Pot Legalization Bid In California Gains Powerful Backers
Our top story on midday edition this is the one. That's what one advocate says about the new adult use of marijuana act ballot proposal filed with the state on Monday. It's only one of nearly a dozen proposed initiatives to legalize the use of recreational marijuana in California. But a group of powerful supporters say this proposition has the best chance of passing. The cost and because of its carefully crafted language and its backing by Lieutenant. Governor. and a group of wealthy advocates. Joining me to discuss the marijuana ballot initiative is my guest a professor at Thomas Jefferson school of Law who specializes in drug policy issues. He is the former chair of the San Diego medical marijuana task force. Alex welcome to the program. Thanks so much for having me. What you think about this ballot proposal? Do you think this is the one? It looks very likely that it is. I think the question is really whether there will only be one? I think this is going to be certainly the ballot measure that has the most financing and the most high profile backing right out of the gate. We have Lieutenant. Governor. Gavin Newsom and the drug marijuana policy project which is two of the largest drug policy and marijuana reform organizations in the country along with Sean Parker and a lot of wealthy individuals. There is a huge amount of backing. The question is whether any of the other ballot measures still out there and particularly ballot measure from a organization called reform California, that have a pretty significant backing itself, tries to continue on. I think that's really going to be the thing to watch whether everybody else clears the way or if we end up with two different ballot measures that get enough signatures to be on the ballot in 2016. Alex, how does this proposal handle some key questions about the use of recreational marijuana. In fact, let's go through some of its individual proposals. For instance how much marijuana would individuals be allowed to have? They can buy up to 1 ounce and grow up to six plants. Obviously this would be limited to people 21 and over. We would they be allowed to get this marijuana? They would go to marijuana stores. Very like Colorado Washington state. Stores would have to go through a rigorous licensing process. Those that are licensed would go through a significant amount of oversight. But that would mean they could go to any of these licensed retail stores. The ballot measure includes a provision that allows for existing medical marijuana licensees that are going to be licensed under the upcoming medical marijuana law that was signed by Governor. Brown. To sort of have priority if they want to, to get a license under this new system for recreational marijuana. I think the reasoning there is these medical marijuana stores may already be up and running, already be known, already licensed so they can much more quickly start operating and selling to adults for recreational marijuana. Will the state, under this proposal, tax marijuana sales? With talk tax marijuana in jail general. Yes a 15% tax on retail and a couple of other tax levels in the cultivation, sort of the back and process if you will. Through cultivation and distillation. For the consumer they would say 15% retail tax. What prohibitions are there about the use of marijuana? Where can you not use it? It would retain sort of a lot of the -- certainly people cannot drive under the influence due to prohibition of open container -- and cars similar to cope open containers of alcohol. There would be prohibitions and limits on public use of marijuana very similar to the prohibitions that you have for tobacco. In general as far as inside places but obviously additional prohibitions for public marijuana such as just smoking on the street or something like that. How closely would you say this proposal follows the guidelines proposed by the state marijuana task force which was headed by Gavin Newsom? Does that and cannot the summer. Very closely. I think this proposal, and certainly for governor Newsom to come out so quickly and endorse this proposal, tells me that this probably was written with some consultation behind the scenes with governor Newsom or his advisors, if not Newsom himself. Because he has pretty quickly come out in support. I think for good reason because this really is pretty close mirroring in principle what is recommended by the task force. I spoke with Lieutenant. Governors of the summer on midday edition about how he believes the marijuana guidelines it should be phased in. Here is some of what he had to say. Legalization, if we do move forward with the next November, is not a one act. Legalization does not just happen overnight. It's going to happen over a course of many years and that requires a diligence and the stewardship and a regulatory regime that addresses the changing realities. As I said that was Lieutenant. Wilson and I spoke with him earlier this year. I talked with him about the task force guidelines they came up with. That was one of the issues about his guidelines. I found them somewhat unclear. In other words if voters go to the poll and vote in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, when is that going to kick in? Do you have a clear understanding of that? I think as we have seen in Colorado and Washington, and now Oregon and Alaska, it's hard to say with precision how fast the regulations commonplace and that you would actually have stores up and running. Colorado I think is a good example. To get a sense of how this might work look to them. As soon as the ballot measure was passed there, the provisions allowing for individuals to possess up to an ounce of marijuana somewhat kicked in. Basically right away it was no longer a crime for individuals to have an possess marijuana. But getting people to actually have a regulated store, we could go and buy marijuana, that took more time. This is understandable because you cannot just overnight have all of the relations in place and have people have gone to the vetting process to get licenses. That process tends, based on Colorado Washington, takes anywhere from six months to a year and half to get all of the licenses and all of the regulatory systems in place to actually have a store open where you can go and buy marijuana under these laws. As I said in the beginning, Alex, you were on the city's medical marijuana task force. You've been dealing with medical marijuana regulations and guidelines for many years. Would you think regulations on marijuana have gone wrong in the past? I think in California when it has been is just the absence of regulation. What we've seen in the state is that the state coffers long time, just kind of fell down on the job and the light just later did not enact any type of regulatory system. Leaving it entirely to localities who are not well equipped to regulate some of these things. Localities do a great job at regulating land use, zoning and those kinds of things. But they are really not in a good position to regulate questions like labeling of these products and safety testing. These are things that need to be done at the state level. The developed measure includes all of these types of regulations you would see and imagine the station be doing. As you look at the proposed ballot measure, Alex, do you see where maybe this proposal tries to correct some of the errors made in other states that have legalized marijuana? I think so. It is certainly fairly -- there is not anything substantially different between this ballot measure and Colorado Washingtons. In the broad strokes is similar to what other states have done. It is certainly more precise and tweaks here and there to try and improve upon the lessons learned in other states. For example, Colorado found to actually implement the legalization have stores and up and running there were issues with edible products. The labeling and oversight of the products. People were using them and getting much more intoxicated than they had anticipated. They were concerns about some products and some ongoing concerns whether the packaging might appeal to children. This ballot measure addresses some of those and takes lessons learned from that. This ballot measure also has some strong environmental provisions and already has backing of a number of groups. That is something, especially in California, other states of not looked at them focused on as much, and I think California is really doing this with this ballot measure. They will lead the way in thinking about the environmental impacts of marijuana legalization. Speaking of other states and how they are going about the process of legalizing marijuana, Ohio voters will decide today whether to legalize recreational and medicinal marijuana. It's kind of a series ballot initiative because it is being sponsored by private interests and would allow cultivation only on 10 designated, privately owned farms, creating what some call eight marijuana monopoly. The larger question is has the push towards legalization now become big business? I think that is certainly a concern. So far, thankfully, Ohio is the only place where it has really become dominated by business concerns and interests. Ohio is a strange ballot measure because it really is, as you noted content licensees to have a monopoly on going to marijuana. Obviously they would reap huge financial rewards from that. Those licensees are basically the same people, not surprisingly, putting money into the ballot measure. For that reason it has been a very controversial ballot measure in Ohio. If I had to guess I would guess it will probably not pass. We have not really seen that in other states afar. In California the money that seems to be coming in, Sean Parker and other donors, have said that they are going to back this ballot measure and other organizations like drug policy alliance, marijuana project, they are so motivated by what they see as the best for public policy rather than trying to write a ballot measure that is just going to and rich the backers. I think Ohio is really unusual in that regard. I'm not aware of any of the ballot measure that has been like there's. Lieutenant. Governor. Gavin Newsom says he wants to avoid the potential legalization of marijuana to become the next big tobacco. Here's what he said in our interview. People are out for the money that supplies more marijuana that is to be sold. There out to make a quick buck that requires a consolidation of industry that will promote in target our kids that is not what we are recommending. That's how we are recommending is what he said. Now Alex, looking at this proposal, what aspects make a good law. In your opinion? I think it has a very robust sort of regular Tory scheme. I think it takes a lot of this things are going right in Colorado and Washington as far as relating to licensees and having oversight and provisions that would allow the licenses to be yanked if they are abusive and they are marketing to minors or those kinds of things. I really think it is a ballot measure the proposal things like to do good job. Again the question is going to be, how does the stack up to the other proposals already out there as far as what people -- you know if enough people kind of get behind us. Because there are some differences between this proposal and the reformed California proposal. For example this proposal would limit individuals to growing six plants. The reformed California proposal announced a few weeks ago would allow people to grow up to 100 ft.² of marijuana plants. This proposal provides no protections for employees. The reformed California proposal would have some protections for medical marijuana patients as far as being fired from their employers for using medical marijuana off the job. I think that is going to be one of the?'s. How do the various constituencies viewed this proposal relative to other proposals and can everyone unite around us. I think that is going to be the? For the next month or two months. Do we see competing ballot measures are not. I think no one involved in supporting the effort for marijuana legalization would see two competing ballot measures because that is problematic. Whether or not that goal can be achieved I think will be interesting. Finally I guess it is important to point out, no recreational marijuana initiative has actually qualify for the ballot yet. This is the very beginning signatures still have to be collected. Is that right? Exactly. And that I think is really going back to the question of -- is her only going to be one measure the ballot are with the be competing measures. The signature gathering so has to go forward. I suspect that there's probably going to be some behind-the-scenes discussions and negotiations between the people who are backing the new ballot measure and the people who are backing of the ballot measures particularly the reformed California one that has the most backing I think other than this new one. Can look and see can everyone come to an agreement before the signature gathering process gets too far going. Because of people spend a whole bunch of money and gather a whole bunch of signatures, then it might suddenly become too late to have negotiations for only one ballot measure. I have been speaking with Professor. Alex great from the Thomas Jefferson school of Law. Thank you so much Alex. Thanks so much for having me.
A long-promised campaign to legalize recreational marijuana use in California next year reached the starting gate with the filing of a ballot initiative backed by technology investor Sean Parker.
Four people who worked on the initiative submitted Monday, independently told The Associated Press that it was spearheaded by Parker, the billionaire who upended the music business as a teenager by co-founding the file sharing site Napster and served as Facebook's first president.
Those people requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Parker's involvement or to name the other wealthy entrepreneurs expected to fund the effort until an official campaign committee starts raising money and becomes subject to state disclosure laws.
The Parker-led push to put California among the states where marijuana can be sold to and legally used by adults for recreation is one of more than a dozen that has been submitted for the November 2016 election.
Because of the deep pockets, political connections and professional credibility of its supporters, however, observers think the so-called Adult Use of Marijuana Act likely is the vehicle with the greatest chance of success.
"This is the one to watch. This is the one," California Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Nate Bradley, whose organization is endorsing the measure, said. "This one has this broad-based coalition behind it, the funding behind it...and still allows for a free market in the cannabis industry.'
The measure would allow adults 21 and over to buy an ounce of marijuana and marijuana-infused products at licensed retail outlets and also to grow up to six pot plants for personal recreational use. It incorporates most of the elements of an overdue regulatory framework for the state's medical marijuana industry Gov. Jerry Brown signed last month.
Both the new recreational market and the existing medical marijuana industry would be overseen by a new bureau within the California Department of Consumer Affairs and subject to a 15 percent excise tax. Medical marijuana, however, would be exempt from state and local sales taxes.
Parker issued a statement on Monday expressing optimism about the initiative without acknowledging his role in getting it drafted.
"I've been following this issue with great interest for some time. It's very encouraging to see a vibrant community of activists, many of whom have dedicated their lives to this issue, coming together around a sensible reform based measure," he said.
The initiative also has lined up support from the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project, two leading marijuana reform groups that led the earlier campaigns to pass pot legalization measures in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska.
The Nature Conservancy, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that does environmental protection work, praised provisions of the measure that charge multiple state agencies with developing procedures to address water quality problems associated with marijuana cultivation.
"This is the most incredibly broad coalition that could have been brought together," said Lynne Lyman, California director for the Drug Policy Alliance.
While it has attracted the most support so far and stands poised to amass the most funding, the new measure may not be the only one seeking to legalize recreational pot use California voters may face next year.
The Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, a group that spent months soliciting ideas for what a California measure should look like at meetings throughout the state, submitted its own initiative on Oct. 2 with the backing of the president of the California NAACP.