Can Protections for Medical Patients Help Succeed Where Proposition 19 Failed?
Cannabis advocates promised they'd be back at the California ballot following marijuana legalization measure Proposition 19's historic failure in November 2010 (the measure received more votes than gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman, and at a fraction of a cost). And while the backers of Prop. 19 have yet to introduce a successor measure -- and, rumor has it, they may not -- other legalization activists are not waiting.
This morning, Mendocino County activist Pebbles Trippet -- the subject of a 1997 court ruling in which medical marijuana users were granted the right to transport their cannabis -- is on her way to Sacramento to file the text for the "Repeal Cannabis Prohibition" act at the Attorney General, according to Sonoma County attorney Joe Rogoway of the Cannabis Law Institute, another of the ballot measure's cosponsors.
If approved for circulation -- initiative statutes need 504,760 valid
signatures to appear before voters, no small feat. Repeal Cannabis
Prohibition will have competition: One other marijuana legalization ballot initiative is already in the signature-gathering process.
But this latest effort is designed to succeed where Prop 19 has failed,
according to Rogoway: it's a "repeal of failed policy," rather than a
drug legalization measure, and has protection for medical cannabis
patients included in the text while keeping as law restrictions on
driving while high and providing marijuana to minors.
doing what the other initiatives do not do," Rogoway told SF Weekly on
Thursday. And what's more, via Trippet this measure has approval from
Mendocino County marijuana farmers, he says, something else Prop 19
Could this be, as they say, The One?
Rogoway and Trippet are but two of the medical marijuana movement members to sign onto this latest measure: Oakland attorney Bill Panzer, one of medical marijuana law Proposition 215's authors, is a cosponsor, as is marijuana defense attorney Omar Figueroa and Berkeley physician Frank Lucido, one of the first MDs to write legal medical cannabis recommendations.
Read the act for yourself -- it's a short read, just 700 words. If approved by the Attorney General for circulation, the Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act will compete with the "Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act," which is the brainchild of Jim Gray, an Orange County criminal court judge, and South Lake Tahoe-based Steve Kubby. Yet Rogoway maintains that the repeal of prohibition, not comparing grapes to Granddaddy Purple, will appeal to conservative voters -- and will unite the medical marijuana movement to boot.
Rogoway and Figueroa, both defense attorneys specializing in marijuana crimes, would essentially write themselves out of a job, saving money on cops, courts and prisons: law enforcement would be entirely removed from the business of marijuana. All sections of California law dealing with criminal penalties for adult use, possession, or cultivation of the plant would be repealed, though the California Department of Public Health would still be responsible for regulating public smoking and use of marijuana by minors (still a crime), and driving while high would still be illegal. Anyone possessing, growing or otherwise involved with less than three pounds of pot would face no taxes.
Where this works for small-government and Tea Party types is that it's a repeal of failed laws rather than the imposition of new ones, Rogoway says. On top of that, framing the conversation in that way puts the onus on opponents to say why keeping marijuana illegal is the way to go.
"In an era of fiscal pragmatism and social responsibility, this is something that will make sense to California voters," he said. "Current policy doesn't prevent people from using cannabis... once we abolish these laws, everyone will become more free."
Once the ballot measure is approved for circulation, its backers will begin fundraising "immediately," Rogoway said.
Whether or not a ballot initiative will eventually emerge out of the "new Prop 19 committee," the Coalition on Cannabis Policy Reform, remains to be seen. The rumor in the medical marijuana community is that a lack of fundraising -- Oaksterdam University founder Richard Lee paid $1.5 million out of pocket to put Prop 19 on the ballot, his life savings -- and bad polling numbers have convinced that committee to wait until the 2016 cycle, That notion has been dismissed by union organizer Dan Rush of UFCW Local 5, the first -- and thus far only -- major labor union to organize medical marijuana workers.
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