Marijuana Legalization

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Willie Nelson Wants Marijuana Legalization "Teapot Party"

After his third pot possession bust in five years, country music legend Willie Nelson has had enough. He told former High Times editor Steve Bloom's CelebStoner web site Sunday it is time for a new, pro-marijuana political party.

Free Willie? Free the weed! (image from Wikimedia)
"There's the Tea Party. How about the Teapot Party? Our motto: We lean a little to the left," Nelson said. "Tax it, regulate it and legalize it, and stop the border wars over drugs. Why should the drug lords make all the money? Thousands of lives will be saved."

A Willie Nelson's Teapot Party Facebook page went online Sunday, as well.

Nelson was arrested Friday at a border checkpoint in Sierra Blanca, Texas, on Friday after officials smelled marijuana. They searched the vehicle with drug-sniffing dogs and found six ounces of pot. Nelson was arrested and jailed until he posted a $2,500 bond later that afternoon.

Nelson's arrest was just one of what are likely to be around 900,000 pot busts this year, the vast majority for simple possession. Last year, more than 850,000 people were arrested for marijuana offenses.

Despite a raft of recent polls showing increasing support for marijuana legalization nationwide and majority support on the West Coast, the number of members of Congress showing any interest in moving toward marijuana legalization remains in the single digits OR can be counted on one hand. However, there have been rumors of support in some influential Democratic circles for marijuana legalization as a get-out-the-vote strategy. Dozens of Democratic organizations in California lent their endorsement to this year's Prop 19 ballot initiative, as did the Republican Liberty Caucus.

Austin, TX
United States

Cannabis Gets a Trade Association [FEATURE]

The marijuana industry is growing up. On Tuesday, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) officially came into being to represent the interests of the marijuana industry and its consumers. The group aims to influence policy in Washington, DC, just the same way any other industry does -- by lobbying the federal government to protect the interests of its members.

"We've seen such tremendous growth in this industry in the last five years," said NCIA executive director Aaron Smith. "It seems like the industry is not just surviving in the midst of economic decline, but booming. But it wasn’t represented in Washington, DC, like all sorts of other industries are. I just started talking to some of the major industry players, and just about everybody was really enthusiastic about jumping on board. This thing just blossomed."

The makeup of the NCIA's board of directors, with about one third of its 23 members from California, one third from Colorado, and one third from the rest of the country, correlates roughly with where the cannabis business action currently is. Most of the board members represent dispensaries or associated businesses, but there's also Kush magazine, Weedmaps.com, a pipe-market, an insurance company, and a hemp-seller.

At least three board members have well-known positions favoring marijuana legalization. As long-time head of the Marijuana Policy Project, Rob Kampia has put big money into legalization initiatives; Oaksterdam University's Dale Sky Jones was a spokesperson for the Proposition 19 legalization initiative; and as director of Sensible Colorado, Brian Vicente is working with others to get a legalization initiative on the ballot there in 2012.

"We wanted to be diverse in the types of businesses represented," said Smith. "It's not just dispensaries, it's all these other businesses creating thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars for the economy."

Becky DeKeuster is CEO of Northeast Patients Group, which will operate four state-licensed, nonprofit medical cannabis dispensaries in Maine. DeKeuster joined the NCIA board of directors and hopes to encourage others in the medical cannabis community to support the fledgling trade association. "I’m proud to be one of NCIA’s founding members," DeKeuster said. "This organization will be a great step forward not only for the medical cannabis industry, but also for the interests of the countless patients nationwide who rely on us to provide safe and effective natural medicine."

Another NCIA board member, Kush Magazine CEO Bob Selan, said that the trade association will be the force that finally unifies an extremely diverse industry. "In my years working for a top cannabis culture publication, I’ve met an astonishing number of talented individuals who are experts in their particular field. From cannabis cultivators to pipe manufacturers to crop insurance brokers, all will benefit from being collectively represented by the national industry association," Selan said.

The NCIA wants to attract at least 200 members in the coming year, Smith said. Regular membership costs $1,000 a year, a sponsoring membership is $2,500 a year, and a sustaining membership is $5,000 a year. If the group meets its membership goals, it could raise a minimum of $200,000 to go to work on Capitol Hill.

A sponsoring membership gives the member the right to vote on the group's board, half of which will be up for election each year. A sustaining membership gives the member the right to run for a place on the board. With the board setting policy, the NCIA is an association that will truly be run by its members.

"Our intention is to hire a lobbying firm," said Smith. "Right now, we have Steve Fox from MPP working part-time for us. As we raise funds, we'll be hiring lobbyists in the District and bringing in a full-time staff."

The group will work to get the federal government to let states set their own marijuana policies, and to ensure that federal agencies treat businesses compliant with state laws just like any other law-abiding businesses, said Smith. He pointed to agencies like the IRS and the Treasury Department, as well as the Department of Justice.

"We want cannabis-related businesses treated the same as any others," he said. "Now, we have things like banks not accepting deposits from legal medical marijuana providers. We may well be lobbying executive agencies to make administrative changes, as opposed to congressional action."

Smith is based in Phoenix, which, as he pointed out, is the "next wave" of legitimate cannabis businesses after Arizona became the 15th medical marijuana state earlier this month, but he'll be hitting the road to build the NCIA, he said. "I'll be traveling the country and getting new members to get the clout we need to make the change we want. Our lobbyist will be representing hundreds of businesses, thousands of jobs, and millions of tax dollars. It's really important we build membership as fast as we can."

The NCIA is in embryonic form right now, but it has the potential to open a new front in the battle to end the persecution of marijuana users and producers. The degree to which it succeeds will be a measure of the real maturity of the contemporary marijuana industry.

Washington, DC
United States

Northern Marianas Islands Senate Kills Marijuana Legalization Bill

The Senate in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands has rejected a bill that would have legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use. The bill had passed the House two weeks ago. The bill would have allowed people 21 and over to possess, cultivate, and transport marijuana for personal use.

Saipan -- no pot in paradise (image from Wikimedia)
The passage of the bill by the House marked the first time a pot legalization bill had passed in a legislative chamber in any US territory.

The bill, HB 17-45, was championed by Rep. Stanley Torres (I-Saipan). Earlier this year, a cost-benefit analysis performed by the House Committee on Natural Resources said enacting the bill into law "will possibly result in the loss of federal funds but at the same time the Commonwealth government will generate funds through taxation."

Torres and other legalization supporters also argued that the bill would allow access to marijuana by the ill and reduce crime and violence in black markets.

But Senate President Paul Manglona (R-Rota) said after the House vote that the Senate would kill the bill. "It's for the same reasons I mentioned before," he told the Saipan Tribune, citing concerns about marijuana use's impact on CNMI youth and other ill effects on the community.

And Gov. Beningno Fitial signaled that he was okay with medical marijuana, but not for non-medical.
"I support it for medicinal use," Fitial told reporters. "I never smoke marijuana myself so I cannot talk much about it because I don't have the experience."

A bill just for medical marijuana may be next in the US Pacific territory. Senator Luis Crisostimo, who supported the bill that was just defeated, said he plans to introduce separate medical marijuana legislation.

Saipan
United States Minor Outlying Islands

Marianas Islands Marijuana Legalization Bill Passes House

A bill to legalize marijuana passed the House in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI), a US territory, November 4. But the governor says he would only sign a medical marijuana bill, and the Senate appears poised to kill it.

Saipan -- moving toward a tropical paradise
Still, its passage marks the first time a pot legalization bill has passed in a legislative chamber in any US territory.

The bill, HB 17-45, was championed by Rep. Stanley Torres (I-Saipan). It would "allow individuals 21 years or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use; permit the regulation and taxation of the commercial production and sale to people 21 years old or older," while barring pot possession on school grounds and use in the presence of minors.

Earlier this year, a cost-benefit analysis performed by the House Committee on Natural Resources said enacting the bill into law "will possibly result in the loss of federal funds but at the same time the Commonwealth government will generate funds through taxation."

Torres and other legalization supporters also argued that the bill would allow access to marijuana by the ill and reduce crime and violence in black markets.

But Senate President Paul Manglona (R-Rota) said Wednesday that the Senate will kill the bill next. "It's for the same reasons I mentioned before," he told the Saipan Tribune, citing concerns about marijuana use's impact on CNMI youth and other ill effects on the community.

And Gov. Beningno Fitial signaled that he was okay with medical marijuana, but not for non-medical.
"I support it for medicinal use," Fitial told reporters. "I never smoke marijuana myself so I cannot talk much about it because I don't have the experience."

Saipan
United States Minor Outlying Islands

Prop 19: What Went Right, What Went Wrong [FEATURE]

In the week since Proposition 19, the California marijuana legalization initiative, was defeated 46% to 54%, the post-mortem analyses have been coming down fast and furious. Even in defeat, Prop 19 continues to generate mountains of verbiage, and advocates will tell you that's just one of the positive outcomes generated by the initiative.

As the polls closed, Oaksterdam waited.
Indeed, the post-election output on Prop 19 has been stunning. Russ Belville of NORML has 10 Lessons Learned from Marijuana Election Defeats, while the Christian Science Monitor has Three Reasons Prop 19 Got the Thumbs Down (federal government opposition, midterm voter demographics, and fear of regulatory gridlock), and Pete Guither at the Drug War Rant has his own Prop 19 Wrap-Up.

Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, a libertarian and academic advocate for legalization, asks Why Did California Vote Down Pot? Miron answers that Prop 19 overreached with its arguments (on tax revenues and ending the Mexican drug war) and its provisions (limiting employers' rights). In Post-Prop 19, the Los Angeles Times, in a piece whose tone hints at support for legalization in principle, blames initiative organizers for presenting the public with "a badly drafted mess."

Steve DeAngelo of the Harborside Health Center in Oakland warns that Voters Won't Approve Legal Pot Until Advocates Earn Their Trust, and argues the movement should be concentrating on developing a well-regulated and demonstrably safe medical marijuana cultivation and distribution system to allay the fears of parents and others concerned about the Wild West aspects of California's dispensary system. Interestingly, the 11 counties surrounding San Francisco Bay, where local authorities have most promptly moved to put regulations in place, are the only counties where a majority of voters did vote yes on 19.

Pollwatcher Nate Silver wonders Are Parents Just Saying No to Marijuana Legalization?, pointing to national survey data suggesting that being a parent drops support for legalization by 10 to 15 percentage points. Atlantic magazine business and economics editor Megan McArdle reprises ongoing arguments in Will Pot Be Legal? and sides with Silver on the role of parents.

And that's just a representative sample of the debate over why Prop 19 lost. For Prop 19 supporters, that ongoing argument is just more evidence that the measure has caused a seismic shift in the political discourse on pot.

"We started putting out the message two months ago that Prop 19 is a winner," said Drug Policy Alliance head Ethan Nadelmann. "It transformed the debate. Compare where we are now to where we were two years ago. There is a consensus that between the messaging that came out, the positive impact on the public dialogue, the mainstream players coming out with endorsements, and getting more votes than Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina, Prop 19 was a major step forward," he said.

"What was significant was George Soros coming in with that contribution and his op-ed," Nadelmann continued. "Soros has been a major supporter of marijuana decriminalization, but he was always ambivalent about legalization, in part because of concerns about the impact on young people. Prop 19 being on the ballot and his being asked by so many people what he was going to do encouraged him to think more deeply about it. That he decided to write that piece and make that contribution, even in late October, when he knew the odds of winning were not great, is important for the future."

Even though Soros didn't come through until the final week of the campaign, and the campaign struggled financially (even while outdistancing the opposition), Nadelmann didn't see that a reason the measure lost. "I'm skeptical that substantially more money earlier on would have clinched this," he Nadelmann. "What was really problematic was the turnout. Young people did not show up en masse."

He wasn't the only one looking at turnout. "In a midterm election year like this with a Republican sweep nationally, we didn’t see the types of voters who favor marijuana legalization coming to the polls," said Mike Meno, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

"The only way to respond to a loss is to learn from it," said NORML founder Keith Stroup. "There were two or three specific areas where our opponents were effective, specifically on the employer-employee issue. You had the Chamber of Commerce saying employers couldn’t fire someone coming to work stoned, and some of the law enforcement folks got traction with the idea that roads would be filled with stoned drivers. We have to be clear that if someone is stopped for driving while impaired and they pass the alcohol test, that police have the right to take them in for a drug test," he said.

That position isn't likely to sit well with the veteran stoner demographic, who will argue that marijuana really doesn't impair driving ability that much among experienced tokers. Better to test for actual impairment than the presence of metabolites, especially if impairment is assumed under a "zero tolerance" DUID law, but that's going to be a hard sell for the general public.

"I am among those people who felt that even though we lost, Richard ended up doing a good thing for the movement," said Stroup. "I don't think legalization was ever taken seriously by politicians and the press until Prop 19 came along. It was probably worth the three or four million dollars spent to force marijuana legalization into the mainstream."

"One of the things that really caught on with the opposition and helped spread seeds of doubt in voters' minds was the local control aspect, allowing different counties to decide whether to regulate," said Meno. Ironically, that provision was a concession designed to blunt potential opposition by allowing more conservative areas to opt out.

"The polling shows that workplace concerns and fears of driving under the influence helped motivate the no vote," Meno added. "Those same concerns apply to alcohol, but they're not arguments for making alcohol illegal. With sensible public education, these issues can be addressed. We need to deal aggressively and proactively with the issues around driving while impaired so there isn't the really poor media coverage we saw this time. That gave people the ability to leap from legalization to impaired driving. We need to address these fear-based arguments," he said.

Even the Prop 19 campaign now says maybe the workplace language wasn't a good idea. "I remember having an uneasy feeling about the employment part, but one of our more conservative consultations was for it," said Richard Lee, the man behind Prop 19. "I should have listened to my gut, but it's hard not to want employees to be free from uncalled for drug testing."

"This result was predictable from the early polls," said Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML, which endorsed Prop 19 but was skeptical about its prospects from the beginning. "One of the problems was that legalization scores in the low fifties in the polls, and you need it in the sixties to pass. In any initiative, there are particulars that people object to, and support begins to erode, and this was criticized from all sides."

The California public is ready to go along with legalization if presented with a plan that makes sense and will actually do what it promises, but Prop 19 wasn't that plan, Gieringer said. "The closer you looked at Prop 19, the less it offered in immediate benefits to the state," he argued.

"As soon as any city or county tried to implement 19, they would get hit with a federal injunction, which the feds would certainly win," Gieringer said. "So, no tax and regulate, no tax revenues, and you get a bunch of lawsuits with the feds. It wasn't going to solve the drug war in Mexico, it wasn't going to save all that much in arrests, especially since Schwarzenegger signed that decriminalization bill, and a lot of marijuana offenses have to do with exporting out of state, and that would remain. Prop 19 would have been the first step in a much larger battle going on for years before you really get those benefits, and voters didn't trust that those benefits would actually come."

"We've lost a lot of battles at NORML," Stroup laughed wryly. "But what is important when you lose is what you learn. We came away from California knowing we can do it better, and we will do it better. I think in 2012, the whole West Coast will be proposing that we legalize marijuana."

Richard Lee and his crew are already making plans to put together a new initiative in 2012, but if California's recent history is any indicator, they are unlikely to be the only ones. If one or more of them make it to the ballot in 2012, they better have learned the lessons of 2010.

CA
United States

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.

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

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

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

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