Pubdate: Wed, 26 Dec 2012
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2012 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Josh Richman
Page: A1


California Inspired Efforts Elsewhere and Is Now Inspired by Their Success

Many marijuana activists always thought California would be the first 
state to legalize the drug for recreational use, but their dreams 
faded in 2010 when the state's voters rejected Proposition 19.

Yet the legalization measure's poor timing, lackluster funding and 
vague regulatory plan offered vital lessons that allowed activists in 
Colorado and Washington state to succeed last month where California 
had failed. Now activists in the Golden State are, in turn, 
scrutinizing those states' successful campaigns to prepare themselves 
for another California measure down the road.

"This isn't over until we say it's over, and we won't say it's over 
until we win," said Dale Sky Jones, chairwoman of the Coalition for 
Cannabis Policy Reform.

Jones, executive chancellor of Oakland's Oaksterdam University ( a 
cannabis industry training school) said California's next effort is 
already under way. Proposition 19' s backers hosted a summit meeting 
Dec. 7 at Oaksterdam with the people behind five other legalization 
measures that failed to make it onto the ballot in the past two 
years. The groups agreed to work together to avoid competing measures.

"The coalition in California is now stronger than ever and bigger 
than ever and moving forward," Jones said, adding that activists will 
probably put their full effort behind a measure on 2016' s 
presidential election ballot, though it hasn't ruled out 2014.

California's pot activists might have better luck next time, said 
Jonathan Caulkins, a Carnegie Mellon University professor whose 
research focuses on marijuana legalization. "The general trajectory 
of support nationwide is increasing and reaching a tipping point," he said.

Los Gatos- Monte Sereno police Chief Scott Seaman, president of the 
California Police Chiefs Association, said law enforcement agencies 
are watching Colorado and Washington, too - with the expectation that 
the federal ban on marijuana will make those states' laws unworkable. 
And that, he said, would be for the best.

"I am deeply concerned for our youth, who could misinterpret 
legalization as permission for them to engage even more in 
consumption," he said.

Studying Prop. 19

Alison Holcomb, campaign director for Washington's Initiative 502, 
said Proposition 19 offered encouragement. Supported by 46.5 percent 
of voters, it received more votes than Republican gubernatorial 
candidate Meg Whitman in November 2010. And that was in a 
nonpresidential election, with limited funding in a state with some 
of the nation's costliest media markets. "That gave us a lot of hope 
this could be done sooner than advocates had thought possible," Holcomb said.

But Holcomb, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington's drug 
policy director, said activists also looked at California's exit 
polls and newspaper editorials. Not one editorial board backed 
Proposition 19, she said, "not even in San Francisco or Berkeley."

To win endorsements and voter support, they realized, their 
initiative needed to propose a full statewide regulatory system for 
production, distribution and taxation, instead of a hodgepodge of 
local statutes as Proposition 19 would have allowed, Holcomb said.

Also, they saw Californians had worried about legalization's impact 
on safe driving, so they drafted their measure to include DUI 
standards for THC, the chemical in marijuana that gets people high.

Similarly, the backers of Colorado's Amendment 64 talked to 
Proposition 19' s proponents soon after the 2010 defeat, said 
Colorado campaign co-director Brian Vicente. They, too, saw the need 
for a state-run regulatory program rather than a local patchwork.

"This was regimented in terms of how we laid out that marijuana 
should be taxed like alcohol, and that made a lot of sense to 
people," he said, noting that earmarking a big chunk of the projected 
tax revenue for schools also helped.

Vicente also credits Amendment 64' s success to its being on the 
ballot in a presidential election, which attracts more young and 
minority voters. "Those voting blocs really support ending the drug 
war," he said.

Colorado and Washington voters 21 and older are now free to inhale as 
they wish, but Carnegie Mellon University's Caulkins - a former co- 
director of Rand's Drug Policy Research Center in Santa Monica - said 
the bigger deal is what will come over the next year as the two 
states enact laws regulating production, distribution and sales, as 
the initiatives require. The U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration 
won't kick in every stoner's door but could target big, for-profit 
marijuana farms and stores, he predicted.

Issue not resolved

In an ABC News interview that aired Friday, President Barack Obama 
said recreational marijuana users in the two states should not be a 
"top priority" of federal law enforcement. But that's similar to what 
he has said about people using marijuana as medicine in the 18 
states, including California, that allow it.

Yet the federal government still pressures or prosecutes growers and 
sellers in medical marijuana states, so the president's words offered 
no assurances that the same won't be true in Colorado and Washington.

"It sounds like the same failed policy and selective prosecution will 
continue," Jones said.

Caulkins agreed. "This is an election that absolutely did not resolve 
the issue" of whether the federal government or states will be in 
charge of marijuana laws, he said. "It just put it in play."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom