Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Rolling Out in California [FEATURE]

A broad coalition of California advocates has filed a statewide medical marijuana regulation initiative aimed at ending the years-long confusion over what is and what is not allowed under state law by explicitly allowing sales and legalizing dispensaries statewide absent affirmative local popular votes to ban them. Pending approval of the measure's title and summary by state officials, the campaign is planning to roll out a signature-gathering and fundraising campaign early next month in a bid to put it before the voters in November.

The Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act (MMRCTA) would create a state agency, the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Enforcement (BMME), to regulate medical marijuana cultivation and distribution. The bureau's 21-person governing body would include a mix of patients, patient advocates, industry representatives, union representatives, law enforcement, and other stakeholders appointed by the governor or lieutenant governor.

The BMME would be funded by a 2.5% tax on the sale of medical marijuana. Surplus tax revenues would fund emergency medical services, low-income assistance and health services, scientific and educational grant programs, and research into environmentally-sound cultivation practices.

The initiative would require state registration after July 1, 2013 for anyone cultivating, processing, manufacturing, transporting, distributing, or selling medical marijuana for use by others. Patients and caregivers who are growing at home for themselves would be exempt.

The MMRCTA would make it more difficult -- but not impossible -- for cities and counties to ban dispensaries by declaring that "each city and county shall permit" medical marijuana facilities sufficient to meet local needs, which the initiative defines as at least one dispensary for each 50,000 residents in a county or town of 50,000.

Already existing bans and moratoria, of which there are nearly 200 statewide and growing weekly, would be allowed to continue to exist, but only for a specified period of time. Then they and new proposed local bans could only be enacted through a direct vote via local initiative. Cities would be allowed to maintain reasonable local control over zoning and other regulation of medical marijuana businesses.

The initiative would also outlaw the issuance or use of fraudulent physicians' recommendations. That means it would become an offense to issue a recommendation if the issuer is not a physician.

The measure has some of the biggest players in Golden State medical marijuana politics behind it. Its official proponents are Don Duncan, state director for Americans for Safe Access, the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group, and Ron Lind, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, which represents unionized dispensary workers around the state.

Also backing the initiative campaign, called Californians to Regulate Medical Marijuana, are California NORML, the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, the Sacramento-based California Cannabis Association, and the Emerald Growers' Association. The effort is also endorsed by the national reform groups the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project.

But time is tight. The campaign has only until April 20 to gather the more than 500,000 valid signatures it needs to qualify for the ballot, and says it is trying to raise one million dollars by February 9. That will be just the beginning if the initiative is to have a chance to make the ballot.

"To come up with 500,000 valid signatures by April 20 is probably a $2 million proposition," said long-time California NORML head Dale Gieringer, who is also an MMRCTA campaign committee member. "We're a little bit late out of the gate, and we still have to wait for the title and summary to come back, but we have some startup pledges already on hand, so we'll be ready to start circulating petitions early in February."

Even campaign communications consultant Roger Salazar's lower estimate was daunting. "It'll take between one and two million, but with this short time frame, we need these resources on hand," he said. "We need to come up with more like 800-850,000 signatures to be safe; we're looking at around 130% of what is required."

To attract the game-changing big bucks of donors like Peter Lewis or George Soros, who could propel the campaign to success with cash injections, the campaign is going to have to convince them it is worthy. Citing campaign polling, Gieringer thinks they have a shot.

"Regulating medical marijuana is the marijuana issue in California," he said. "Support for the medical marijuana law here polls over 70% and support for uniform state-wide rules polls even higher. So, yes, we're approaching the usual suspects, as well as a couple of others. We know they want to make sure this is a good place to put drug reform money, and we think we'll come out well in comparison with other reform initiatives around the country."

The initiative came together out of widespread frustration with the status quo, said both Gieringer and Salazar. Between heightened federal enforcement and increased local clampdowns, the medical marijuana distribution network is fraying, fraught with anxiety and uncertainty, leaving patients in some areas miles from their medicine and providers even in medical marijuana-friendly locales closing up shop.

