Pubdate: Tue, 29 Dec 2015
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2015 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: Steven Greenhut


SACRAMENTO - The attorney general's office has been so inundated with 
marijuana legalization measures that it's been hard to separate the 
wheat from the chaff - or the stems from the buds, to use a more 
appropriate analogy. It costs less than the average price of an ounce 
of the stuff to file a statewide initiative, so it's been unclear 
which ones might emerge with enough financial backing to get on the 
ballot and maybe even win approval.

That has all changed. In November, former Facebook President Sean 
Parker backed something called the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Parker 
is a billionaire who has said he will dedicate millions to the 
effort. The proposal also earned the backing of Lt. Gov. Gavin 
Newsom, the 2018 gubernatorial candidate who headed the state's 
blue-ribbon commission on marijuana.

The basics, per California NORML (National Organization for the 
Reform of Marijuana Laws): "(1) allow adults 21 years and older to 
possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants 
for personal use; (2) regulate and tax the production, manufacture, 
and sale of marijuana for adult use; and (3) rewrite criminal 
penalties so as to reduce the most common marijuana felonies to 
misdemeanors and allow prior offenders to petition for reduced charges."

Some veterans of past marijuana battles - e.g., the successful effort 
to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 (Proposition 215) and the 
failed effort to legalize recreational marijuana in 2010 (Proposition 
19) - had been part of the "Reform CA" coalition, which had submitted 
its own initiative to the attorney general. Many observers figured 
theirs would be the "adult" proposal that would galvanize support.

Earlier this month, a majority of the group's board voted to withdraw 
support for its proposal - and six board members signed onto the 
Parker-backed initiative. "(W)e're convinced it's time to endorse 
that initiative and unite everyone behind a single, consensus measure 
. ," according to a statement from a Reform CA board member. That 
was big news.

But the controversies have not faded away. GOP congressional 
candidate Paul Chabot, of the Coalition for a Drug-Free California, 
has been quoted opposing the measure. His group argues marijuana is a 
dangerous drug. Some of the most intense initial opposition, however, 
comes from those in the pro-legalization camp who believe the measure 
is too restrictive.

Steve Kubby, a Proposition 215 activist, last month warned that the 
Parker initiative "is a Trojan horse that gives us little, but 
authorizes cops and agents to perform warrantless searches and six 
months in jail for growing over six plants or possession of over an ounce."

Kubby stated in an email that he will "hold my nose and support this 
initiative" provided it eliminates the warrantless-search provision, 
a provision that treats open containers of marijuana in the same way 
that open containers of alcohol are treated, jail time for possessing 
more than an ounce of marijuana or more than six plants, and a 
requirement that those convicted of marijuana offenses register for 
five years as drug offenders.

The "adult use" initiative is designed to provide something palatable 
to voters and law enforcement. It is modeled on the new law that 
creates a state bureau to regulate medical marijuana clinics and 
gives local governments much control over its sale and use within 
their city borders. It is designed to boost tax revenues. It has 
provisions allowing employers to test employees for marijuana use. It 
requires that larger marijuana facilities have a "labor peace 
agreement" that promotes unionization. In other words, it is designed 
to ameliorate opposition from powerful interest groups.

And that's where the dilemma comes in. The current system isn't 
particularly oppressive for most marijuana users. Recreational 
marijuana is illegal, but the state imposes modest penalties for 
possessing it. It's also easy to receive a medical-marijuana card. 
The initiative would let adults possess some marijuana without any 
hassle (and grow a small number of plants indoors), but it creates 62 
pages of new rules and enforcement mechanisms.

The initiative's backers argue that legalizing marijuana "will 
incapacitate the black market," thereby making it harder for children 
to access the drug. They say legalization will "alleviate pressure on 
the courts." They say it will protect the environment by undermining 
the market for illegal pot operations which "steal or divert millions 
of gallons of water without any accountability." Those are the right arguments.

One need not support marijuana use to understand that prohibition 
doesn't stamp out its use - it only sends it underground. Yet if the 
state overly regulates something, black markets grow, even for legal 
products. The question is whether the initiative goes too far in the 
regulation direction. That remains to be seen, but at least everyone 
now knows the language they'll be fighting over in the election.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom