Pubdate: Wed, 03 Mar 2004
Source: Anderson Valley Advertiser (CA)
Column: Cannabinotes
Copyright: 2004 Anderson Valley Advertiser
Author: Fred Gardner
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Popular)


Dale Gieringer of California NORML, a co-author of Prop 215, was among the 
organizers who filed papers in Oakland Feb. 19 to get a 
"tax-and-regulate-cannabis" initiative on the city's November ballot.

C-Notes: What are you trying to achieve?

Gieringer: The Oakland Cannabis Revenue and Regulation Ordinance directs 
the city to establish a system of regulated and taxed cannabis distribution 
for adults as soon as possible under California law. It will call on the 
police to make arrests for private adult use their lowest priority. 
"Private adult use" is the key.

C-Notes: California has only legalized "medical use."  Your initiative is 
basically a way to tell the politicians: "Aduts should be allowed to use in 
private settings, even without a doctor's approval." Which is bold -but 
merely symbolic.

Gieringer: It's the first resolution to our knowledge that calls for 
outright legalization. Come to think of it, the Nevada and Alaska 
initiatives and Jack Herer's old hemp initiatives all called for 
legalization, though they went down in flames. The Oakland initiative is 
somewhat different in that it suggests an Amsterdam model, with the 
specific object of keeping pot off the streets, out of the hands of 
dealers, and away from kids.  The other difference is that, hopefully, it 
won't lose.

C-Notes: Who's backing it?

Gieringer: The Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance is the PAC running the 
initiative campaign. OCLA [pronounced "Okla"] has received a start-up grant 
from MPP [the Marijuana Policy Project] and additional support from local 
donors.  We need to raise substantially more to fund the ballot drive. The 
OCLA board consists of Joe DeVries [aide to Alameda County Supervisor Nate 
Miley], Mikki Norris [veteran activist], Richard Lee [club proprietor] and 
me, with the consultants being Progressive Communications -Rebecca Kaplan, 
Clare Lewis et al. We have also had help from DPA and other local Oakland 

C-Notes: How much money has been spent to date?

Gieringer: I couldn't say. It's been a couple of months now since OCLA 
actually got formed and the papers filed... It's a project that's going to 
cost, probably, more than a hundred thousand dollars. We need to raise 
another thirty thousand to fund the petition drive.

C-Notes: And O'Shaughnessy's [the journal of the pro-cannabis doctors, 
edited by yours truly] has to beg to pay the printer! Why do you think this 
initiative is worth the money, Dale? Why do you think it's a good idea?

Gieringer: One reason all of us think it's a good idea is that the poll 
results were so fantastically good.

C-Notes: Isn't that the tail wagging the dog? To do an initiative because a 
poll shows you'll win? Polling is for people who don't have a working-class 
perspective or working-class friends. It's a racket.

Gieringer: Then you don't belong in politics. Polling is pretty essential. 
When you need to raise money, you need to be able to show your funders what 
the prospects are for victory, what the weak spots are-

C-Notes: -According to the poll. You're assuming that it's a valid science.

Gieringer: Of course it is...  Every poll that we took for Prop 215 was 
instrumental in our figuring out how to word that initiative properly.

C-Notes: That's interesting. What did the polls tell you to cut? What did 
they tell you to add?

Gieringer: They told us not to put in plant numbers.

C-Notes: Anybody could have told you that. It raises a confusing image and 
all kinds of unanswerable questions about weight and drying and dosage. No 
need to go there.

Gieringer:  The polls showed that the concept of growing your own medicine 
- -cultivation-was not the most popular thing. People do not respond 
favorably to the notion that people should be able to grow their own 
medicine. They respond more favorably to the notion that they should be 
able to "get" such medicine. So if we wanted to get more popular, we would 
have not referred to cultivation at all.

C-Notes: According to your pollster. But during the course of a campaign, 
there's quite a lot you can achieve in the way of education.

Gieringer: The way you do that is you ask the poll question, and then you 
throw a lot of statements at them in the poll -campaign-pitch kind of 
things- and then you ask the question again, and you see how the response 
changes, and it almost always does. You get a swing of a few percent in 
there and that's an important thing to take into account.

C-Notes: Okay, so what was it that your polls revealed about Oakland voters?

Gieringer: People really like the idea of cannabis being controlled and 
regulated somehow, and the concept that having licensed places will help 
control it in a way that it's not controlled now...

C-Notes: Did it ever occur to you that you're creating a bureaucratic 
nightmare? That the shopkeepers will soon be longing for the good old days 
of anarchy?

Geiringer: It'll be like the Alcoholic Beverages Commission.

C-Notes: My point exactly.

Gieiringer: We want to put the people of the city on record in favor of 
legal cannabis for adult use. We're saying what we mean. Not "We've got to 
make it available for sick people who need it" or "We've got to reduce the 
number of non-violent prisoners," or "We want to decriminalize it." We 
never talk about the real solution to the problem, which is to legalize it 

C-Notes: But you're talking about "Regulate and Tax."

Gieringer: That's what legalization is.

C-Notes (just getting it):  Oh. Well, why not use the word "Legalization?"

Gieringer: That doesn't do so well in the polls.

C-Notes: I don't believe it! It's all how you say it. And who's saying 
it... I don't believe that the reference to cultivation cost Prop 215 any 
votes. The right to cultivate is the right to garden. I also think Prop 215 
would have won just as big if it had included the right to distribute. Todd 
McCormick says it was a poll that convinced you not to.

Gieringer: To be truthful, we never even tested the word "legalization" in 
our own polls. We didn't do so because the word has fared so badly in other 
folks' polls.  It appears to conjure up the notion of alcohol & tobacco and 
how they are promoted, mass marketed and advertised.  People don't like that.

I think our message will ring truer than what many Oakland public officials 
are saying, namely that "marijuana is fine for medicine, but we don't want 
to countenance adults actually sitting down to enjoy it." The people of 
Oakland have matured way beyond the point where the politicians believe 
they're at. Most Oaklanders are ready to accept an adult using cannabis 
without a doctor's prescription.

C-Notes: (awash in self-pity) I'm all for you. It's just money-envy. 
Greenness envy.

Gieringer: I'm sorry that newsprint is going the way of the dinosaurs. 
Truthfully, no sarcasm intended.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom