Pubdate: Mon, 12 Oct 2015
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2015 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Trevor Hughes


More Tech Industry Leaders Take Investment Roles and Support 
Legalization of Marijuana

SAN FRANCISCO - A simmering battle among California's marijuana 
legalization advocates is getting new focus as Gov. Jerry Brown 
considers three laws laying the groundwork for legal recreational pot 
next year.

It's a topic that's previously attracted the financial backing of 
some of tech's best known and wealthiest founders, such as Napster 
co-founder and Facebook investor Sean Parker, and they're expected to 
jump into the ring this time, too.

Brown is considering legislation creating very basic marijuana 
regulations in the state, where recreational marijuana remains illegal.

The legislation would create a structure for selling recreational 
marijuana, which is expected to be legalized during California's 2016 
election, when one or more ballot initiatives on legal pot are 
likely. Brown has until the end-of-day Sunday to decide on the framework laws.

The specific language of the expected ballot initiatives matters 
significantly. If it's at odds with what Brown is expected to sign, 
legalization efforts could be delayed while conflicts get resolved.

"What happens if the ballot initiative passes and it's contrary to 
what the governor signs?" asked Eddie Miller, the CEO of "That's where all the drama lies."

The next 11 states to legalize marijuana

The legislation Brown is considering creates a framework similar to 
that used to produce, distribute and sell alcohol in California. But 
some cannabis advocates want to see the state retain more elements of 
its current medical marijuana system, with its non-profit 
co-operatives and almost total lack of state oversight.


Many tech investors who see legal cannabis as inevitable support more 
corporate-friendly regulations, and a structure that includes a 
relatively small number of privately owned distribution companies and 
a scalable business model.

Among those pushing the corporate-friendly regulations are Sean 
Parker, an early investor in Facebook and Napster, Miller said.

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz also is passionate about the 
debate, and donated money back in 2010 to the failed California 
effort to legalize the leaf.

And Peter Thiel, one of the founders of PayPal, has invested millions 
through his Founders Fund in Privateer Holdings, the parent company 
of the Bob Marley-branded marijuana line, Marley Natural.

Parker didn't respond to requests for comment. Moskovitz's current 
startup, workplace software company Asana, referred a reporter to 
Moscovitz's philanthropic foundation, Good Ventures, which among many 
donations this year gave $150,000 in August to the Drug Policy 
Alliance, which works on issues that include marijuana law reform.

A Buzzfeed News article this week cited unnamed sources in a report 
that indicated Parker and associates had decided to draft and back 
their own marijuana law initiative in anticipation of the 2016 vote.


Many longtime cannabis farmers in the state's Emerald Triangle around 
Mendocino - who don't currently pay taxes or face government scrutiny 
- - generally prefer less regulation and more independence to strike 
their own deals with stores, Miller said.

California's largely unregulated medical marijuana environment is a 
testament to the state's sheer size and number of competing 
interests, said Derek Peterson, the CEO of cannabis company Terra 
Tech, which operates in both California and Nevada. He said current 
players have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo for 
medical marijuana and mirroring that system for recreational pot.

"There's a lot of egos and a lot of capital in medical marijuana. 
You're seeing the same in recreational marijuana," he said. "We know 
the voters want it. It's just a matter of getting everybody's 
interests aligned."

Conflicts amongst advocacy groups are nothing new. But the 
intersection of money, marijuana and the state's high-profile tech 
culture is drawing attention.

"Every group has their own opinion, and some groups have pollsters 
and they rely on those pollsters too much," said Steve Fox, the 
executive director of the national Council on Responsible Cannabis Regulation.

Contributing: Marco della Cava in San Francisco
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom