A California marijuana legalization initiative backed by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) was filed Wednesday with the state attorney general's office. But the national drug reform group said it has not yet decided whether to campaign to get it on the November 2014 ballot.
[image:1 align:left]The Control, Regulate, and Tax Marijuana Act would legalize up to an ounce and four plants for people 21 and over and create a statewide system of regulated marijuana commerce. It would also impose a 25% tax on retail sales.
A year ago, in the wake of the legalization victories in Colorado and Washington, major players in the California marijuana reform movement, including California NORML, the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, the ACLU of California, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project, and late drug policy reform funder Peter Lewis's representative, Graham Boyd, met in San Francisco and came to a tentative agreement that they would work together toward putting an initiative on the ballot in 2016.
Reluctant to risk another defeat at the ballot box like Proposition 19 in 2010, the movement heavyweights jointly decided to let other states take the lead in 2014 rather than act precipitously and potentially see the reform movement suffer a major blow with another defeat in the nation's most populous state.
But momentum in favor of marijuana legalization was growing quickly, as evidenced by a September Gallup poll's 58% in favor of legalization nationally and polls out of red states like Indiana, Louisiana, and Texas showing majority support. That was also the case in California, with a September Public Policy Institute of California poll showing 60% of registered voters favoring legalization and an October Tulchin poll that had support for legalization at 65% among likely voters.
Those numbers prompted some key players to reconsider, especially given that two other marijuana legalization initiatives -- not vetted by the heavyweights -- are already floating around. The first, the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative of 2014, the perennial effort by acolytes of the late Jack Herer, is in the signature gathering phase, but shows little sign of having the financial wherewithal to actually gather enough signatures to make the ballot. The second, the Marijuana Control, Legalization, and Regulation Act of 2014, described by its proponents as "the world's first open source initiative," is pending approval at the attorney general's office after its proponents handed in its second amended version Friday.
Now DPA has stepped in with its own 2014 initiative. "The Drug Policy Alliance is the primary force behind this and primary drafter of this initiative," said Steve Gutwillig, DPA's deputy director of programs. "We wanted to make sure that a responsible and well-drafted initiative would be available in 2014 should a full-fledged campaign become possible. Filing this initiative is making sure that there is a viable initiative vehicle if we go forward in 2014. We think it reflects what the voters will support."
Gutwillig emphasized that no decision to move forward had been made, but that one would be forthcoming early next year.
The clock is ticking. The deadline for gathering signatures for November 2014 is April, and given that state officials have up to 60 days to return a ballot summary and let signature gathering commence, that means the window for signature gathering could be as short as three months. With more than 500,000 valid signatures needed to make the ballot, that would be a daunting and very expensive prospect.
It may still be better to wait for 2016, said Dale Gieringer, the longtime head of California NORML.
"I don't see that this does much for patients or consumers," he said. "The fact that we have three initiatives proposed for 2014 shows a relative lack of unity and a lack of adequate consultation among the various groups. And it's really late in the day."
Gieringer pointed to language leaving the state's medical marijuana system intact as one issue. "We would have two systems, one with a special tax, one without," he noted. "Guess which one most people would patronize. The legislature might respond by getting rid of collectives or dispensaries. Medical marijuana regulation is the elephant in the room, and these are complicated issues that will require consultation by a lot of interest groups."
He also counseled patience.
"People started panicking when those strong poll numbers came out in the fall and started thinking 'Gee, this is really feasible,'" Gieringer said. "But it was so late in the day that people couldn't really get together and plan and vet to come up with a well-conceived plan. This is a stab in the dark, especially until we see how Colorado and Washington play out, especially the tax and regulate part. How is this going to work in the marketplace? Will people patronize highly taxed marijuana shops or not?"
The DPA effort may not be the perfect marijuana legalization initiative -- that elusive creature has yet to be spotted -- but it is out there now, at least as a place holder. The other two initiatives appear unlikely to actually make the ballot, so the decisions made early next year by DPA and its allies are likely to determine if California votes on marijuana legalization next year or not.
A new marijuana legalization has been filed in California, the Florida medical marijuana initiative faces a pair of challenges, the British Columbia decriminalization initiative is struggling, and more. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right]Marijuana Policy
A New California Marijuana Legalization Initiative is Filed. The Control, Regulate, and Tax Marijuana Act was filed with the California attorney general's office Wednesday. It would legalize up to an ounce and four plants for people 21 and over and create a statewide system of regulated marijuana commerce. It's not clear, however, whether its backers will seek to gather signatures for 2014 or will use it as a place marker for 2016. Another legalization initiative, the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative of 2014 is in the signature-gathering phase, but lacks deep-pocketed financial backing.
Thinking About a Post-Pot Prohibition World. Martin Lee, the author of Acid Dreams and Smoke Signals, about the cultural histories of LSD and marijuana, respectively, writes about marijuana legalization as a beginning, not an end, and has some interesting and provocative thoughts about what should come next.
Florida Supreme Court Hears Challenge to Medical Marijuana Initiative. The Florida Supreme Court Thursday heard arguments on whether the proposed constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana should go on the November 2014 ballot. Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) had challenged it as misleading and in violation of federal law. The justices did not decide the issue, but a decision will be coming shortly.
Florida Medical Marijuana Initiative Needs a Lot of Signatures in a Hurry. The state Division of Elections reported Thursday that People United for Medical Marijuana, the group behind the initiative, has just under 137,000 signatures that have been validated. They need 683,149 by February. There is some lag between signatures gathered and signatures validated, and organizers say they have collected 400,000 signatures so far. But that means they need probably another 400,000 in just a few weeks just to have a cushion that would allow for the inevitable invalid signatures.
British Columbia Marijuana Decriminalization Initiative Campaign Struggling. Sensible BC's signature-gathering campaign to put a decriminalization initiative on the ballot in British Columbia looks like it is going to fall short. The group needs 310,000 valid signatures by Monday, but only has 150,000 gathered. But if they don't make it this time, that won't be the end of it. "Sensible BC is here to stay," said the group's Dana Larsen. "You can be quite sure we're going to try this campaign again sometime in the next year to year-and-a-half, if we don't succeed this time. We're not going away."
Report Says SE Asia Amphetamine Use is Fueling Rise in HIV Risk. An increase in injection use of amphetamines in Southeast Asia is raising the risk of the spread of HIV and requires "urgent" action, according to a new report from the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) and the Asia-Pacific Drugs and Development Issues Committee. Not only injection drug use, but risky sexual behavior as well among amphetamine users, is part of the problem, the report says.
People associated with the late drug reform major funder Peter Lewis as well as George Soros have filed a marijuana legalization initiative with the California Secretary of State's office.
Activists with Show-Me Cannabis Reform have been crisscrossing Missouri to lay the groundwork for marijuana legalization, and now, they've taken the next step. Columbia-based attorney Dan Viets, the group's chairman Wednesday filed a series of initiatives that would legalize marijuana via a constitutional amendment.
[image:1 align:left]The initiatives are all variations on a theme; all would legalize marijuana for persons 21 and over, but vary on the number of plants allowed to be grown, whether convictions of previous offenders should be expunged, and how to regulate advertising. Show-Me Cannabis Reform will do polling to see which has the most support among Missourians.
The initiative petitions must be approved by the secretary of state's office, and after that, the office has 10 days to approve draft ballot summary language. Even if approved, initiative supporters face a daunting task. To qualify for the ballot, organizers must collect the signatures of roughly 320,000 registered voters by May 4 and they must gather signatures from at least 8% of registered voters in six of the state's eight US congressional districts.
Show-Me Cannabis Reform has commissioned polling that shows majority support for marijuana legalization. A September 2012 poll had legalization winning 50%-45%, with support climbing to 54% when respondents were given more information. Still, that is outside the comfort level for most initiative-watchers, who will argue that initiatives should be polling at least 60% at the beginning of the campaign.
But Show-Me Cannabis Reform is undaunted and moving forward. While some marijuana reform-friendly state legislators would prefer that lawmakers deal with the issue instead of voters, the group doesn't want to wait for the legislature to get around to dealing with it.
"We believe the legislature is totally out of touch with the voters of Missouri on this," Viets told the Columbia Missourian Wednesday.
Busy, busy on the marijuana policy front today, and there is also medical marijuana news, a new report on coerced federal plea bargains, a call for call-ins to the Senate on mandatory minimums next week, and more. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right]Marijuana Policy
Possession Legal in Portland, Maine, As of Tomorrow, But... The voter-approved ordinance legalizing the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana by people 21 and over goes into effect Friday. But tokers beware: The police chief says he is going to continue to enforce state law, which is stricter. Maine is a decriminalization state, so getting caught with a small amount of pot will still get you a fine.
Legalization Initiative Filed in Missouri. The Missouri marijuana reform group Show-Me Cannabis Regulation has filed an initiative that would amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana. Petitioners will have to collect signatures from about 320,000 registered voters by May 4 to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.
Washington State Marijuana Business Applications Surpass 1,300. Lots of people want to get into the legal marijuana business in Washington state. Regulators there are reviewing over 1,300 applications and there are still two weeks left for people to apply. More than 600 have applied for commercial growing licenses, more than 450 to produce edibles, and 230 have applied to open retail outlets. Regulators will license up to 334 pot shops, and there is no limit to the number of growers or producers, although the state wants to limit production to two million square feet.
Seattle City Attorney Wants More Marijuana Stores. Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said Wednesday that he has asked the State Liquor Control Board to allow at least 50 marijuana retail sales licenses to be issued in the city. The Board has proposed allowing only 21, but Holmes said that will not be enough to meet demand in the city.
Legalization Referendum Proposed for Dane County (Madison), Wisconsin. Dane County voters could vote on whether the state should legalize marijuana after a member of the county Board of Supervisors said he planned to introduce a measure that would ask them just that. The proposal has to pass the board, and if it does, voters would vote on a non-binding advisory referendum on the spring 2014 ballot.
Action on Medical Marijuana Bills Delayed in Michigan. The Associated Press reported Thursday that votes on pending medical marijuana bills are unlikely until next year, although it didn't say why. Still, hundreds of people jammed legislative committee rooms to voice their opinions on improving the state's medical marijuana law.
Hearing Today on Medical Marijuana in Buffalo. Legislators in New York held a public hearing to gain support for medical marijuana legislation in Buffalo Thursday. More than two dozen speakers were invited to testify about the proposed legislation. Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), chair of the Assembly Health Committee, chaired the meeting.
Call Your Senators on Mandatory Minimum Reform Next Tuesday. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next Thursday on mandatory minimum sentencing reform and the Smarter Sentencing Act, S. 1410. If passed, that bill would benefit thousands of nonviolent federal offenders facing mandatory minimum sentences (including some crack offenders who are already in federal prison). Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) is urging people whose senators are on the committee to call in to voice their support next Tuesday. Click on the link for more details.
Human Rights Watch Report Condemns Forced Pleas in Federal Drug Cases. Human Rights Watch Thursday released a report condemning coercive plea bargaining by federal prosecutors in drug cases and calling for sentencing reform. The report is An Offer You Can't Refuse: How US Federal Prosecutors Force Drug Defendants to Plead Guilty.
Israeli Health Ministry Bill Would Expand Medical Marijuana Program. The Israeli Health Ministry is proposing legislation that would increase the number of doctors authorized to prescribe medical marijuana and allow it to be distributed through pharmacies. The ministry is resisting allowing even broader access.
British Drug Think-Tank Offers Guide to Marijuana Regulation. The British drug think-tank Transform Drug Policy Foundation has issued "Hot to Regulate Cannabis: A Practical Guide" for policy makers, drug policy reform advocates and affected communities all over the world, who are witnessing the question change from, "Should we maintain cannabis prohibition?" to "How will legal regulation work in practice?"
[image:1 align:left caption:true][This article was originally published on the Speakeasy blog -- check out the Speakeasy for quick updates and commentary on a daily basis.]
Good, and, frankly, somewhat surprising news for Denver tokers. The city council last night reversed itself and undid the ban on marijuana smoking in public view even if on one's own property. There will be one more vote on the ordinance next week.
According to KUSA TV, Councilwoman Susan Shepherd offered up an amendment to undo the ban, which had passed last week on a 7-5 vote. The vote last night to reverse was 7-6.
Shepherd suggested that rather than calling the police, neighbors try being neighborly. That would mean talking to your neighbor if his marijuana smoke bothers you, and dealing with your neighbor's concerns if your marijuana smoke bothers him.
Arkansas Baptists reject medical marijuana, and so do some California communities. New Jersey's governor mouths off, and Illinois and Massachusetts communities move to regulate soon-to-arrive medical marijuana businesses. Let's get to it:
Last Wednesday, a judge ruled that Maricopa County had no enforceable zoning ordinance with which to restrict medical marijuana dispensaries. Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon's ruling supplements one he issued last month overturning the county's zoning ordinance for dispensaries. In that ruling, he found that the ordinance violated the state's medical marijuana law and appeared to be an effort to thwart the law.
On Tuesday, word came that the state Baptist convention rejected medical marijuana. Delegates there approved a resolution opposing the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act and any other attempts to legalize medical marijuana in the 2014 elections. The resolution calls on good Baptists "to reject the notion that the largely unsupervised cultivation, marketing, distribution, and smoking of marijuana is compassionate and sound medical practice, to recognize the proposed medical marijuana laws as clandestine attempts to take the first step toward the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Arkansas, to refuse to sign petitions to qualify these measures for the ballot, and to soundly reject all of them at the ballot box in the November 2014 general election."
Last Tuesday, the Laguna Hills city council voted to ban dispensaries. The town becomes the latest Orange County community to formalize its ban. "I don't believe that marijuana has any place in our society," Councilman Randal Bressette said. "Every opportunity I have to protect our residents from the demons of that drug, I will do so."
Also last Tuesday, a Los Angeles judge blocked a Mar Vista dispensary from opening. Superior Court Judge James Chalant issued a temporary restraining order against the dispensary, saying it violates Proposition D, the measure passed earlier this year by city voters that dramatically limited the number of dispensaries.
On Monday, the Ventura city council gave final approval to a dispensary ban. The ban had won preliminary approval on a 4-3 vote last month, and the vote stayed the same Monday. The ban also applies to delivery services.
On Tuesday, a dispensary operator was named mayor of Sebastopol. Robert Jacob, founder and executive director of the Peace in Medicine dispensaries, was elected mayor of the Sonoma County town by the city council. He is a council member and had served as vice mayor for the past year. [Editor's Note: This is my town; this is my mayor.]
Also on Tuesday, the Napa city council voted to repeal an ordinance that would have allowed a dispensary to operate there. The council voted 3-2 for repeal, saying a dispensary would increase youth access to marijuana. Council members also scoffed at the notion that medical marijuana patients are actually sick.
Also on Tuesday, Solano County supervisors voted to ban dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county. Dispensaries are already banned in six of the county's cities; only Vallejo has not moved to ban them. Having dispensaries in rural areas would place "an undue burden" on cities that have a ban, one supervisor claimed.
Last Wednesday, Chicago officials proposed tight regulations on dispensaries and medical marijuana grows. Alderman Ed Burke and the city Department of Planning and Development are recommending that dispensaries and grows only be allowed in manufacturing districts and that they be required to obtain special use permits. Some 22 dispensaries would be allowed.
On Tuesday, the Wheaton city council approved an ordinance limiting dispensaries to districts zoned for manufacturing. The vote in the Chicago suburb was 6-1.
On Sunday, a state senator said he would again introduce a medical marijuana bill. Sen. Joe Bolckom (D-Iowa City) has introduced such bills four times in the past decade. This time, he said, he would model his bill on the law in place in New Mexico.
On Tuesday, the Newton board of alderman approved zoning regulations for dispensaries that would limit them to mixed-use zones outside city centers. The move comes before a citywide moratorium is set to expire at the end of the month.
Last Thursday, the state appeals court agreed to hear two cases on whether workers fired for medical marijuana use can receive unemployment benefits. Lower courts have overturned the decisions of a state agency and ruled in favor of people who sought benefits after being dismissed, but medical marijuana foe Attorney General Bill Schuette argues that the state's medical marijuana law only protects people from criminal prosecution, not civil sanctions.
On Monday, Gov. Chris Christie (R) said he was through expanding the state's medical marijuana law and called medical marijuana a stalking horse for legalization. His remarks came in response to efforts to allow New Jersey patients to buy their medicine in other states and bring it home.
[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]
Some Denver city council members don't know when to give it a rest, some California US reps want stiffer penalties for pot grows on public lands, the Big Dog speaks on drug policy, Ecstasy may be on the rise, Morocco holds a historic hearing on cannabis, and more. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Denver City Council Now Considering Cultivation Restrictions. Just when you thought it was safe again, after an effort to stop people from smoking marijuana on their own property in public view died Monday night, the Denver city council is now considering an effort to cap the number of plants that can be grown in a single household. The measure is sponsored by Councilwoman Jeanne Robb, the same person behind the failed private property smoking ban. The measure would be in conflict with Amendment 64, which is now part of the state constitution and clearly says anyone 21 or older can grow six plants "notwithstanding any other provision of law."
California US Senator, Representatives Seek Tougher Penalties for Federal Lands Marijuana Grows. Several California congressmen, including some who have been strong supporters of medical marijuana, have written a letter to the US Sentencing Commission seeking longer prison sentences for people growing on federal and some private lands. "We are concerned that existing guidelines do not address the long term detrimental threats these operations pose to the environment and nearby communities," the letter said. "The production and cultivation of controlled substances in particular marijuana, on public lands or while trespassing on private property is a direct threat to our environment and public safety." The signatories include Sen. Dianne Feinstein and US Reps. Doug Amalfa, Sam Farr, Jared Huffman, and Mike Thompson.
Bill Clinton Says Attitudes Toward Drug Legalization Are Changing. Attitudes toward drug legalization are changing, former President Bill Clinton said in an interview with Fusion TV Tuesday. "The drug issue should be decided by people in each country, based on what they think is right," the ex-president opined. "We have a process in America for doing it that's being revisited state-by-state. And Latin America is free to do the same thing. It's obvious that attitudes are changing and opening up," he said. But he added that he didn't think hard drugs should be treated like marijuana. "It's also too complicated to say that if you legalize it, you wouldn't have any of these armed gangs trying to exercise a stranglehold over whole communities and lives, or that we could actually get away with legalizing cocaine and then the criminals would go away," he said.
Vermont Chief Justice Criticizes Drug War, "Tough on Crime" Approach. Vermont Chief Justice Paul Reiber has lashed out at the war on drugs and "tough on crime" approaches in general in a pair of recent speeches and a television interview. "Even with our best efforts, we are losing ground," Reiber told a crowd at Vermont Law School last month. "The classic approach of 'tough on crime' is not working in this area of drug policy. The public responds very well to this 'tough on crime' message, but that does not mean it's effective in changing individual behavior. If the idea is law enforcement alone will slow and eventually eliminate drug use altogether, that isn't going to happen… The criminal justice system can't solve the drug problem."
Teen Ecstasy-Related Hospital ER Visits Doubled in Recent Years, Feds Say. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported Tuesday that hospital emergency room visits linked to teen Ecstasy use had more than doubled between 2005 and 2011. The number jumped from about 4,500 to more than 10,000 during that period. One third of those cases also involved alcohol. Authorities worry the club drug is making a comeback, although the number of ER visits reported for ecstasy is a tiny fraction of the 1.5 million drug-related ER visits reported each year.
Morocco Parliament Holds Hearing on Legalizing Cannabis for Hemp, Medical Marijuana. Morocco's Party for Authenticity and Modernity held a historic hearing Wednesday about legalizing marijuana cultivation for hemp and medical marijuana. The party hopes to introduce legislation next year. Somewhere between 750,000 and a million Moroccans depend on the cannabis crop for a living, although lawmakers said small farmers currently reap very little profit, with most profits going to drug traffickers sending Moroccan hash to Europe.
Former Mexican Border State Governor Charged in US with Money Laundering for Cartels. Tomas Yarrington, the former PRI governor of Tamaulipas state, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville and McAllen, Texas, has been indicted by US authorities on charges he took millions in bribes from the Gulf Cartel. Prosecutors allege Yarrington started receiving bribes while running for governor of the state in 1999 and continued to do so throughout his term. He is being sought by US authorities, but has not been taken into custody in Mexico.