#436 California Will Vote On Legalizing Marijuana

Date: Wed, 24 Mar 2010
Subject: #436 California Will Vote On Legalizing Marijuana

CALIFORNIA WILL VOTE ON LEGALIZING MARIJUANA

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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #436 – Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Today the Los Angeles Times announced that L.A. County petition
signatures are expected to tilt the balance for putting The Regulate,
Control, and Tax Cannabis Act on the California ballot for November.

The initiative statute http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/pend_sig/init-sample-1377-032310.pdf

The initiative website http://www.taxcannabis.org/

Opportunities for writing letters will abound in the months ahead.
News clippings specific to California are posted at
http://www.mapinc.org/find?115

An anonymous donor has challenged DrugSense and MAP to raise $25.000
in new donations and/or increases in current monthly donations. Once
the goal is achieved the donor will provide us with $25.000. Today we
are about a third of the way to our goal. Please help us meet the
challenge! http://www.drugsense.org/donate.htm

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Pubdate: Wed, 24 Mar 2010

Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)

Page: Front Page, continued on page A14

Copyright: 2010 Los Angeles Times

Contact: http://mapinc.org/url/bc7El3Yo

Author: John Hoeffel

BID TO LEGALIZE POT USE NEAR BALLOT

Voters Could Weigh in on Initiative This Fall. Fiscal Crisis May Help
It Pass, Some Say.

Fourteen years after California decided marijuana could be used as a
medicine and ignited a national movement, the state is likely to vote
on whether to take another step into the vanguard of drug
liberalization: legalizing the controversial weed for fun and profit.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles County elections officials must turn in
their count of valid signatures collected in the county on a statewide
legalization initiative. The number is virtually certain to be enough
to qualify the initiative for the November ballot, according to a
tally kept by state election officials.

That will once again make California the focal point of the
long-stewing argument over marijuana legalization, a debate likely to
be a high-dollar brawl between adversaries who believe it could launch
or stifle another national trend.

The campaign will air issues that have changed little over the years.
Proponents will cite the financial and social cost of enforcing pot
prohibition and argue that marijuana is not as dangerous and addictive
as tobacco or alcohol. Opponents will highlight marijuana-linked
crimes, rising teenage use and the harm the weed causes some smokers.

But the debate also will play out against a cultural landscape that
has changed substantially, with marijuana moving from dark street
corners to neon-lit suburban boutiques. In the months since the Obama
administration ordered drug agents to lay off dispensaries, hundreds
have opened, putting pot within easy reach of most Californians.
Whether voters view this de facto legalization with trepidation or
equanimity could shape the outcome.

The measure’s supporters hope that this dynamic will shift the debate,
allowing them to persuade voters to replace prohibition with
controlled sales that could be taxed to help California’s cities and
counties.

“They already accept that it’s out there. They want to see a smart
strategy,” said Chris Lehane, a top strategist for the initiative.

But John Lovell, a Sacramento lobbyist for law enforcement groups,
said he believes that voters will reject that argument.

“Why on Earth would you want to add yet another mind-altering
substance to the legal array?” he asked.

California is not alone in weighing legalization. Several state
legislatures have considered bills and two other Western states may
vote on initiatives. In Nevada, a measure aimed for 2012 would allow
state-licensed pot stores. And a campaign in Washington hopes to put a
legalization measure on the fall ballot.

The 10-page California initiative would allow anyone 21 or older to
possess, share and transport up to an ounce for personal use and to
grow up to 25 square feet per residence or parcel. It would allow
local governments, but not the state, to authorize the cultivation,
transportation and sale of marijuana and to impose taxes to raise revenues.

To make the ballot, the measure needs 433,971 valid signatures. By
Tuesday, it was just 15,000 short. Los Angeles County, where
supporters collected 142,246 signatures, is expected to put it over
the top.

The initiative’s main proponent, Richard Lee, has spent at least $1.3
million, mostly on a professional signature-gathering effort, and has
assembled a team of experienced campaign consultants that includes
Lehane, a veteran of the Clinton White House.

Lee, who owns half a dozen mostly pot-related businesses in Oakland,
has said that he hopes to raise as much as $20 million. The last time
pot was on the ballot, in 1996, proponents raised $2 million, with
most of it from a few wealthy supporters.

Lehane said the campaign would have a major Internet component.
Marijuana has a devoted following on the Web. When President Obama
held an online town hall meeting after his inauguration, he was
barraged with questions about legalization.

“There’s the potential to raise significant online resources,” he
said.

Lovell has been assembling a coalition to defeat the measure. He
thinks that he will be able to recruit business leaders because the
initiative prohibits discrimination against anyone who uses marijuana,
unless it affects job performance.

Lovell said he is not worried about “the deep pockets on that side.”
He noted that opponents of Proposition 5, which would have let
nonviolent drug offenders avoid prison, defeated it in 2008 despite
being outspent.

“We don’t have to match the other side dollar for dollar,” he
said.

In that case, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and four former governors
denounced the measure. All the major candidates for governor have
shunned the pot initiative, including Democrat Jerry Brown, who as
governor signed a law in 1975 that dramatically reduced marijuana penalties.

Lehane said the legalization campaign would soon roll out radio ads
with former law enforcement officials.

Polls have shown that a slim majority of California voters want to
legalize marijuana. Both sides will shape their arguments to take aim
at the wavering voters in the middle.

The measure’s supporters say the undecided are primarily women in
their 30s and 40s with children.

Proponents hope to persuade those voters that it is time for a fresh
approach to a drug that is a fact of life in California, where it
supports a multibillion-dollar economy. The wisest plan, they argue,
is to allow cities and counties to regulate sales and impose taxes to
help them escape their budget disasters.

Two independent pollsters, Mark Baldassare of the Public Policy
Institute of California and Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll, said the
state’s grim financial situation may heighten the measure’s appeal.

“Whether voters are really there, whether they want to legalize
marijuana, I would probably tend to say no, but given the drastic
state of the budget, I don’t know,” said DiCamillo, calling the issue
a wild card. “The climate may actually help it a bit.”

Opponents plan to remind voters of the chaos caused by cities and
counties struggling with California’s medical marijuana law, noting
that it had led to the explosive growth in dispensaries in Los Angeles
County, where a quarter of the state’s voters live.

“It’s going to be a crazy quilt of 500 different marijuana nations,”
Lovell said.

Lehane said the legalization campaign will unveil model ordinances to
show voters how it could work and highlight separate state legislation
to capture tax revenue from legal sales.

The adversaries will also debate the social costs, disputing the
effect prohibition has on marijuana use, drug violence and the role of
Mexican cartels.

Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance,
said he hoped to highlight the increase in misdemeanor marijuana
arrests, which tripled between 1990 and 2008.

“It really is on a scale that we have never seen,” he
said.

Opponents will cite a national survey that found an increase in
teenagers trying marijuana last year. And they are emphasizing the
danger of drugged drivers. In a recent column, Ventura County Sheriff
Bob Brooks cited a 2007 accident in which a driver high on marijuana
crashed into a stopped vehicle, killing its driver and critically
injuring a California Highway Patrol officer.

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Suggestions for writing letters are at our Media Activism Center
http://www.mapinc.org/resource/#guides

The marijuana section of Drug War Facts has been updated
http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/53

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Prepared by: Richard Lake, Senior Editor http://www.mapinc.org

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