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Monday, November 2, 2015

Paper: Sean Parker to Announce Marijuana Legalization Plans Today

Posted By on Mon, Nov 2, 2015 at 6:00 AM

click to enlarge The face of the man who would legalize weed. - WIKIPEDIA
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  • The face of the man who would legalize weed.
For a few months, rumors have been swirling that technology billionaire Sean Parker — who, at 35, is in a "philanthropist" and "political campaign bankroller" phase — wants to use some of his fortune to legalize cannabis in California.

Today, it's all supposed to become "official." A Parker-funded legalization campaign will announce its "official" existence sometime today, the San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday, citing anonymous sources.

A few weeks ago, Sacramento political consultants working for Parker circulated a draft initiative among drug policy advocates and other legalization players. This one will be similar, and will receive cash from marijuana industry players and support from some of the nation's top drug policy reform groups.

That leaves out in the cold the Bay Area-based veterans of 2010's Prop. 19. Their 2016 legalization effort, Reform California, now appears to be without a chance at major funding. Indeed, some of Reform California's board members appear to have jumped ship and joined Parker.

It's true: a billion dollars is indeed cool.
Parker has been busy in California politics. He gave $1 million to Gov. Jerry Brown's water bond campaign last year, and also contributed $300,000 to Mayor Ed Lee's housing bond, Prop. A, which is on tomorrow's ballot.

Jason Kinney, a political consultant with Sacramento firm California Strategies who is reportedly working for Parker, confirmed late Sunday that he's working with a "coalition that intends to file a measure" today but could not name names. 

As per the Chronicle, which was provided a draft copy of the initiative, Parker's vision for legal marijuana in California would allow adults over 21 to possess the drug and grow up to six plants at home. A 15% excise tax would be placed on both medical and recreational cannabis, though medical patients would not have to pay sales tax.

Offenders serving time for weed offenses now made legal could have those sentences shortened, and past convictions for behavior now legal could be expunged.

And medical marijuana, which was just regulated by the Legislature this year, would be protected, though medical dispensaries would be easily able to become recreational, according to the newspaper. 

Parker's measure is said to hew closely to the recommendations released by an ACLU "blue ribbon commission" chaired by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Gavin, recall, told a national television audience on Real Time with Bill Maher than 2016 would be the year California legalized recreational marijuana.

Supposedly joining Parker as angel investors in legal weed are Justin Hatfield, the CEO of dispensary locator Weedmaps, who parked $1 million — still almost entirely unspent — in a campaign spending account on April 20; Graham Boyd, who is in control of the late Peter Lewis's fortune via a spending committee called New Approach; and Nick and Joby Pritzker, heirs to the Hyatt Hotels fortune who have invested in the cannabis industry via their firm Tao Capital Partners, according to the Chronicle.

These are all familiar names. Joby Pritzker is on the board of the Marijuana Policy Project, one of the main forces behind legalization in Colorado in 2012, and Boyd's New Approach used Lewis's money to pay for legalization last year in Oregon.

Left out of the game for now is Reform California, a group that featured veterans of 2010's Prop. 19 campaign. That legalization effort lost, 53.5% "no" to 46.5% "yes" — and it appears that their intended campaign for next year is now without any major funders.

As well as Marijuana Policy Project, other national drug advocacy groups like Drug Policy Alliance are on board with Parker, according to the Chronicle. Also on board with Parker is the California Cannabis Industry Association — whose executive director sits on Reform California's board of directors. Ouch.

Reform California filed a draft initiative earlier this month, and has a political team that includes Joe Trippi, the former adviser to ex-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, and political consultant Jim Gonzalez, a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors brought on in order to secure the Latino vote for legalization.

Reform California had hoped to access Parker's fortune — or if not, the money left behind by Lewis. Now, neither cash streams appear available, as both are aligned with Parker.

Left unsaid is the why — as in why, of the various causes competing for Parker's famously wide-ranging interest, is he interested in legal weed. He has yet to say, though it's clearer what partners like Hatfield and Pritzker, who have stakes in the industry, might want.

Check back later today after the announcement is made for updates.
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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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