Posts Tagged ‘2012’
by Chris Roberts, SF Weekly
Union Pulls Plug on Medical Reform, Other Ballot Measures Starved For Cash; Legislature, Ammiano Last Hope for Reform Now
Nobody likes to celebrate with a loss, but for the medical marijuana movement, 2010 and the historic defeat of semi-legalization measure Proposition 19 already look like the good old days.
Feast turned to famine quickly: Multiple marijuana legalization and medical marijuana reform ballot initiatives vied this year and last for a spot on voters’ ballots in November. But United Food and Commercial Workers and Americans for Safe Access withdrew on Thursday their Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, and leading proponents of legalization initiative Regulate Marijuana Like Wine are already looking ahead to 2014.
But with the federal Justice Department’s crackdown on California cannabis in full swing, that may be too long to wait, leaving all eyes now on an outspoken lawmaker from San Francisco to save cannabis in California.
Oakland union organizer Dan Rush, chief of the Medical Cannabis and Hemp division of UFCW’s national chapter, told the Sacramento Bee on Thursday afternoon that the union was “pulling the plug” on the MMCRT, which would have created a state-level bureaucracy to oversee and regulate the state’s medical marijuana industry not unlike what Alcoholic Beverage Control does for liquor.
Cash was the main reason, ASA executive director Stephanie Sherer told SF Weekly on Thursday evening: with about six weeks left before signatures were due in Sacramento — initiatives need over 500,000 valid signatures to qualify; campaigns usually submit 750,000 or more by the April 20 deadline — the campaign had $1.25 million of the $2 million needed just to pay signature-gathering companies to qualify.
More cash would be needed to run a campaign, so the call was made to focus on Sacramento, said Sherer, who added that the campaign started late and nonetheless “achieved [its] dream: to get something in the Legislature.”
“We’re not dropping anything,” said Sherer, who said the money will be spent on a “public awareness campaign” to sway lawmakers’ minds. This may work now when it did not before: leery lawmakers in Sacramento wanted proof that the often divisive and divided medical marijuana movement was not “a mile wide and an inch deep,” she said. “Well, we’re not.”
ASA and UFCW raised the cash in increments of $500 to $10,000 from medical marijuana dispensaries, dispensary organization, patients, advocates, and pot growers big and small, she told SF Weekly (financial disclosure forms have yet to be filed with the Secretary of State).
It’s now up to the Legislature and Ammiano, who introduced a bill very similar in language to the UFCW-ASA effort. It has yet to be called for a hearing in committee. A spokesman for Ammiano was not immediately available for comment late Thursday.
Ammiano will need Republican cosponsors as well as support from his Democratic colleagues in order to make any headway.
Meanwhile, the three legalization measures are still starving for billionaires. A few weeks ago in LA, proponents for Repeal Cannabis Prohibition, Regulate Marijuana Like Wine, and the California Cannabis and Hemp Health Initiative issued a “statement of unity” that included a clarion call to rich people. All ballot initiatives were in desperate need of cash; they remain so today.
In 2010, recall, Richard Lee of Oaksterdam University spent millions of his own money to put Proposition 19 on the ballot. The initiative won more votes than Meg Whitman, but was still defeated on the ballot, 46.2 percent for to 53.8 percent opposed.
Once on the ballot, he received big money contributions from George Soros, Peter Thiel, and other progressive-minded angel investors; those rich pot-loving folk have yet to pony up this year, and it now appears they won’t.
Though “anything can still happen,” said Steve Kubby, one of the proponents for Regulate Marijuana Like Wine. “I’m all about miracles.”
And he might need one. RMLW has $54,000 in the bank and about 200,000 signatures, said Kubby, an “eyeball estimate, mind you” he gave via telephone after looking at a stack of papers in his South Lake Tahoe home. “We have to do an audit, but I can tell you we have a pile.”
The challenge now is to figure out how to get a voter initiative on the ballot and how to win a campaign without a billionaires’ largess. That has not been done: it was Soros who bankrolled Proposition 215 in 1996.
“I do not understand how a person with billions who enjoys cannabis even on occasion, and who sympathizes with the damages of cannabis prohibition on our society, would not take a shot at real reform for 2012 in the nation’s most populous state,” said East Bay-based organizer and activist Mickey Martin, who used to head up edibles collective Tainted, Inc. before a federal bust. “For a few million bucks we could have cannabis freedom for 12% of America in one effort. Someone needs to write that check.”
Martin pointed to 2016, a presidential cycle, as the more likely “next time around” for cannabis legalization or reform. Kubby pointed forward to 2014, when fundraising and signature-gathering can be done in the cheaper offseason.
“We’ll raise the money ourselves, between now and 2014,” he said. “I can tell you with certainty, if we don’t get onto the 2012 ballot, this will definitely be on the 2014 ballot.”
So keep the faith, marijuana users. And try to befriend some billionaires while you’re at it.
Although 18 out of 20 of the most popular questions submitted by voters via YouTube were about the drug war or pot, the president in his 45-minute post-State of the Union chat didn’t address a single one.
“It is disappointing that, yet again, the administration has declined the opportunity to discuss the very serious issue of ending marijuana prohibition,” Erik Altieri, spokesman for National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, wrote in an email. “For the ninth time, the White House has solicited the American people for direct input on the issues they cared about and then, when the resulting answers called overwhelmingly for marijuana law reform, President Obama ignores the will of the American people on this burning issue.”
Google, which moderated the event from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m., did not immediately respond to a query about why such questions were excluded. YouTube, a division Google, allowed users until Saturday midnight to designate a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” on questions submitted ahead of Monday’s chat. Questions with the most thumbs up were deemed the most popular.
While the president did find time to talk about a whole host of less weighty questions, including ones about late-night snacks, dancing and his tennis skills, a response to a top-rated question submitted by Stephen Downing, the retired deputy chief of police in Los Angeles, was conspicuously absent.
Downing’s question, which garnered more than 4,500 votes, ranked first in popularity among questions submitted via video and second out of all questions. He asked the president to address a growing voter constituency that wants more changes to drug policy than he has delivered in his first term. “From my 20 years of experience I have come to see our country’s drug policies as a failure and a complete waste of criminal justice resources,” Downing had said in his video.
Later commenting on his question’s being ignored in Monday night’s chat, Downing, a board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, wrote, “It’s worse than silly that YouTube and Google would waste the time of the president and of the American people discussing things like midnight snacks and playing tennis when there is a much more pressing question on the minds of the people who took the time to participate in voting on submissions.”
“A majority of Americans now support legalizing marijuana to de-fund cartels and gangs, lower incarceration and arrest rates and save scarce public resources, all while generating new much-needed tax revenue,” Downing added. “The time to discuss this issue is now. We’re tired of this serious public policy crisis being pushed aside or laughed off.”
This isn’t the first time the issue of drug policy has dominated online contests soliciting questions from the president only to be ignored. In last year’s “Your Interview with the President” competition, Obama did discuss the issue, however, calling legalization and regulation of marijuana and other drugs “an entirely legitimate topic for debate” and adding that he remained opposed to legalization of medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana activists are wondering what happened to the candidate who promised to maintain a hands-off approach toward pot clinics’ adhering to state law.
“I will be voting in the Republican primary in California, and I will be voting for one of the candidates who supports our position on medical cannabis,” said Steve DeAngelo, executive director of California-based Harborside Health Center told The Huffington Post in a recent interview. “I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of other medical cannabis patients join me.”
“There’s a real opening here for Republicans,” he said.
A White House spokesman, when asked for comment about why no marijuana-related questions were addressed on Monday, noted that the event had been moderated by Google and the president was merely answering questions posed to him.
Watch Downing ask his question below.
So, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who likely got elected due to the advocacy of the medical cannabis movement, has finally spoken up (although not as forcefully as I would have liked); but spoken up none-the-less. Her comments are telling, as she mentions she was not informed of the crackdown (a statement that seems to say she is not feeling the love from Obama’s folks) and that she thinks the crackdown “makes no sense,” as the Feds say ALL cannabis is not medicine but then pick and choose which dispensaries get to stay and which get nasty threatening letters. I am with Kamala. I think what she is trying to say is the same thing we have all been saying for well-over a decade since this selective enforcement began…WHAT THE FUCK?
I think the most interesting and informative parts of her comments are that she is working with State Senator Mark Leno to create statewide regulations, going as far as saying when they get the legislation passed there will be “no role for the Feds.” That is music to my ears. Finally the state will step up and handle their business and set clear and unambiguous regulations in place for how cannabis is to be grown, processed and dispensed. It is good to see that they are ready to figure it out and at least let people know how to be in compliance and to avoid unnecessary arrest and prosecution.
So can UFCW and ASA and whoever else is working on a statewide initiative for regulating medical cannabis quit wasting time, energy and resources on this effort and instead work with Mark Leno to ensure we get good regulations in place?
Can we focus all of the resources for initiatives on Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act of 2012, so that we can make a clear and decisive law that allows adults to use cannabis, and will help to legitimize real patient use by removing abuses from the system. I think this should be the goal of any activist or organization who is honest with themselves. ASA needs to look at this not as a support for legalization, as much as a support for less abuse in the medical system to enable more healthcare workers, doctors, patients, and public officials to buy in to the medical uses of cannabis, as it will not be clouded with the “quasi-legalization” argument. Not to mention it is just good policy to not believe people should be locked up for cannabis any time ever. A medical cannabis initiative is a waste of time and money. As a community we should move towards adult use measures and quit trying to convince the world all use is medical. It clearly is not and we continue to look foolish by pushing that argument.
Below is an excerpt from the SF Chronicle on Kamala’s position:
Harris also found herself at odds with the Obama administration in a very public way when U.S. attorneys signaled in early October that they were about to crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries. The feds indicated that they were prepared to shut down clinics, seize assets and seek criminal prosecutions against what they regarded as criminal enterprises masquerading as suppliers of medicine.
Harris nodded affirmatively when asked if she was caught off guard by the sudden change of heart by an administration that once suggested it would take a hands-off approach to medical marijuana operations that were in compliance with state law.
“We didn’t receive any notice that it was coming,” she said.
Her office eventually issued a statement that questioned the federal government’s priorities with limited law-enforcement resources.
“For the feds to come in, who don’t agree with the very premise (that marijuana can be medicine), and then tell us which dispensaries can be open or not doesn’t make sense to me,” she said.
She said her office was working with key lawmakers, most notably Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, on legislation that would clear up the “confusion and ambiguities” about medical marijuana regulation. “I don’t see a role for the feds on this issue once it is addressed by the California Legislature,” she said.