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Feature: Censorship in California -- MPP Marijuana Ad Campaign Hits Bumps as Stations Reject It

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) kicked off a TV ad campaign aimed at gaining support for a California marijuana legalization bill in the legislature on Wednesday, but ran into problems with several TV stations around the state, which either rejected the ad outright or just ignored MPP efforts to place it. Still, the spots are up and running on other Golden State stations.

Playing on California's budget crisis -- the state is $26 billion in the hole and currently issuing IOUs to vendors and laying off state workers -- the 30-second spots feature middle-aged suburban Sacramento housewife Nadene Herndon, who tells the camera:

"Sacramento says huge cuts to schools, health care, and police are inevitable due to the state's budget crisis. Even the state's parks could be closed. But the governor and the legislature are ignoring millions of Californians who want to pay taxes. We're marijuana consumers. Instead of being treated like criminals for using a substance safer than alcohol, we want to pay our fair share. Taxes from California's marijuana industry could pay the salaries of 20,000 teachers. Isn't it time?"

As Herndon finishes speaking, the words "Tax and regulate marijuana" appear on the screen, as well as a link to Clicking on that link actually takes you to MPP's "MPP of California" web page.

"I'm a medical marijuana user," Herndon told the Chronicle. "I was at Oaksterdam University with my husband looking at some classes, and the chancellor [Richard Lee] came out and said I would be perfect for an ad they were thinking about. I talked to my husband, and he said maybe I should do it. It is a cause near and dear to my heart, so I did," she said.

The response from acquaintances has been very positive, she said. "I've gotten lots of positive messages, and a few who are worried for my safety or that my house might be vandalized," said Herndon. "I have gotten a couple of odd phone calls, though, so I've changed my number."

The spots are aimed at creating public support for AB 390, a bill introduced in February by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). That bill would legalize the adult possession of marijuana and set up a system of taxed and regulated cultivation and sales.

The bill and the ad campaign come as support for marijuana legalization is on the rise in California. A recent Field poll showed support at 56%. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has gone on the record saying that legalization needs to be discussed. And, thanks to the state's medical marijuana laws, millions of Californians can see with their own eyes what a regime of legal marijuana sales might look like.

It would appear that marijuana legalization is a legitimate political topic in California, but that's not what a number of the state's major market TV stations think. At least six stations have rejected or ignored the ads. Oakland NBC affiliate KTVU and San Francisco ABC affiliate KGO declined to air the ad, as did San Jose NBC affiliate KNTV. Three Los Angeles stations, KABC, Fox affiliate KTTV, and KTLA also refused to air the ad.

KGO told MPP that they "weren't comfortable" with the spot, while KNTV said only that "standards rejected the spot." KABC claimed the ad "promotes marijuana use."

But while some local stations have balked, the ad is running on stations in Oakland, Sacramento, and San Francisco, as well as on MSNBC, CNBC, and CNN, via California cable operators.

"We are astonished that major California TV stations chose to censor a discussion that Governor Schwarzenegger has said our state should have on an issue supported by 56% of voters, according to the Field poll," said Aaron Smith, MPP California policy director. "The two million Californians who use marijuana in a given month deserve to have their voices heard -- and their tax dollars should help solve the fiscal emergency that threatens our schools, police and parks."

"That those stations would refuse to run the ad is appalling," said MPP communications director Bruce Mirken. "This wasn't something we expected; this wasn't a stunt to get press coverage. This was intentionally a very innocuous ad."

Mirken took special umbrage at KABC's suggestion that the ad "promotes marijuana use." "It's a really tortured reading of that ad to claim that," he said. "The ad is simply recognizing the reality that there are lots of marijuana consumers out there unable to pay taxes on their purchases because we have consigned marijuana to a criminal underground," he said.

Alison Holcomb, drug policy director for the ACLU of Washington, told the Huffington Post that while the refusals don't "implicate the First Amendment from a legal standpoint," she believes the practice "undermines a core principle underlying the First Amendment: that the strength of a democracy flows from the exchange of ideas."

As Holcomb noted, the various stations' refusal to accept the ad is not a First amendment violation in the strict sense -- no governmental entity is suppressing MPP's right to seek air time to run its ad, and the stations are within their legal rights to refuse it. But the effect is to suppress MPP's ability to compete in the marketplace of ideas, and MPP smells a double standard.

"When the governor of the state has said we ought to have this debate, it would seem to mean letting all sides air their views," said Mirken. "Pretty much all of these stations that rejected our ad have aired ONDCP anti-marijuana ads, which are often blatantly dishonest, so they are effectively taking sides in the argument. That feels fundamentally unfair."

The battle continues. As of Thursday, MPP was effectively shut out of the Los Angeles market, except for the cable news networks. But Mirken said he hoped to have the ad on the air there by the weekend.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

Don't Tax Marijuana

Most activists do NOT want to see personal cultivation taxed yet that is exactly what MPP, DPA and other organizations are "pushing." This is simply a "bait and switch." A better model, which is being largely ignored is the MERP Model.

The MERP Model is unique in that it grants inalienable rights to personal cultivation in any quantity. That is because the MERP Model also want to allow adults to grow Cannabis for food and other purposes. Recall that Marijuana seed contains some of the most nutritious hemp flour and oil available to man. And yet MPP is going in the opposite direction by making personal cultivation illegal (e.g., the 2009 AZ initiative which only allows personal cultivation IF you live more than 25 miles from a "dispensary."

So in effect MPP is involved in this "bait and switch" which will effectively make the very same government, that has been busting you for the last 71 years, your new drug dealer. MPP's Kampia, in my mind, has betrayed the grass root activists. How will the sick get cheap medicine under such a scheme when they will be paying street prices ($300 to $500 anounce) for their medicine? How will such a scheme destroy the Mexican Drug Cartels that export over 27 billion each year into Mexico from the sale of Marijuana in the United States?

Kampia's stupid strategy will not do this. But the MERP Model would. Please begin to educate yourselves about the better alternative for Marijuana reform: the MERP Model:

more. Please visit and post the following link far and wide. This subweb is both for understanding MERP and implementing MERP. We need everyones help on this. Get on the mailing list now! Let's Re-Legalize Marijuana in 2009 World Wide.

MERP Headquarters
The Marijuana Re-Legalization Policy Project (MRPP) = "MERP"

Re-Legalize Marijuana Now, Obama (1)
Re-Legalize Marijuana Now, Obama (2)
The Peaceful 2nd American Revolution Begins by Re-Legalizing Marijuana
Re-Legalize Marijuana: A Better Way to Destroy the Mexican Drug Cartels

How the Marijuana Re-Legalization Movement Has Been Betrayed by Soros, Nadleman (DPA) and Kampia (MPP)

How to Make Marijuana Free and Legal for For All Adults Within A Year:
Introduction to Your Involvement in the MERP Movement to Re-Legalize Marijuana Throughout the United States and the Planet

Marijuana: Past, Present and Future from Bruce Cain on Vimeo.

Why Lou Dobbs Should Support Marijuana Legalization

MERP, patients already do

MERP, patients already do pay "street prices," if not a little more, for their medications. While I lived in California (unfortunately, I had to move to a barbaric state that does not allow medicinal marijuana use), I was a medical marijuana patient. My dispensary sold 1/8s for $50-$60, roughly the same price I had previously paid my "drug dealer" for my medicine in Florida (I've heard of dispensaries charging just slightly less, but I never went to one that did). Add taxes, and I was spending nearly $30 more for my marijuana as a patient in California than I would as an illegal user in most non-medicinal states. And I'd gladly continue to pay the extra money to have safe, convenient, legal access to my medicine.

Additionally, you forget that most sick people - and most people with normal responsibilities like jobs, pets, families, everyday errands - can't necessarily invest the time and energy it takes to grow their own marijuana. Additionally, it would be difficult for renters to grow, and the equipment required to grow quality medicine is expensive. While I agree that growing your own marijuana should be legal, I don't think that it should be the only option. In fact, were both self-cultivation and dispensaries legal, I would choose the dispensary over growing my own without even thinking about it.

MERP my ass...again, grow

MERP my ass...again, grow some tomatoes, try to sell em and see what happens. It is wrong to sell without paying your part for using the commons.

I help a patient in Oregon. She is paying an astronomically lower price then $40 an 1/8th, which is street price here in OG. She is paying on the order of $5 an eight.

If your medi, you shouldnt pay a tax but the person who profits from it should. If they dont profit, then no tax for medi. Problem is everyone is tring to profit.

If your medi is too spendy...Invest in your own opp or find someone who can do it for you.

I do not believe there is a bill that would tax personal cultivation and consumption. That is like taxing my garden for having a garden.Pfffttttt.

Besides. The authorities dont want low prices. They want to keep the poor sober as if high prices will keep the rich from consumption.Their goal is to keep everyone sober if they could. But its harder keeping the rich sober, so they tend to settle for the poor.

Legalize Marijuana in California

Californians: Legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adults. Visit

We've gotten what we deserve!

This is what we get for allowing the Federal Government to control (FCC) the means of communications. If there were no FCC there would be many more alternatives out there to get the message out. There'd probably be better programming as well!

emailed the stations


said phoeey & quoted the para above of MPP director ...

email addresses

Can you post the station email addresses? I'd like to share a few thoughts with them... :)

i do NOT agree w/ the

i do NOT agree w/ the anonymous on MERP ... haven't even heard of it! and i WAS born yesterday ...


Beware of this MERP group. I have been active for quite some time, and i've not heard of this group. i read and watched a little of what they have to say...i'm skeptical of this group and it's motives. Why they would ever address what Lou Dobbs or Glenn Beck has to say on any issue is a huge red flag in my opinion.

Just my 2-cents...

legalizing cultivation for personal use is crucial

If there was a proposal to legalize gov't controlled sale but not cultivation for personal use, I don't see how I could vote for it. Unless the ban on personal cultivation was presented as temporary, not as a permanent ban.

The Arizona initiative (for 2010) mentioned in an earlier comment is for medical marijuana only, so I suppose I would have to vote for that as a humanitarian issue and a transitional step. Since Arizona voted by a 65% margin back in 1996 (!) for medicinal marijuana, I think they've waited long enough. The 1996 initiative didn't go into effect because it required a doctor's prescription, and they would lose their license for doing that, all they are allowed to do is "recommend" MMJ. But that 1996 vote shows you how long our rotten leaders have been defying overwhelming public opinion on MMJ.

I still think that if MPP, DPA et al fear we lack sufficient votes, a sunset provision is an excellent way to reduce the fears of those who are unsure about how they would vote on a cannabis legalization referendum. Knowing that permanent legalization would require a second vote makes a decision to tentatively legalize weed less of a high-stakes decision.

borden's picture

let us be real...

What Bruce has refused to acknowledge, nor even reply to to my best recollection, is that the tax and regulate legislations proposed do not ban personal cultivation. It's the government's continuing prohibition, enacted in 1937, that prohibits both personal cultivation and store sales. A tax and regulate bill that passed might not create new freedom for every individual to grow, but that's not the same thing as imposing a ban on it, because such a ban already exists now. Bruce is entitled to any lack of logic he wants on this point, but when he uses that to justify the attacks he's making on drug reform groups, that's unfortunate.

I'm glad that Bruce has finally after all these many months and years acknowledged that one of the concerns a group like MPP might have is the question of what will actually pass. Unlike Bruce, I don't believe that I can individually predict what people will or won't vote for. That's why groups with sufficient resources do commission polls and do focus groups. I personally believe that very few American voters or legislators at this point in time would vote to authorize unlimited personal cultivation by anyone, for example, as Bruce proposes and seems to believe can be made to happen within a year from now according to his web site. But if research were to show me wrong and were follow-up research to back that up, that would be what the researched showed.

Bruce also has skewed his argumentation by consistently referring to any regulation as "the dispensary model" and to any dispensary as "government run." Funny, I don't know of any dispensaries in this country that are government run. Many of them cooperate with local and county and state regulations -- just like any liquor store or restaurant or hardware store does too. And the dispensary model is only one possible system that could exist under regulated legalization.

I hope that no one reading this follows Bruce's lead in voting against a marijuana legalization initiative just because it doesn't include personal cultivation. There are 800,000 arrests for marijuana in the United States every year, and this has to be stopped. Once legalization is in place in some form, it's only a matter of time until at least limited home cultivation becomes legal too, because the senselessness of busting people for it will be too obvious. In the meanwhile, legalization will help the country by ending the black market, Bruce's and prohibitionists' bizarre claims to the contrary notwithstanding. And when the stores selling it are no longer islands of quasi-legalization surrounded by prohibition and that black market, prices will fall too.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Language of Marijuana Law Reform:

Thank you Mr. Borden!

My rant (or suggestion) for the month:

I think marijuana legalization should be couched in terms of Prohibition-repeal. People generally have a knee-jerk negative reaction to the notion of legalizing pot. But using the language of "repeal of Prohibition" helps people to understand that we are currently in this strange time when pot is Prohibited...but that for most of our nation's history marijuana has been legal.

It also ties into alcohol Prohibition, and its storied history, and many of the parallels that we can draw, including how much more practical sense its makes to keep alcohol legal rather than going back to the crazy world of alcohol Prohibition.

MERP ..... Shouldn't be THE model...

Patients do need compassion centers and quality meds from them, there are alot of ppl who cannot grow their own, in fact the the MERP concept is flawed at best.

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