Pubdate: Thu, 27 Mar 2014
Source: Chico News & Review, The (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Chico Community Publishing, Inc.
Author: Tom Gascoyne


Sorting Out the Multiple Efforts to Legalize Marijuana

According to the California Secretary of State's Office, six 
initiatives to legalize marijuana are currently being circulated for 
signature gathering. In reality, there are only four, as two were 
early iterations of what's essentially the same petition created by 
the same supporters.

That's just one of the reasons this year's legalization efforts are 
confusing. Then, there is some talk that those pushing the 
initiatives may back off this election year, join forces and aim for 
2016, a presidential election year when greater numbers of younger 
and liberal voters will most likely go to the polls.

There's a common theme through all of the initiatives. Each basically 
calls for the legalization of recreational pot, similar to what was 
approved in Colorado and Washington during the presidential election 
two years ago.

One of them, the Cannabis Policy Reform Act of 2014, qualified on 
March 13 and petitioners have until Aug. 11 to collect 504,760 valid 
voter signatures. It was written by Ed Rosenthal, a former columnist 
for High Times magazine and proponent of Proposition 215, which 
legalized the use of medical marijuana in California when it passed 
18 years ago.

Rosenthal's proposal says that existing pot laws have created "a 
violent, criminal drug market" in which millions of dollars are spent 
each year enforcing marijuana laws rather than preventing violent 
crime. It suggests that existing pot laws "have a disproportionate 
impact on African-American and Latino communities."

Rosenthal was out of the country and could not be reached for 
comment, but Beth Fitzer, the woman who answered the number listed on 
the petition, said Rosenthal was dropping the signature-gathering 
effort to join with a group called the Drug Policy Alliance and will 
try again in 2016. According to its website, the DPA "is actively 
involved in the legislative process and seeks to roll back the 
excesses of the drug war, block new, harmful initiatives, and promote 
sensible drug policy reforms."

The Control, Regulate and Tax Marijuana Act got the go-ahead from the 
secretary of state on Feb. 6, allowing supporters until July 7 to 
collect signatures. The proponent for this measure is listed as Sara 
Behmerwohld, who is connected to the Sutton Law Firm in San Francisco.

The petition says that current state laws "have failed to prevent 
minors from accessing marijuana" and, like Rosenthal's, notes that 
millions are spent each year "enforcing marijuana laws that could 
otherwise be spent preventing and solving violent crimes and 
property-related crimes."

Existing laws also have allowed the creation of drug cartels and 
"contributed to environmental degradation," the measure says. If 
passed into law, it would deny access to pot to those under the age 
of 21, prohibit marijuana advertising aimed at the same age group, 
and tax the sale of marijuana "in order to generate hundreds of 
millions of dollars in new revenue annually for K-12 after-school 
programs, drug and alcohol prevention and treatment programs, local 
governments, and environmental restoration."

It would also keep intact current laws pertaining to driving under 
the influence of marijuana, maintain the right of employers to 
enforce workplace policies on marijuana, and prevent the "illegal 
diversion of marijuana from California to other states or to the 
illegal market."

Proponents of the initiative could not be reached for comment.

The latest version of The Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue 
Act of 2014 was recognized by the state on Jan. 31, allowing 
supporters until June 30 to gather signatures. Those supporters are 
listed as John Lee, Bob Bowerman, Dege Coutee and Dave Hodges.

If passed, the measure "grants to Californians the freedom to use, 
grow, transport and sell cannabis subject to reasonable regulation 
and taxation in a manner similar to alcohol." It argues that the 
social benefits of pot prohibition "are vastly outweighed by the 
costs of investigating, arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating 
otherwise law-abiding citizens."

The California Cannabis Hemp Initiative of 2014 is promoted by a Simi 
Valley man named Berton Duzy and received state approval March 21, 
giving circulators until Aug. 18 to gather signatures. The wording 
says, "No person, business, or corporate entity shall be arrested or 
prosecuted, be denied any right or privilege, nor be subject to any 
criminal or civil penalties for the possession, cultivation, 
transportation, distribution, use, or consumption of cannabis hemp marijuana."

Efforts to qualify the initiative failed when fewer than 500,000 
signatures were gathered by the initial February deadline, so 
proponent Duzy resubmitted.

In a story published last month in the Sacramento News & Review, Duzy 
said he had not yet abandoned his efforts this year. However, he also 
said, "We'll go up against DPA and NORML in 2016, and try to get ours 
to qualify."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom