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Feature: California Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization This Year!

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #625)

Californians will be voting on whether to legalize marijuana in November. The California Secretary of State's office Wednesday certified the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 initiative as having handed in enough valid voters' signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Will California take the next step? (photo courtesy
The initiative is sponsored by Oaksterdam medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee and would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults and allow for personal grows of up to 25 square feet. It also provides for the taxed and regulated sale of marijuana by local option, meaning counties and municipalities could opt out of legalized marijuana sales.

Some 433,000 valid signatures were required to make the ballot; the initiative campaign had gathered some 690,000. On Tuesday, state officials had certified 415,000 signatures as valid, but that didn't include signatures from Los Angeles County. Initiative supporters there Wednesday handed in more than 140,000 signatures. With an overall signature validity rate of around 80%, that as much as ensured that the measure would make the ballot.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the California Secretary of State's office made it official. Its web page listing Qualified Ballot Measures now includes the marijuana legalization under initiative approved for the November ballot. The 104,000 valid signatures from Los Angeles County put it well over the top.

"This is a watershed moment in the decades-long struggle to end marijuana prohibition in this country," said Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Banning marijuana outright has been a disaster, fueling a massive, increasingly brutal underground economy, wasting billions in scarce law enforcement resources, and making criminals of countless law-abiding citizens. Elected officials haven't stopped these punitive, profligate policies. Now voters can bring the reality check of sensible marijuana regulation to California."

"If passed, this initiative would offer a welcome change to California's miserable status quo marijuana policy," said Aaron Smith, California policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which recently endorsed the initiative. "Our current marijuana laws are failing California. Year after year, prohibition forces police to spend time chasing down nonviolent marijuana offenders while tens of thousands of violent crimes go unsolved -- all while marijuana use and availability remain unchanged."

Proponents of the measure will emphasize the fiscal impact of taxing marijuana -- the state Board of Equalization has estimated that legalization could generate $1.3 billion in tax revenues a year -- as well as the impact that regulation could have on reducing teen access to the weed. They can also point out that by now, California has lived with a form of regulated marijuana distribution -- the medical marijuana dispensary system -- for years and the sky hasn't fallen.

Opponents, which will largely consist of law enforcement lobbying groups, community anti-drug organizations, and elements of the African-American religious community, will argue that marijuana is a dangerous drug, and that crime and drugged driving will increase.

But if opponents want to play the cop card, initiative organizers have some cards of their own. In a press release Wednesday evening, they had several former law enforcement figures lined up in support of taxation and regulation. "As a retired Orange County Judge, I've been on the front lines of the drug war for three decades, and I know from experience that the current approach is simply not working," said retired Superior Court Judge and former prosecutor James P. Gray. "Controlling marijuana with regulations similar to those currently in place for alcohol will put street drug dealers and organized crime out of business."

"The Control and Tax Initiative is a welcome change for law enforcement in California," said Kyle Kazan, a retired Torrance Police officer. "It will allow police to get back to work fighting violent crime."

Jeffrey Studdard, a former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff, emphasized the significant controls created by the Control and Tax Initiative to safely and responsibly regulate cannabis. "The initiative will toughen penalties for providing marijuana to minors, ban possession at schools, and prohibit public consumption," Studdard said.

But the three leading contenders for the California governorship, which is also up for grabs this year, were quick to stake out positions opposing the initiative. "I've already indicated that that's not a provision I am likely to support," state Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown told a gathering of law enforcement officials in Sacramento Wednesday. "I've been on the side of law enforcement for a long time and you can be sure that we will be together on this November ballot."

Republican candidate Meg Whitman is "absolutely against legalizing marijuana for any reason," said spokeswoman Sarah Pompei. "She believes we have enough challenges in our society without heading down the path of drug legalization," she said.

"Like electing Jerry Brown, the idea of legalizing drugs is one more bad idea from a bygone era," said Jarrod Agen, communications director for GOP candidate Steve Poizner. "Steve Poizner feels we need an across-the-board tax cut to reignite our state's economy, not an attempt to smoke our way out of the budget deficit," he said.

The campaign should be a nail-biter. Legalization polled 56% in an April Field poll, and initiative organizers say their own private research is showing similar results. But the conventional wisdom among initiative watchers is that polling needs to be above 60% at the beginning of the campaign, before attacks on specific aspects of any given initiative begin to erode support. But despite the misgivings of some movement allies, who cringe at the thought of defeat in California, this year's legalization vote is now a reality.

"California led the way on medical marijuana with Prop. 215 in 1996," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Now it's time again for California to lead the way in ending the follies of marijuana prohibition in favor of a responsible policy of tax and regulation."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


tyner (not verified)

"I've already indicated that that's not a provision I am likely to support," Brown told a gathering of law enforcement officials in Sacramento Wednesday. "I've been on the side of law enforcement for a long time and you can be sure that we will be together on this November ballot."

I think Brown knows these guys are trying to create maximum employment for themselves by getting government to define certain classes such as cannabis users as legitimate targets for well-paid persecution. But they are the most powerful scare-campaigners of all, so for the time being Brown has to tell them what they want to hear to keep them working for him instead of for some other candidate (ultimate nightmare).

1. Here's one macro-idea that grandfathers in this type of person. California is losing billions $$ every year on fires which could be prevented by means of a laborious labor-intensive bio-fuels-removal program for all those drought-stricken hillsides choked with dead stems and branches. In a gigantic Obamaholz program a HUNDRED MILLION workers previously underemployed in domestic and foreign schools, prisons, orphanages, rest homes, refugee camps, Gaza, Zimbabwe, provincial China and India etc. should be welcomed to California, equipped with anvil pruner (for stems up to a centimeter), ratchet pruner (up to two centimeters), handsaw and hatchet, FEMA camp residence facilities, Halliburton catering, medical staffing, day care, daily language and carpentry courses, access to Internet etc. etc. All these narcops and prison guards can get jobs watching over the work camps and making sure the different nationalities get along and have no social problems. (After initial success this program could spread to other states-- New Jersey had hundreds of acres burning this past week-- re-employing more copguards everywhere and giving Brown a chance at the Presidency in 2016.)

2. The above program includes jobs trimming and dressing logs, poles, sticks, blocks that are trucked to town for use in carpentry and wood-based manufacturing. But what to do with all the brush, stubble, twigs, shreds, chips, sawdust? The Bushwater program (I have a guy in mind for Czar) consists of dragging deadscrap to the nearest ravine, gully, seaso0nally dry streambed, etc., laying first a dust (woodflour) and chips layer that can trap rainwater and prevent runoff, then bundled brush to weigh down the small particle material. Bush to water, get it? Also dressing hillsides against erosion ($bil. mudslides). This way more water is retained in the uplands, evaporates and rains there rather than running off downstream. Applied to millions of miles of streambed this adds up to drought prevention.

3. Greenmoundage: plant fast-growing invasive treeseeds -- eucalyptus, WLLW (weepy longleaf watertree), Shaky Quaky Spadeleaf Watertree (cottonwood), and above all, GAIH Government Approved Industrial Hemp, down through the phytomass. . Trees will sprout and grow, somewhere far downhill springs will gush fresh water, birds will birdhouse and spread seeds, etc.

4. (First) Brownspliff means wrap potting soil in a big spliff (made out of two brown napkins or two sycamore leaves) and plant it in a dibble-hole under a hedge where no one sees it till it's gone to seed. A few million of these planted, a billion plants two years later. Problem solved, and we'll name it after Brown.

Fri, 03/26/2010 - 1:06pm Permalink
tyner (not verified)

Oversight: I forgot to mention the identity of the seeds to be wrapped in the Brownspliff-- GAIH, or any hemp you want, Industrial or Inspirational. You ride the bike at night with a sack of Brownspliffs and a dibble stick to make 3-inch conical holes among the roots under a neglected forgotten hedge. Stand the spliff upright therein, then ride 100 meters before planting the next one. Named after the soon to be former lame duck UKPM but any Brown will do, including the new Senator from a state adjoining New Hampshire.

Fri, 03/26/2010 - 1:21pm Permalink
GL King (not verified)

I have a BS in Criminal Justice and an AS in Paralegal Studies. I have been an EMT for 20+ years, was a Medical NCO in the Military and have participated in several school groups dealing with drug abuse. I, and my family, have been part of various 12 Step Programs since the early 70's. My parent helped found groups in several states along with Bill W. I give this background information to show that I have a pretty good knowledge of drugs and alcohol on both sides of the fence. I have never abused either, but I know ALOT who have, including family members.

With that said, I'm still on the fence. I have an open mind and I have read both sides of this debate. I have been a member of DRC for a few years now. I'm still not convinced legalizing ANY illegal drug is a good idea. BUT I do think that more research needs to be done. Flat out illegalization of drugs when there is no known medicinal value COULD be a bad call. But the problem is that these types of studies cost money. Usually that money comes from Federal Grants and we all know how much this Administration has spent in the last 6 months alone. I just watched a documentary the other day on LSD and the research that is going on with it. There is a European company that has created a type of LSD that doesn't have the Psychotropic affects that they have used in conjunction with research about cluster headaches. That research looks promising. Does hemp provide the same medicinal value as marijuana? Has this even been looked at?

From a legal standpoint this bill is a bad idea AT THIS TIME for California. They already have a massive Statewide deficit. Federal law prohibits States from creating a law that supersedes a Federal Law. If this Bill does get passed you can bet the Federal Government will declare it Unconstitutional and will have it repealed. Which WILL cost California millions to defend.

Fri, 03/26/2010 - 1:27pm Permalink
Carl Darby (not verified)

In reply to by GL King (not verified)

The federal government can not "declare it Unconstitutional", which is particularly funny since their over-reach into state matters is intrinsically Unconstitutional. The only option they have is using federal agents to enforce what is mis-guided and clearly Unconstitutional federal law.

Ultimately it all resides on the very thin charade of the Commerce clause of the Constitution. With the state sovereignty issue coming to the fore now as a result of the Unconstitutional so-called Health Care Bill (read enforced subscription to crappy private insurers) it is possible we will see a state called convention to address the issue. Wouldn't that be fun?

It is funny that the only fig leaf the Obama crowd can find is "the Commerce clause".

In the mean time there is NO question that the highest law enforcement official in every county is the Sheriff which fortunately is an ELECTED position. He can order ALL law enforcement officials to leave and prevent anyone (the IRS, the FBI, the DEA you name it) from operating. Unfortunately, like the powers of jury nullification, or the knowledge of asserting rights outlined in the current "Stop the drug war" promo, ignorance of that power is lack of power which is then coupled with the sick "it's us vs. them" mentality of law enforcement in general and the population's generally sycophantic relationship to government.

But people are waking up. California's best move would be to put a Libertarian Sheriff in every county.

There is really nothing the federal government could do... at least Constitutionally. But we all know what would happen don't we? Because people are beginning to wake up to the fact that we don't really live in a free country.

It could get very interesting.

Fri, 03/26/2010 - 11:43pm Permalink
Mr. Herb (not verified)

In reply to by Carl Darby (not verified)

It really comes down to one simple question: who's country is this? The government's or the people's. It isn't about people being high - it's about people being free. If it's illegal for a citizen to lie to a police officer, and it is, then why should the people tollerate 75 years of beaucratic lies from a corrupt government.

Sun, 03/28/2010 - 4:55pm Permalink
Jean Boyd (not verified)

It has been a long upward fight...Now the playing field is a lot more clear. We knew what the problem was and now we are seeing "who" it is. Turning the Titanix, but this time we will save the musicians...etc. Prosecutor James Gray is saying he's sorry and I accept.

Fri, 03/26/2010 - 1:58pm Permalink
newageblues (not verified)

Alcohol toxicity and impairment lead to large numbers of deaths, what about cannabis? Why would you want to force people to use the much more deadly drug, as the status quo does? I'd really like to know.
Does the federal Centers for Disease Control even keep statistics on cannabis related deaths and serious injuries? As far as I know they don't.

Fri, 03/26/2010 - 2:01pm Permalink
mlang52 (not verified)

In reply to by newageblues (not verified)

I tried to find anything on fatal accidents due to impairment. I found it was only drunk and drunk/drugged drivers, involved in the fatal accidents, included in the report. No statistics could be found on using cannabis, alone, fatal accidents and driving, in that, same, report. Those accidents, may, happen, but they were not in the government report I was searching. I think it was because the number was statistically insignificant!

NTSA report 2007?

We should discourage driving impaired. But, when is one impaired?

