Pubdate: Sun, 15 Dec 2013
Source: Marin Independent Journal (CA)
Copyright: 2013 Marin Independent Journal
Author: Richard Halstead


A new Field Poll shows that a majority of Californians now favor 
legalization of marijuana - welcome news to some Marin residents who 
have long sought the move.

The poll, released last week, found 55 percent of Californians 
support legalization of marijuana, and 56 percent favor adoption of a 
statewide initiative proposed for the November 2014 ballot. The 
California Cannabis Hemp Initiative would decriminalize marijuana and 
hemp use for those over age 21.

Sponsors of the initiative have until Feb. 24 to gather the valid 
signatures of 504,760 registered voters. A legalization measure on 
the California ballot in 2010 received the support of 46.5 percent of voters.

"The next time it is on the ballot it will pass," said Scot Candell, 
a San Rafael lawyer who represents Marin Holistic Solutions in Corte 
Madera, Marin's only remaining medical marijuana dispensary that is 
sanctioned by local officials.

But Candell isn't convinced legalization will happen next year.

"The question is whether they are going to be able to get enough 
signatures to get it on the ballot in 2014," Candell said. "The 
California Cannabis Hemp Initiative is a complete grassroots project. 
They have no funding whatsoever."

Candell said the reason there was no legalization initiative on the 
2012 state ballot is that there were four competing measures that 
year. Candell said his law firm invited the sponsors of all four to a 
conference in Mill Valley in an attempt to unite them under one banner.

"We were trying to get supporters to coalesce around one so we could 
get the funding we needed to collect the signatures," Candell said. 
"Unfortunately, everybody believed very strongly in their own 
initiative, so nobody was willing to support anyone else. As a 
result, none of the four was able to attract the backing it needed."

The same thing could happen in 2014. Two other groups have submitted 
legalization measures to the state Attorney General's Office for 
approval to gather signatures.

"I think you're going to see multiple initiatives, and the big 
question is: do you go in 2014 or 2016?" said Dr. Larry Bedard, a 
chairman of the Marin Healthcare District Board. Bedard, a vocal 
advocate for legalization, played a leading role in convincing the 
California Medical Association to call for legalizing, regulating and 
taxing marijuana.

Bedard is supporting the "Control, Regulate and Tax Marijuana Act," 
an initiative backed by the Drug Policy Alliance. The Alliance, a 
national organization that Bedard says helped get marijuana legalized 
in Colorado and Washington in November 2012, is in turn being 
supported by a host of groups, including California NORML, the ACLU 
of California and the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform.

But Bedard said even though the group's measure has been submitted to 
the Attorney General, the decision whether or not to put the 
initiative on the ballot won't be made until sometime next month. He 
said the group's tacticians would prefer to see statewide support hit 
60 percent before moving forward.

Bedard has no doubt, however, that marijuana will soon become legal 
in California.

"It's inevitable," he said. "The sooner the better."

The other initiative filed with the Attorney General, the "Marijuana 
Control, Legalization and Revenue Act," was submitted by Americans 
for Policy Reform.

While public support for legalizing marijuana has steadily grown over 
recent years, the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the 
county has been winnowed to one - despite their legalization by 
Proposition 215 in 1996. Dispensaries in Novato, Kentfield, 
Sausalito, San Rafael, Fairfax and Corte Madera all closed, in large 
part due to a crackdown launched by federal prosecutors in 2011. And 
Candell said Marin Holistic Solutions' five-year lease expires in the 
summer of 2014.

Corinne Malanca, who together with her husband created the United 
Patients Group in Greenbrae to advise people on the medical uses of 
marijuana, said it is "very difficult" for her clients to purchase 
the cannabis oil they need to treat their serious illnesses. The 
Kentfield couple formed United Patients Group due to the experience 
of her father with the drug. Malanca said her father has survived 
more than three years with advanced lung and brain cancer thanks to 
his use of marijuana.

"I absolutely favor legalization," Malanca said. "We cry every day 
because we have patients who are desperate. We get calls in the 
middle of the night."

Malanca said United Patients Group doesn't sell marijuana; it makes 
money by charging for advertising on its website.

Larry Fritzlan of Mill Valley, a licensed therapist who helps 
adolescents and young adults deal with their addictions, said he 
favors legalization of marijuana, but not because he considers it to be benign.

"New research is showing that regular marijuana use among minors 
leads to a permanent decrease in their IQ," Fritzlan said.

But Fritzlan said the war on drugs has been a failure.

"I believe drugs should be legalized and taxed like alcohol and 
tobacco is right now, and 100 percent of the tax proceeds should go 
to education, prevention, and treatment of addiction," Fritzlan said.

Michael Scippa, public affairs director of alcohol industry watchdog 
Alcohol Justice in San Rafael, said, "If we can learn from the 
mistakes we have made with alcohol, we would feel better about 
whatever happens next."

Scippa said, "We would love to see no advertising, state-controlled 
stores and heavy taxes with the money earmarked for addiction 
prevention and substance abuse programs."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom