Pubdate: Wed, 26 Aug 2015
Source: East Bay Express (CA)
Column: Legalization Nation
Copyright: 2015 East Bay Express
Author: David Downs


The most credible effort is late out of the gate, while campaign 
warchests are missing in action. Meanwhile, California lawmakers are 
rushing to write rules for medical pot.

In 439 days, Californians are expected to cast a historic vote on an 
initiative legalizing cannabis for recreational adult use. But the 
text of that initiative and the hard proof that activists have the 
$20 million necessary to campaign for it have yet to materialize.

The California Secretary of State's Office suggested July 7 as the 
last day to submit a measure to the state attorney general and 
request an official title and summary for a November 2016 ballot 
measure. But the leading coalition will not file an initiative until 
some time in early September, said Dale Sky Jones, chancellor of 
Oaksterdam University in Oakland and chair of what's referred to as 
ReformCA - the post-Proposition 19 coalition that includes the most 
effective, major reform groups: Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana 
Policy Project, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom confirmed that he will lead the 
ReformCA effort on August 7 on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. 
Newsom is the head of a steering committee for a blue ribbon 
commission on cannabis legalization that released its findings in 
July. Incorporating those findings delayed ReformCA's initiative, 
Jones said. "We wanted to ensure our language was well within the 
parameters [of the commission's report], so that slowed us down a 
bit," she said.

Collaboration has also slowed down the effort, she added. "We care 
more about getting the policy exactly right. We realize if we're a 
little late, it's going to be a little harder. It's going to be worth 
the extra effort to get it right."

Marijuana Policy Project communications director Mason Tvert, who 
helped legalize cannabis in Colorado, agreed. "I would take a good 
initiative and three hundred days of campaigning over a sub-par 
initiative and five hundred days of campaigning - any day," he said.

Polls suggest that a majority of Californians support taxing and 
regulating cannabis like alcohol, but the details of schemes 
presented to date divide voters. ReformCA hopes to assuage critics on 
the left and right, but zealous reformers have already begun 
smack-talking and filing their own initiatives.

Moreover, good ballot language is just ink on paper without the 
estimated $20 million needed to run an effective campaign in a 
massive state of 38 million people. And according to a search of 
state records for campaign filings of $5,000 or more to committees 
supporting ballot measures, as of right now, there effectively is no 
legalization effort in California. Campaign finance reports for the 
period of January 1 through June 30 were due July 31.

In April, marijuana technology entrepreneur Justin Hartfield parked 
$1 million in a committee to support a middle-of-the-road effort. But 
other than that, the Secretary of State's website reports no other 
substantial donations to legalization committees.

Jones of ReformCA, however, said it's still early and there's no 
reason to worry. "We will have the resources to qualify ... and run a 
robust, winning campaign," she said. "We haven't started the direct 
political action portion yet."

Regulations Coming?

California is close to getting historic medical marijuana regulations 
- - again. East Bay Assemblymember Rob Bonta's AB 266 is in the Senate 
Appropriations Committee. A bill made it this far last year before 
lawmakers balked at its nebulous cost and shape. This year, a 
committee analysis again questions the bill's $20 million pricetag 
and the ability of a half-dozen state agencies to work together as 
marijuana regulators.

Personal and caregiver rights to possess and sometimes grow cannabis 
under Prop 215 cannot be touched under any new legislation. In 
Bonta's bill, all "commercial" cannabis activity would need a license 
and "any" pot activity not related to personal or caregiver use would 
be deemed "commercial." "Collectives" would be banned. Delivery 
services not associated with a brick-and-mortar dispensary would also 
be prohibited.

Cities would still be allowed to ban dispensaries or cultivation - a 
provision that advocates hate. However, the industry would be able to 
legally take profits for the first time. "AB 266 will finally give 
clarity as to what is legal for local lawmakers, regulators, and law 
enforcement. That is likely to expand access to communities where 
lawmakers have been reluctant to move forward without a greenlight 
from the state," stated Don Duncan, for Americans for Safe Access, 
which supports the bill.

Some pot entrepreneurs also question the proposed tiny caps on farm 
sizes, and the ban on vertically integrating a farm, processor, and 
store. Stephen DeAngelo, head of Harborside Health Center in Oakland, 
called the proposed rules unworkably complex and out of touch.

AB 266 also calls for dual local and state licensing that - unlike 
alcohol - creates structural incentives for local corruption in the 
permit awards process, said attorney Matt Kumin, for advocates 
California Cannabis Voice. He said that compared to local officials, 
"It's much harder to bribe [California's Department of Alcoholic 
Beverage Control]."

AB 266 is scheduled to be approved for a full Senate floor vote or 
die in committee for the year on Thursday, August 27.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom