somewhat lower among Hispanics."

Pollsters are congenitally cautious about making predictions on actual election results, but both DiCamillo and Leve made heavily hedged predictions. "Usually, the burden of proof is on the proposition," said DiCamillo. "It's always on the yes side to make its case. In this case, there is a lead, but it's not quite at 50% plus one. Most initiatives do get a few percentage points out of the undecideds, so you'd expect this one to be favored for passage, but it's not a slam dunk."

Undecideds would have to break dramatically toward a no vote for the initiative to lose if the poll average today holds until Election Day. With Prop 19 at nearly 48% and undecideds at just under 10%, it would need to pick up just better than one out of five of those voters to get over the top.

And DiCamillo says Prop 19's prospects are good, barring some sort of October surprise. "If somebody came in and started advertising heavily against it, that could change things," he warned. So far, there's been no sign of that, but there is still time for a late TV ad campaign.

SurveyUSA's Leve was only a bit more definitive. "That it's maintaining a 10-point lead is good for the initiative, but that it's having trouble getting that 50% plus one is not," said Leve. "It's sort of a glass half full thing. If I was in Las Vegas and I was a betting man, I'd bet on it to win," said Leve. "But I'd only bet money I could afford to lose."

With less than a month out Prop 19 is leading by an average of more than four points. A historic victory for marijuana legalization may be coming into view, but Election Day will be a nailbiter, and its going to depend on turnout and those undecideds.

CA
United States

Peruvian President Equates Drug Legalization with Barbarism and Euthanasia

Peruvian President Alan García said Monday he is absolutely opposed to drug legalization and warned that legalizing marijuana will take society down the path toward euthanizing the elderly.  He vowed a constant fight "on all fronts" against drug use and the drug trade.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/alan-garcia.jpg
Alan García
Peru is now the world's leading producer of coca, from which cocaine is made. In recent weeks, García has angled for a larger share of US drug-fighting dollars.  The stimulating herb has been used as an energy booster and hunger suppressor since time immemorial in the Andean region.

García said Monday that his anti-drug efforts will focus on eradication and alternative crops, as well as interdiction and money-laundering.  A reinvigorated eradication campaign has already led to renewed strife in the countryside, where tens of thousands of peasant families make a living from coca. Two weeks ago, hundreds of coca growers seized a hydroelectric plant in Ucayali province and blocked highways in the region to protest eradication efforts. Police later regained control of the plant, but the region remains restive.

"The Peruvian government has a firm position: I am absolutely against the drug legalization," García said after opening the 20th meeting of the Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies (HONLEA) of Latin America and the Caribbean. Human beings "cannot kneel before their own powerlessness," he said.

"I think this (drug legalization) is like opening the way for the degradation of human beings, because if we legalize marijuana as a soft drug then we will legalize cocaine as hard drugs, and finally we will also legalize the elimination of the elderly, as in the old societies, because they can no longer contribute to the production," he said.

García added that his government's position is firm and will not change before he leaves office next July "even though those who raise the flag of the drug legalization are very intelligent and well-known and noisy." He said he will always oppose advocates of ending drug prohibition because "they represent, without knowing it, the backward step of the human being in his path to freedom, which is basically the way of his conscience, i.e. to use his skills without escapes through drugs."

Not only will drug legalization lead to killing grandma, García said, it will lead mankind down a death spiral to "fascist barbarism" and genocide.

García's sentiments put him out of step with a region that is increasingly amenable to ending the decades long war on drugs. Former heads of state from Columbia, Brazil, and Mexico have called for an end to the drug war, while Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico have depenalized simple drug possession.

Lima
Peru

Drugs Are a Development Issue - Which is Why We Should Legalize Them (Opinion)

Location: 
United Kingdom
Jonathan Glennie, a research fellow in the Center for Aid and Public Expenditure (CAPE) at Overseas Development Institute (ODI), opines that since drug prohibition deeply affects some of the world's poorest people, the development community must back legalization calls.
Publication/Source: 
The Guardian (UK)
URL: 
http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2010/oct/05/drugs-prohibition-development-issue-legalisation

Thousands March on Wisconsin State Capitol to Demand Cannabis Legalization

Location: 
Madison, WI
United States
Yesterday marchers made the annual trek from Library Mall at one end of State Street to the Wisconsin State Capitol. Longtime Harvest Fest organizer Ben Masel estimated that around 3,200 people paraded this year. Not only were crowd numbers up, but attendees seemed very enthusiastic about flexing the activist muscles gained in the fight for medical cannabis in Wisconsin.
Publication/Source: 
Examiner.com (CO)
URL: 
http://www.examiner.com/norml-in-madison/thousands-march-on-wisconsin-state-capitol-to-demand-cannabis-legalization

A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs featuring Judge Jim Gray

Come hear Jim Gray, former Superior Court Judge of Orange County, CA, talk about why the "war on drugs" has failed, and what you can do about it.

James P. Gray was a trial judge in Orange County, California beginning in 1983. Before becoming a judge, he served as a Volunteer in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica, a staff judge advocate and criminal defense attorney in the Navy JAG Corps, a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, and a civil litigation attorney in a private law firm, in addition to being a Republican candidate for US Congress in 1998, and a Libertarian candidate for US Senate in 2004. Judge Gray has discussed issues of drug policy on more than two hundred television and radio shows and public forums all across the country. Using his experience on the bench and elsewhere, he has also authored a book on the failed War on Drugs, another Wearing The Robe, about practical and ethical issues in being a judge.

For more information, see http://www.judgejimgray.com/

Date: 
Wed, 10/13/2010 - 7:00pm - 8:30pm
Location: 
3950 E Newman Rd. Cornell Auditorium in the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center on the campus of Missouri Southern State University
Joplin, MO 64801
United States

It's Time to Call Off War on Drugs, Former Narcotics Agent Says

Russ Jones, a 10-year veteran with the San Jose Police Department and former Drug Enforcement Agency task force member, wants to legalize and regulate all currently illicit drugs.
Publication/Source: 
The Oakland Tribune (CA)
URL: 
http://www.insidebayarea.com/ci_16230281?source=most_emailed

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