"We've seen a lack of state government action to fill in the blanks on Proposition 215 and we've seen the kind of response we've had from the federal government," said Salazar. "Some of the groups that were supporting marijuana legalization decided to try to figure out how to reinforce the voters authorizing use for medical reasons, as well as a way to provide some of the oversight people have been looking for."

"The federal crackdown is widely rationalized by the charge that California doesn't have a legally regulated distribution system," said Gieringer. "The Obama administration said it wouldn't go after people who were in clear and unambiguous compliance with state law, but we don't have any clear and unambiguous state laws. Some say it's legal, some say it isn't," he explained. "We have to do this to protect ourselves from more federal oppression. We need this for patients, the industry, and law enforcement alike; we need to give them a clear idea of what they can and cannot do."

Given the size and diverse nature of California's medical marijuana and marijuana reform communities, any initiative concerning cannabis is going to be contentious. The intense negative reaction to 2010's Proposition 19 in some sectors of the community is evidence of that, as is the inability of would-be legalizers to settle on any one of the four underfunded legalization initiatives languishing in search of signatures this year.

The MMRCTA is no exception, and early detractors have emerged. Medical marijuana activist and gadfly Mickey Martin, who was prosecuted by the feds himself over his Tainted, Inc. edibles, used his Cannabis Warrior blog to vociferously object to the creation of a new state agency to regulate the industry, to the inclusion of union representation on that agency's governing board, as well as his presentiment that the board will be stacked with industry insiders, among other things.

"There is strong support for uniform state regulation," Gieringer replied, "but also for local control. If people really don't want dispensaries, they could vote them down, but legal dispensaries are the default. Once this initiative passes, all of the ambiguity about what will be legal will be gone."

As for the make-up of the board, "We made sure the bureau had knowledgeable people, and why shouldn't labor have a place at the table?," Gieringer retorted. "Labor is a key supporter of the initiative," he said."The UFCW is one of the key sponsors. They've been doing a hell of a lot to organize for this initiative and for legal marijuana in general. They've earned their seat at the table," he said.

There will doubtless be plenty more discussion of the merits and deficits of the MMRCTA in the few weeks culminating in the April 20 signature gathering deadline, but this looks like a serious effort being run by some serious players in California. The question becomes just how serious the big money funders think it is, and what they think its chances of success are.

Sacramento, CA
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Med. what?

Considering how Cannabis Legalization is about to unfold across the Nation , this initiative may be " so 20 seconds ago " . Colorado means business . Shows  just how intense the drug war is in Cali . . Drug War jobs on the line . The Green Tsunami is on its way , don`t worry , be happy .  2012 .

Gadfly....Really?; background-color: rgb(182, 171, 142); line-height: 1.4em; font: normal normal normal 13px/1.5 Helvetica, Arial, 'Liberation Sans', FreeSans, sans-serif; background-repeat: repeat no-repeat; ">

Mr. Smith,

I am not sure to think about your using the term "gadfly" in describing my concerns, and from the looks of your writing you did not read the article you referenced, or simply did not understand the points.

I do not take issue with union representation being included, or even them having a seat at the table. The issue I took was showing whay a particular union, UFCW, has specific interests in this passing, as the Act only allows for medical cannabis unions to be those "currently" serving the medical cannabis community. This assures there will be no Union competition and that UFCW will have THE ONLY union seat at the table. So it is no wonder they are "doing a hell of a lot to support this initiative." They have a lot riding on it, if they can sew up the entire industry by having voters pass the one key word to their ability to do that..."currently."

I am not against unions. I am the son of a Union man and a proud supporter of Union efforts. But I am also one who believes in a level plating field, and does not believe that only one Union should have access to an industry as broad and encompassing as the medical cannabis industry.

I love that the Board is stacked with industry insiders! Good for me! The point my article made, had you read it at all, was that the average voter will reject the notion of regulation when confronted with the make-u of the board. For me it is GREAT! Super. Could not be better....but tht might be the problem. Our opposition can see this too, and it will be a campaign issue.

The real question none of these proponents answer are what does CA look like the day after the election if we lose? The opposition is already lining up their fight, and I simply do not think this initiative, or the proponents, are ready for the heavy backlash and scrutiny this effort will bring if it qualifies. There in lies the problem.

If "gadfly" stands for "not a sellout" then I am guilty as charged....


"That means it would become an offense to issue a recommendation if the issuer is not a physician."

I'd like to see how that would be worded to avoid running up against freedom of speech provisions of the Calif. & federal constitutions!  Maybe what it says is that it would be illegal to falsely represent onseself as a physician in producing such a statement.

Seat at the table? How about Harm Avoidance Equipment Manufactu

A 500-mg joint burns hot, hurriedly destroys a high percentage of expensive cannabinoids, inflicts respiratory stresses falsely attributed to cannabis in the popular press.  A blunt (widely popularized by "wRAP" music lyrics) adds addictive nicotine by means of a cigar skin (Trojan Horse for $igarette corporations).  Most headshop pipes have too wide a diameter, lure youngsters into inserting too much herb at a time, burning unvaporized cannabinoids, etc.  

Any initiative aimed at Regulating cannabis dispensing should also aim at promoting the integration of Control into the methods of use, which ultimately means every customer receiving medical marijuana would also receive a long-stemmed (i.e. "whip"-equipped) screened single-toke utensil for hand-vaporizing 25-mg servings, or advantageously buy any of numerous approved priceworthy vaporizers.

(Oh, by the way, whatever happened to the Vapor Rush (cannabinoid e-cigarette) which was introduced in June, 2010, and reported at that time to be available at "a few California dispensaries"?  Why isn't that being marketed more widely?  Wouldn't even reluctant voters approve substituting it for unhealthy joint-smoking?)

An article currently under construction at dealing with "How to Make Smoke Pipes from Everyday Objects" needs to be developed into an international standard according to which locally hand-made one-hitters, vapetoke pieces etc. (help name it)  are graded and approved under such a system as now proposed for California, so that "health objections" to the Initiative are handily disposed of!  Please visit the article, add text and pictures and diagrams as needed! 


I hate to be so .... ahem.... blunt about this, but screw these people! These are the same bastards who fought prop 19 because they thought it would hurt their profits. Now, when they have their feet in the fire of federal law enforcement, they come running to the people of California asking for large amounts of cash in order to further their ability to continue making boatloads of cash from sick people. In my opinion, they lost any right to ask us for anything when they put profit in front of people. Why don't we just legalize and break their monopoly? I for one will be keeping my money and my vote from these people.

It seems to me that not only

It seems to me that not only do we have the real threat of the feds screwing with us ( thanks Obama, you will NOT be getting my vote again), but we the people also have to put up with these people who only want legalization on their terms in order to make money. If the medical cannabis community are as selfless as they make themselves out to be, then why have prices stayed so high? I can attests to the fact that since the raids started in northern CA, the prices in the medical establishments have gone up about $25.00 per 1/8. Prop 215 was supposed to help sick people while helping to lower prices. What happened? 


On another note, will this law if it is passed have any workplace protection? I doubt it.



I just re-read the proposal,

I just re-read the proposal, and there is NO mention of workplace drug test protection. This is a bill for the dispensers by the  dispensers  with no thought for the people they supply. 

Article Typo

I hate to be the grammar police, but the last sentence of the 6th paragraph is missing  word(s).

"Then they and new proposed local bans could only be enacted through a direct vote via local initiative."

whats not to get?

Its about money and social control. Take a look at who gets arrested for cannabis. Mostly Black and Latino men. Arresting these segments of the population creates a permanent underclass of felons who in most cases cant even vote anymore. Read "The new Jim crow".

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