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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sean Parker Circulates Marijuana Legalization Initiative

Posted By on Thu, Oct 22, 2015 at 5:30 AM

click to enlarge Let's get this party started.
  • Let's get this party started.
The man marijuana legalization is waiting for — Napster co-founder, early Facebook president, and billionaire philanthropist Sean Parker — is closer than ever to "officially" entering the race to legalize recreational cannabis for adults in California.

Big-time Sacramento lobbyists and political consultants working for Parker are circulating a proposed legalization ballot initiative among drug reform advocates, multiple sources confirmed to SF Weekly this week.

Details are scant, as the Parker language has been shared under a strict embargo (and thus far, nobody has felt compelled to share this copyrighted material leak a copy to the media). 

The Parker language is competing with other initiatives already introduced, but Parker's immense fortune and his reputed willingness to part with some of it in the name of drug reform (plus the fact that everyone else is broke) make this nascent effort the immediate frontrunner. 

"We’re still reviewing and discussing the details with them," said Amanda Reiman, manager of Marijuana Law and Policy at reform group Drug Policy Alliance, "but we’re optimistic it's close to something we can support."

But as other billionaires and millionaires line up behind Parker, other drug reform advocates are not so sanguine about the Parker initiative. Which could mean plenty of infighting — and, though unlikely, the worst-case scenario of a competing initiative. 

Reached via telephone, an assistant for Parker promised to pass along a message from SF Weekly to "the right people." No comment has been received by press time. 

Lining up behind Parker are the heirs to Peter Lewis, the late Progressive Auto Insurance chairman whose New Approach PAC bankrolled the successful legalization effort last year in Oregon, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Also joining in are Joby and Nicholas Pritzker, scions of the Hyatt Hotel fortune. Joby Pritzker is a board member of the Marijuana Policy Project, which led Colorado's successful legalization effort in 2012.

For now, left out in the cold are the California-based veterans of the marijuana legalization movement.

The ballot measure introduced by Reform California, a coalition made up of veterans of 2010's Prop. 19 (to which Parker donated $100,000), the California NAACP, and other longtime drug reform advocates is still without a major funder of any kind.

The backers of that effort have some problems with the Parker language, which does not go far enough in protecting medical marijuana or allowing former criminal offenders to have a shot in a new recreational cannabis industry, advocates told The Bee

It's unclear if Parker's team plans to take suggestions from marijuana advocates or if he's merely sharing his language as a courtesy. It's also not clear how his vision jibes with the medical marijuana regulations recently approved by the state Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown.

Also unclear is what organized labor plans to do. The medical regulations passed in Sacramento with cooperation from the United Food and Commercial Workers, so far the only labor union to organize workers in the weed industry. Officials with UFCW declined to comment. 

Yet another question mark is Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. Newsom chaired an ACLU task force this summer that issued a lengthy policy document that offered recommendations as to just how marijuana should be made legal. Since then, Newsom — a 2018 gubernatorial candidate (to whom Parker donated the maximum amount of $56,400) — has been largely silent on the weed issue.

This could be because Parker's initiative is too commercial for Newsom, who vowed to oppose any effort that led to a "Green Rush" of investment into the cannabis industry (a little late for that). He has also said that there needs to be one initiative, not multiple ones — and leaving marijuana advocates out of the process may be a great way to ensure there are competing legalization efforts. 

And that could doom everything.
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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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