Pubdate: Thu, 31 Dec 2015
Source: SF Weekly (CA)
Column: Chem Tales
Copyright: 2015 Village Voice Media
Author: Chris Roberts


Lists, reflections, and other filler: these are the newspaper 
reader's "reward" when the calendar flips. This is when both writer 
and reader would rather be polishing off the last of the egg nog and 
dusting off champagne flutes than taking stock or pondering the 
future - and usually, it shows.

2015 was mostly good for cannabis in America. Congress made moves, 
recreational shops opened in Oregon - and, like every other year in 
recorded human history, nobody died from a marijuana overdose.

But it's now 2016 (or soon to be). It's a presidential election year. 
Mexico's leaders will officially debate legalization. Several more 
states, including California, could legalize recreational marijuana. 
Desperate presidential candidates could seize on drug reform as a 
path to office.

And Congress - yes, that same Congress that would be challenged to 
agree on the shape of a negotiating table - could very well move more 
on drug reform this year than the California state Legislature has in a decade.

There is much afoot, and much to discuss. Here, then, are our modest 
predictions for the year ahead.

A major Republican politician, other than Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, 
will unveil a serious (looking or sounding, at least) plan to 
legalize cannabis and overhaul the nation's drug laws.

This will probably be a Hail Mary move from a fringe presidential 
candidate, desperate for a boost at the polls (other than Rand Paul), 
but it will have the unintended consequences of making drug reform a 
real issue in Washington, and it will all but guarantee that the next 
president will have no choice but to seriously address the drug war.

As for Donald Trump? We would not be surprised if he both smoked weed 
in front of Fox News cameras and called for all weed users to be put 
on a list, possibly on the same day.

There will be legal adult cannabis cafes in Las Vegas before San Francisco.

A legalization initiative has already qualified for the Nevada ballot 
- - and in Sin City, eager entrepreneurs are already handing in their 
gaming licenses in exchange for permits to sell medical cannabis (you 
cannot hold both), with hopes of a recreational shop. Vegas has 
embraced legal cannabis in a way almost unthinkable in California, 
and will continue to do so - even if it is with the goal of making a 
buck. We see Nevada voters, who skew anti big-government and pro-fun, 
approving legalization and the state moving swiftly to stake a claim 
as the cannabis capital of the world - at least in terms of consumption.

A member of Congress will introduce (or reintroduce) a serious, 
bipartisan effort to legalize cannabis and overhaul rescheduling - 
and it will get a hearing.

This is a risky call, but we feel good about it. Even though cannabis 
businesses still can't bank and even though medical marijuana 
patients can still lose their jobs for the crime of smoking a joint, 
Congress did more on drug policy reform in 2015 than in any other 
year. The federal Justice Department is barred from interfering in 
state-legal cannabis, and lawmakers have put more pressure on 
officials throughout Washington to either reform or explain their 
Prohibitionist ways. Look for a lawmaker from Colorado or Oregon to 
push the most ambitious effort yet to shake things up on the federal 
level - possibly after the details of the FDA's recommendation on 
whether to de-list cannabis from the country's roll of the most 
dangerous substances in the world is made public.

Now, for the question, of which there's really only one.

Will California legalize?

We're unsure. We do know that it's by far from guaranteed that we'll 
even be able to consider the question.

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act, the ballot initiative that will 
supposedly receive material support from internet billionaire Sean 
Parker, stands a good chance of winning if it qualifies for the ballot.

But will it qualify?

Netting the 365,000-plus signatures needed to qualify a ballot 
measure will take as much as $2 million to $3 million.

Parker had pledged matching donations to the Marijuana Policy Project 
last month but has yet to officially kick down any cash. He is also 
reportedly annoyed with the mistrust and outright hostility with 
which his interest in legalizing marijuana has been met from some 
current California cannabis activists and businesses.

If Parker changes his mind, cash could also come from WeedMaps CEO 
Justin Hartfield, who parked $1 million in a political action 
committee last year, and Joby Pritzker, a venture capitalist who is 
one of the scions of the Hyatt Hotels fortune and a board member of MPP.

People who know Parker say he is, at heart, an idealist. He wants to 
fix stuff. He wants to shake shit up. (I am told that he lived, for a 
time, near Sixth Street in San Francisco, and wondered aloud if he 
could solve the city's suffering Skid Row by buying up the SROs and 
rehabilitating them.)

It would go a long way, though, towards earning trust among 
cannabis's famously divisive "leadership" if Parker went public with 
why he wants to legalize. So that leaves us with this last question: 
Sean, will you grant us an interview?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom