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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Marijuana Legalization Could Happen in 2016, Thanks to Silicon Valley Cash

Posted By on Wed, Jul 10, 2013 at 3:15 PM

Someone's holding
  • Someone's holding

At the heart of most matters is a simple thing: money. Cash -- and infinite sums of it -- is the sinews of war, Cicero told us, and a scan of the technocapitalism headlines -- acquisitions, fundings, and otherwise a list of zeroes punctuated by commas are tech news' daily bread -- shows that it's the dollar that drives the Bay Area.

So, too, with the drug war reform movement. Call it the end of prohibition, call it legalization -- you're not calling it anything without the piles of money needed to run campaigns. Cozying up to capital may be a sign of how much the cannabis movement has matured and gone mainstream, or it could just be reality.

And today's reality is that Silicon Valley and its youthful entrepreneurs have money to burn. Thus, when the next California marijuana legalization measure is before voters in 2016 (despite passionate efforts, there will be no legalization next year, barring a miracle) it will be brought to you by Silicon Valley capital -- and specifically, capital connected to a certain social network.

As many more learned and knowledgeable sources have observed, California's once-populist ballot initiative process is now a tool of capital, mostly because of how vastly expensive it is to get the people to make laws. Millions of dollars are needed to collect the signatures needed to qualify an initiative for the ballot, and millions more are needed to run a campaign.

In the past, both medical marijuana and marijuana legalization have relied on a few wealthy patrons. George Soros, the billionaire funder of liberal causes, donated millions to both the failed legalization effort Prop. 19 in 2010 and 1996's Prop. 215, which made medical marijuana a reality. (There was also Oaksterdam University founder Richard Lee, whose life savings was put on the line to put Prop. 19 on the ballot).

The likes of Soros and Progressive auto insurance Chief Peter Lewis -- who doled out $1.5 million to the successful marijuana legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington last year -- are still "engaged," said Dale Sky Jones, the chairwoman of the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, which has been to date the most successful group in pushing California drug reform.

But in two years, when Jones' group hopes to try again -- a push last year petered out when the money didn't come through; fundraising troubles also led to the demise of Regulate Marijuana Like Wine and other efforts -- expect Hollywood as well as Silicon Valley to play bigger fundraising roles, Jones said Monday.

"There's money to burn in those industries," she explained. And there's also a pattern of giving. Facebook investors have already proven they're interested in giving to the drug reform cause: Sean Parker gave Prop. 19 $100,000 in 2010, and Facebook employee No. 2 Dustin Moskovitz doled out another $50,000 to the effort.

That's not quite Soros or Lewis territory. But as it happens, people like those two have "networks of friends," Jones said (and, dare we say it, social networks?). By the time the next presidential campaign cycle rolls around - and it's highly unlikely anything as controversial as drug reform will ever be presented to voters in an off-year ever again - those are the kind of friends marijuana reform advocates will need.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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