Sun, 03/28/2010 - 5:29pm Permalink

All you academics think you know so much about life and reality, but you don't, youre just theorists. Ask the people that live in the real world - the cops, the judges, the parents of people that overdose on heroin, ecstasy - regulation of all drugs is the only answer to a balanced community. These people are the Realists.
Prohibition = crime, violence, overdoses, disease, death.
Alcohol is the most dangerous drug on earth, but is legal so go figure with your academic b.s.
I too have a science degree, but you obviously know jack. Your real qualifications are a Bachelor of B.S. Pull your head in and ditch your university theories - this the real world, listen to the cops and the judges who are tired of it.

Mick, Australia.

Sun, 03/28/2010 - 6:39am Permalink
Brian kelly (not verified)

As a patient of the california medical cannabis community and a caregiver for almost 4 years it work hopefully they wont legalize because its medication not recreation and it needs to stay just the way it is with no limits on the amount in a county like that passed by via riagosa .Clinics provide a care that your friends alone cant do like edibles and hashs and also look at denver IT WORKS WELL Oregon should adopt better policys like california

Sun, 03/28/2010 - 8:48pm Permalink
Anonymou (not verified)

Recreation is medication.

Mon, 03/29/2010 - 12:08am Permalink
Anonymous97999 (not verified)

It is very interesting that black religious leaders are against legalization of cannabis, since blacks are the hardest hit group of the drug war. What this says to me is that the authoritarian strain of the police bureaucracy has been shared by the baptist Church for too long, and both groups want to keep the prison-industrial-complex going for as long as they can, since when a family is ruined by the drug war they frequently turn to pastors for consolation.

Mon, 03/29/2010 - 5:50am Permalink
Anonymous Regi… (not verified)

Maybe it is just me, but it seem that the inferred use of Cannabis is by dishonest, shady lower and lower middle classes of people. Reality check: It happens at every social and economic level. I find it interesting that the very people who say no to cannabis are some of the very people who use it .Can the people of power admit to the use of cannabis? The embarrassment to themselves and family, not to even mention possible career ending, are horrendous if this information was to be made public.

I am an Register Nurse who does Home Health Care. In the home is where one's real life is. Yes, it is true: Some of those who say,"No", are some of the one's who "Do". From the very well-to-do to the very, very poor. And why? Some of the reasons: Doctors treatment and medicine are ineffective and it's not their fault. They do the best they can. People are not one size fits all. For some cannabis works and for some it doesn't. I could write a book on this. Legal or not--humans have been using home (herbal remedies) since the beginning of time. What works-works! Some may say it does harm, well the reality most legal medications have harmful side effects and even death. What about pain? Chronic pain is a problem. Not everyone get relief from Opiates: Codeine, Morphine, Oxycontin, etc. (Interesting, these CAN be prescribed for pain, and should be, but Cannabis is not). If Cannabis can help, so be it. What about nausea and vomiting? It is well know how Cannabis is a good treatment. The medical community and pharmaceutical companies may insist Marinal (sp) is effective but try taking a pill, which the active ingredient is THC, to a patient who has nausea and vomiting. I was an oncology nurse for 18 years, so I know what I am writing about. What about the "wasting away" syndrome with cancer, AIDS, and other conditions? I think we all know about the "munchies" that can help with these conditions. The medical community will/can say there are medicines for that too. For the person who doesn't want to eat, taking a pill?

A whole different aspect is the cost of medication. Our economy: Thousands of job losses and health insurance to go along with it. Some have had to quit their job due to illness. Unemployment insurance maximum payment in the state of California is $450.00 dollars a week Medicine is not cheap. Some have no choice but to use Cannabis. I have been in many homes, as a RN, is which Cannabis is use. Some in combination with their prescribed meds and some as the sole symptom reliever but it works or due to no funds--Cannabis is cheaper. I can't be so cold hearten. Try watching him for a few hours. Medical Cannabis is legal. Really? Stop raiding the dispensaries. Let the ill get their medicine.

Finally, legalize it for all and get it over with. Did you know that in Amsterdam a large amount of illegal drugs are legal with one of the lowest percentages of drug addiction in the world?? That's right. I wonder if we had legalization of Cannabis if some drinker switched over, what might happen? Less violence due to drunken rages. A lot more relaxation and peace. It is my right to indulge in something that is less toxic for me than alcohol. All professions use Cannabis. Did you know one can vaporize Cannabis? Bake it into food? One does not need to smoke it.

I could go on and on and in detail. I hope you will do some of your own research.

Those of you who have reached the end--Congratulations!

Mon, 05/03/2010 - 6:11pm Permalink

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