Pubdate: Wed, 04 Feb 2015
Source: Anderson Valley Advertiser (CA)
Copyright: 2015 Anderson Valley Advertiser
Author: Fred Gardner


Professional reformers, longtime activists, and stakeholders in the 
marijuana industry attended an invitation-only meeting at the 
Waterfront Hotel in Oakland January 9 to discuss plans for a 
marijuana 'legalization' initiative to be on the ballot in California in 2016.

The invitations came from the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform 
(CCPR), a group led by Dale Sky Jones that was formed after the 
defeat of a legalization measure in 2010, and the Drug Policy 
Alliance, represented by lobbyist Jim Gonzales

The keynote speaker was Bill Zimmerman, a Los Angeles campaign 
consultant who is widely credited with masterminding the 1996 
Proposition 215 campaign, which legalized marijuana for medical use 
in California.

Gonzales introduced Zimmerman by praising his autobiography, 
"Troublemaker," and his courageous support for "the protesters at 
Wound Knee." Gonzales actually said of Zimmerman, "He is a man who 
has found the secret of life, which is: do good things."

Zimmerman seemed oblivious to the presence in the crowd of grassroots 
organizers who considered him and the Drug Policy Alliance usurpers 
who weakened Prop 215 and provided no help in the fight for implementation.

"I first took marijuana legalization seriously in 1995," said 
Zimmerman, reading from a prepared speech, "at a meeting that George 
Zimmer hosted at Francesca's Restaurant at the Oakland airport. At 
the time, I was not a marijuana activist, but I was an experienced 
ballot initiative campaign manager. So later that year, when the 
signature drive to qualify Proposition 215 began to collapse, I was 
asked to take over the campaign." [Zimmer, who was in the audience, 
was then CEO of the Men's Wearhouse. The meeting at Francesca's was 
in January, '96, according to others who were there.]

The Relevant Background

Zimmerman was hired for the campaign-manager job by Ethan Nadelmann, 
director of an NGO that is now called the Drug Policy Alliance. 
Nadelmann had the backing of enlightened billionaires -George Soros, 
Peter Lewis, John Sperling, and Laurence Rockefeller- and could write 
a check to get California's medical marijuana initiative on the 
ballot. Most of the million Nadelmann raised went to the professional 
signature drive (which paid $1/per). Zimmerman becoming campaign 
manager was Nadelmann's price for writing the check.

Note that Zimmerman and Nadelmann had nothing to do with writing 
California's medical marijuana initiative, which had been drafted by 
Dennis Peron, William G. Panzer, Dale Gieringer, and Tod Mikuriya, 
with input from a broad entourage that had been meeting at the San 
Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club in the summer and fall of 1995. 
Nadelzimm never would have called for legalizing marijuana to treat 
any condition for which it provides relief. Fortunately, by the time 
they took over, it was too late to change the wording.

Gieringer and Panzer were among the Prop 215 proponents listening to 
Zimmerman's version of 1996. Others included Mike and Michele 
Aldrich, Ellen Komp, Rob Raich, Jeff Jones, Marsha Rosenbaum and the 
aforementioned Zimmer.

"When I took the Prop 215 job," Zimmerman recounted, "I commissioned 
a public opinion poll, and I asked the pollsters to add a question 
that was new to such polling. And the question was, 'Are you 
personally acquainted with anyone who has used marijuana for medical 
purposes?' I was amazed at the result: 33% of likely voters in 1996 
answered yes to that question. That's when I understood that medical 
marijuana was a winnable issue. And that it could be used as an 
opening argument for the eventual legalization of recreational use."

It was honest of Zimmerman to admit that a third of "the people" knew 
more about marijuana than he did. And that he -running campaigns in 
California since the 1970s-didn't understand the political 
significance of marijuana. And that he considered "legalization" the 
ultimate goal of the Prop 215 campaign.

Zimmerman went on: "Working with the Drug Policy Alliance, DPA, we 
sought two goals; legalizing medical marijuana in the short run, but 
preparing for a broader effort in the long run. The 215 campaign 
taught me about the many medical conditions that marijuana could 
alleviate, the many hundreds of thousands of patients who had been 
helped, the needless human suffering it could relieve, and when I 
finally understood all of this, and how important it was, I wanted to do more."

And funding just happened to be available.

"So three days after the Prop 215 victory, with DPA's support, we 
launched medical marijuana initiative campaigns in six other states. 
And the modern marijuana reform movement was born."

A Credit Grab

That is a credit grab. "The modern marijuana reform movement was 
born" -to use Zimmerman's silly image-in San Francisco in 1990-91, 
when Dennis Peron launched the Cannabis Buyers Club in response to 
the AIDS epidemic. The club enabled the Prop 215 campaign in 1995-96. 
DPA's post-215 efforts to push weaker initiatives in other states 
represented the beginning of the cooling off of the super-nova that 
had exploded in California. It looked like expansion, but...

As Nadelmann funded Zimmerman to promote electoral initiatives in 
other states, California activists were denied resources needed in 
the crucial fight for implementation of Prop 215. In vain Dr. Tod 
Mikuriya asked DPA and the Marijuana Policy Project to underwrite 
what he called an "audit to promote compliance" on the part of all 
the agencies that would have to change their policies -Probation, 
Sheriffs, Police, Child Protective Services, etc. Tod finally 
undertook the project himself with the help of John Trapp, his 
assistant in running a very busy medical practice. For several years 
after 215 passed, Mikuriya was the only doctor in California known to 
readily approve cannabis in treating any condition for which it 
provides relief.

John Trapp wrote about the audit plan for O'Shaughnessy's (Spring 
2008). Tod rightly expected resistance to implementing Prop 215 from 
law enforcement, the medical establishment (especially addiction 
specialists), and inert government bureaucrats. With every passing 
year I realize how politically astute his audit scheme was. The idea 
was to have a young lawyer and/or an intern pressing all the relevant 
government agencies to rewrite their protocols in accordance with the 
new law, and using the media to publicize acts of noncompliance. The 
audit would have kept the drug warriors on the defensive.

Momentum is crucial in politics, and we, the people, had it when Prop 
215 passed in November, 1996. The vote had been a huge rebuke to law 
enforcement -56 to 44 YES! -over the opposition of every sheriff, 
police chief and DA in the state (except Terence Hallinan of San 
Francisco). But California Attorney General Dan Lungren immediately 
announced a "narrow interpretation" that encouraged cops to keep 
arresting and DAs to keep prosecuting people for cultivation, etc. 
Dennis Peron's club was closed down (as "a nuisance" on seedy Market 
Street) and Tod Mikuriya prosecuted by the AG's office. Law 
enforcement and government bureaucrats regrouped and pursued plans 
for a rollback, jurisdiction by jurisdiction. To this day they have 
blocked the full implementation of Prop 215.

DPA did not entirely pull the rug out from under California after the 
Prop 215 victory. In response to a threat by the Clinton 
Administration to revoke the licenses of doctors who approved 
marijuana use by patients, DPA filed suit to block any such action. 
Although the government's threat had been made against Dr. Mikuriya, 
specifically, by Clinton's Four-Star Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, the 
DPA strategists did not include Tod among the many co-plaintiffs in 
their lawsuit.

The Conant v. McCaffrey suit was crucial to our movement's advance. 
(When your mission is to end the war on drugs, you can't help but do 
right 90 percent of the time.) But excluding Mikuriya as a 
co-plaintiff was "pot baiting" (his term) on the part of DPA. Perhaps 
if Tod had been a co-plaintiff in Conant v. McCaffrey, the state 
attorney general might not have prosecuted him.

But back to Bill Zimmerman in 2015: "Our success has now altered the 
playing field. "Now the looming possibility of full legalization has 
attracted many people to our movement. They are welcomed, even though 
they may not share our original public interest commitment...

"As you know, political campaigns target persuadable voters. And 
generally ignore those already committed to voting for or against. 
Our situation is no different. Speaking in very rough terms, polling 
indicates that about one third of likely voters strongly favor 
legalization. One third strongly oppose. And about one third tilt in 
our favor, but only halfheartedly. Our audience is that last third, 
not the third that already supports us...

Unity Good, Factions Bad

Zimmerman read on: "CCPR asked me to speak today about how we can win 
this ballot initiative fight. Instead, I want to talk briefly about 
how we can lose it. I see three ways to do that: First, we can demand 
too much. Second, we can divide into opposing factions. Third we draw 
a heavily funded opposition.

"The first way we can lose in 2016 is to go too far, to demand too 
much in the text of our initiative. Remember who we are speaking to, 
that last third of the voters, who are unhappy about marijuana, but 
reluctantly willing to legalize it... Our beliefs about what is right 
have to be put aside in the interest of what is possible.

"The second way we can lose is to divide our effort and break up into 
two or more factions."

You may have noticed: it's always the dominant faction that calls for 
unity and denounces factions.

Zimmerman: "Our differences must be governed [sic] by what is best 
for California, and must be determined by scientific data, not our 
own unsupported wishes and hopes."

By "scientific data," he means feedback from a pollster whose 
questions can be framed to provide answers that DPA wants. I once 
wrote an analysis of such a poll. See how easy it is to give the 
client the answer s/he wants by wording the questions appropriately.

Zimmerman warned that "new players with their own money" might back 
initiatives, resulting in more than one making the ballot. This would 
be "disastrous," he claimed.

"Our opponents would jump at the chance to advertise our 
disagreements, and argue that we are so confused as to how to 
structure legalization, that we are unable to even agree among 
ourselves about how this dangerous move should be managed. That 
argument would be devastating to the voters that we need to target."

Reform honchos always emphasize the importance of a unified message. 
This may be because they're control freaks, personally, and/or 
because they don't want to split the campaign funds with other reform 
honchos. In reality, two initiatives would give voters perspective. 
For example, an initiative legalizing marijuana for adults 18 and 
over would make another one legalizing the herb for adults 21 and 
over appear more "centrist."

Zimmerman also expressed fear about getting outspent, although he 
didn't explain how an initiative could be crafted to minimize that 
possibility. He said: "Statewide TV advertisement has often defeated 
popular ballot initiatives in California. I can tell you that from 
first-hand experience, having managed a single-payer healthcare 
initiative in 1974 that started with 70% support and got 27% on 
Election Day because of opposition advertising by health insurance companies.

"I have personally managed 17 drug reform ballot initiatives in ten 
states, losing only four. None of the thirteen victories had 
opposition TV advertising. All of the four defeats did."

He only wins when he can outspend the opposition.

"The most damaging argument will come if we end up with more than one 
legalization initiative," Zimmerman repeated. "That argument will go 
something like, 'We support marijuana legalization just as much as 
many Californians do, but protecting kids and maintaining public 
safety is so complicated and difficult that even the legalization 
activists can't agree on how to do it.' There's no effective response 
to that strategy if there are multiple initiatives on the ballot...

"If any of these very effective arguments are made by opponents on a 
multimillion dollar advertising campaign, my guess is that we will 
have to spend as much as four times as much as they do to neutralize 
them. Dramatic lies sit in one's memory far longer than any hopeful truths."

A great point to make to prospective donors -but it makes no sense 
when you think about it, Why should our truth costs four times more 
to get across than their lie?

Only DPA Can Save Us

Zimmerman: "While each of us should pursue what he or she thinks 
best, and do so vigorously, we will all have to compromise. Politics 
is in the end, the art of the possible. And to determine what is 
possible, we need to rely on scientific public opinion data."

Which my company can provide. (Note the repeat of "scientific.")

"In the next few months, we have to unify around a single initiative, 
and prepare to wage a unified campaign on its behalf. While many 
organizations represented in this room and elsewhere will contribute 
to that effort, only the Drug Policy Alliance is capable of leading 
it. The time has come to put aside past differences, and recognize 
this essential fact.

"The DPA has a large and centrally located operation in California. 
They are the only organization that has handled successful ballot 
initiatives here. They come with the experience and the financial 
resources that give us all the best chance we have. The logic is 
simple: to win, we have to unite. To unite, we need strong and 
capable leadership. Nobody has it to the extent the DPA does. The 
conclusion therefore is inescapable. I hope all of you, after pushing 
as hard as possible for everything you believe in, in the end will 
join with me in a unified and goal driven organization campaign 
managed by our friends in the Drug Policy Alliance. That is simply 
the best, and very likely the only way to succeed. Thank you."

Audience Response

First up to the question mike was Ellen Komp, who worked hard on the 
Prop 215 campaign in '95-'96, and is now deputy director of 
California NORML. "I'd like to ask DPA to join the coalition, CCPR, 
which we've all been working so hard for," she began.

"And second, because your organization, Americans for Medical Rights 
brought about the six-plant limit in the other states you ran the 
initiatives in... Can you think of a way that we can protect the 
cottage industry in California? How are we going to legalize it in a 
way that isn't warehouse weed that costs $200,000 for a license like 
other states are doing?" (A reference to New York state.)

"Good question," said Zimmerman, who had no answer and went on to 
blither irrelevantly, "What I said in my remarks about being goal 
driven I think is the way to answer the question... When we got that 
33% 'Yes' response to the question 'Do you know someone who has used 
marijuana medically?' if you asked about legalization at that time, 
you would have gotten a very low number of people in favor of 
recreational distribution."

Doesn't this veteran campaign professional know that 33% of 
Californians voted for full legalization of marijuana in 1971? His 
surprise that one in three Californians knew a medical user in 1996 
was equally revealing, given that AIDS patients were using en masse 
and that Dr. Mikuriya, Dennis Peron, Valerie Corral, and hundreds of 
grassroots activists had been carrying the message for many years. 
Bill Zimmerman was the beneficiary of a social movement and mass 
action (on the part of AIDS patients). An electoral campaign is only 
the tip of an iceberg. The public education campaign that precedes it 
is crucial to success.

The usually mild-mannered Dale Gieringer, a co-author of Prop 215, 
was next up to the mike. "You were wrong about the DPA having led 
every successful marijuana initiative," he said. "May I remind you 
about Prop 215, organized by a grassroots group here in California 
with a lot less talent and a lot less experience than we have now. So 
I cordially suggest that the entire community of California be 
involved in the writing and the devising of this initiative. We can 
collaborate and work together on the polling and the writing, and 
everything else, but to say at this time that there's one particular 
organization with an unblemished record in this is inaccurate."

Zimmerman (gentlemanly): "No question, you're right about how Prop 
215 got off the ground. It was definitely a grassroots effort, it was 
written by grassroots people here in the Bay Area, and the first 
campaigning done on its behalf was certainly conducted by what can be 
described as a grassroots coalition. However, that coalition was 
unable to qualify the initiative for the ballot... We had to hire 
professional signature gatherers to qualify. That took money that the 
grassroots didn't have. We then had to defend Prop 215 with 
advertising in order to build an electoral victory, and we did that 
with money that DPA organized."

Ellen Komp put in, "But if you had just given that money to the 
grassroots, we could have done it!" Zimmerman cut off our Pasionaria 
with a brazen assertion: "I don't think there are more than two 
people in the room that believe that. But to finish what I was saying..."

It was smart of Zimmerman not to ask for a show of hands or deal with 
Komp's point -which is a relevant point, when it comes to evaluating 
DPA's usefulness. How valid is their claim to credit for the victory 
of Prop 215?

As some in the room knew, support for medical marijuana was 60-40 in 
a poll taken by the reputable David Binder before Zimmerman became 
campaign manager. The lead went down after he took over, and was 
going down until the bust of the San Francisco Buyers' Club in August 
attracted the attention of Gary Trudeau, who devoted a week of 
Doonesbury strips to the club's martyrdom. Attorney General Lungren 
went apeshit and called a press conference to denounce Doonesbury! 
Every political cartoonist in the state aimed one at Lungren. Trudeau 
did another week's worth of 'toons in October.

"But to finish what I was saying," Zimmerman huffed, "the 
recommendation that I made, that DPA lead the campaign, was not a 
recommendation that DPA is the only organization that play a role in 
that campaign.... I'm only arguing that DPA is the most qualified manager."

Panzer: we can find other friends

Attorney Bill Panzer, who also helped draft Prop 215, told Zimmerman: 
"Back in 1996, we didn't have the money. George Soros had the 
money... This time, there's going to be other people with money. And 
you should talk to Ethan [Nadelmann] and let him know that what's 
going to happen this time, if you guys don't work with us: there's 
going to be an initiative on the ballot that DPA has nothing to do with."

Zimmerman smoothly shifted gears: "First of all, it's not 'you guys." 
I'm not DPA, I'm not part of DPA, I have been a consultant to DPA 
over the years and at present I have no role in the upcoming 
campaign, and no role in the Drug Policy Alliance."

Goldsberry: Who is to benefit?

Debby Goldsberry, a widely respected veteran activist, challenged 
Zimmerman's contention that the initiative should be written with the 
undecided third of voters in mind. "To us," she said, confident that 
she was speaking for many in the room, "the most important third is 
our third, because you are talking about my ability to feed my 
family, and that is the most important thing to me. I need a job and 
I need to feed my family. I'm not sure that DPA is going to create 
something that's going to support me and my needs and we're talking 
about a third of your voters. Now you're asking if you can lead us, 
and you think you're the best. I'm not convinced, and that's why you 
need to join with CCPR. Because I really feel like they care about 
the third of the people that's us."

At last someone had gotten real. The wording of the winning 
initiative will determine the fate of thousands of mom-and-pop 
growers and chocolatiers and the dispensaries that distribute their wares.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom