Pubdate: Wed, 26 Mar 2014
Source: SF Weekly (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Village Voice Media
Author: Chris Roberts


Wouldn't be the hardest thing he's done It's not private prisons or
Big Pharma that's keeping marijuana illegal in California (though no
doubt both benefit big-time from drug prohibition). It's money, as in
a lack of about $3 million to put a voter initiative like the ones
that legalized small amounts of cannabis in Colorado or Washington
(and failed here in 2010) before voters in the country's richest and
most populous state.

Luckily, there are some exceedingly rich people who say they like the
idea of legalization. And one of them -- the magnetic Virgin Group
magnate Sir Richard Branson, all $5 billion of him -- was asked in San
Francisco last night, point-blank if he'd consider writing the check.

He didn't say yes. But, at the same time, the bold and outspoken
billionaire didn't say no.

Branson was in town at the New Peoples Cinema in Japantown last night
to appear at a free screening of Breaking the Taboo, an anti-drug war
film produced by the Virgin founder's son. (The film, a strong
condemnation of American drug policy as fallacious and racist, with
extra special blame aimed at Republican presidents Richard Nixon,
Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, clocked over 1 million views
during a yearlong run for free on YouTube).

The airline mogul and would-be space travel pioneer is also on the
honorary board of the Drug Policy Alliance, which hosted a brief panel
discussion between Sir Richard and local drug war opponents Lt. Gov.
Gavin Newsom and District Attorney George Gascon -- and which
supported a short-lived push to put a legalization effort on the
November ballot.

That effort was scuttled in favor of a ballot measure in presidential
election year 2016 because, DPA said then that the time just wasn't
right -- a line repeated last night by former legalization opponent
Newsom, who has recently come around to strongly support legalizing

That's not quite the message of Breaking the Taboo, which says very
clearly it's well past time. Nor is it the message of any of the other
three proposed legalization measures still circulating petitions. They
wait only on signatures from voters -- or the money to pay people to
collect them -- in order to have the chance to be come law.

$3 million is about what it would take to grab over 500,000 valid
signatures from California voters and qualify a ballot initiative.
That amount is also about half of 1 percent of $5 billion. In other
words: Richard Branson could legalize marijuana in California tomorrow.

A pair of San Jose men with a legalization initiative, who need only a
bankroller, asked Branson to do just that. In a letter hand-delivered
to Branson, activist John Lee and dispensary operator Dave Hodges --
proponents of the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act,
which could raise hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue,
according to a state estimate -- asked for Branson's financial and
personal help.

"California should have been the first [to legalize] and will not see
legalization, or these levels of revenue without your help," the
letter reads. And they even lowballed him!

"We are asking your help to raise the $2 million needed to guarantee
MCLR qualifies for the 2014 ballot," they wrote.

Branson, who was swamped by media and by well-wishers and had no
noticeable security aside from one of the most-businesslike PR
handlers we have ever seen, told SF Weekly that nobody had asked him
to do something like that -- but he might mull it over.

"Certainly, I'd have a look at it," he said, after wondering aloud if
he, as a British subject, would be allowed to contribute heavily to a
California ballot initiative (by our reading of election law, he is).

"But it's not something I've been asked to do," he

Until yesterday. So, Sir Richard: on your way to space, care to get
California lifted?
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MAP posted-by: Matt