Pubdate: Thu, 14 Jan 2016
Source: SF Weekly (CA)
Column: Chem Tales
Copyright: 2016 Village Voice Media
Author: Chris Roberts


Last week, Sean Parker made an honest issue out of cannabis 
legalization. The former Napster and Facebook whiz kid (and current 
philanthropic billionaire) plunked down $500,000 towards the Adult 
Use of Marijuana Act, a legalization measure vying for the Nov. 2016 
ballot. The check was a long-awaited confirmation: It had been known 
as the "Parker Initiative," despite no material support from Parker 
until last week - and only tepid verbal approval.

Along with $250,000 donations from a political action committee 
controlled by WeedMaps - the dispensary-finding website that serves 
as the "Google Maps for Pot" - and from legalization veterans 
Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance, to whom much 
of the credit for legalizing in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon are 
due, Parker's half-million is the biggest donation to the campaign 
committee called "Californians to Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use 
of Marijuana While Protecting Children."

That unwieldy name gives you an idea of the tightrope one has to walk 
in order to make the state's biggest cash crop truly and really legal 
for adults.

For now, the campaign is enjoying several minor victories, including 
news that recreational weed could yield $1 billion in tax revenue for 
the state, according to the ballot measure's official state analysis 
released in December, and the evident squelching of opposition from 
within the existing legalization movement.

Representatives from Oakland's Reform California, consisting of 
veterans from 2010's close-but-not-quite Prop. 19, indicated last 
week that they had abandoned efforts to put their own competing 
language on the ballot.

"We haven't yet endorsed," said Reform CA chairwoman Dale Sky Jones, 
who also serves as executive chancellor of Oakland-based cannabis 
grow college Oaksterdam University. "But we won't oppose."

That may soon change: On Tuesday, Alice Huffman, chairwoman of the 
California state NAACP as well as Jones' co-chair on Reform CA and 
erstwhile co-sponsor, announced her endorsement of the AUMA. (As for 
organized labor, the last political player in cannabis to signal its 
intentions, a decision has yet to be made.)

But about that tightrope. The clunky name of the Parker effort 
reveals the line that a successful legalization effort will have to 
walk just to appear before voters - and also reveals that cannabis is 
still not a political winner, regardless of what you've heard.

Yes, every time Gallup or the Field poll talk about marijuana, they 
talk about record support for the issue. But among actual voters - as 
in the citizens who actually show up to vote - that "record support" 
is only a bit more than 50 percent, according to veteran pollster Ben 
Tulchin, who has tested on the issue repeatedly over the years. These 
voters also tend not to be college students or 25-year-olds wearing 
"Cookies" gear (people for whom cannabis may as well already be legal 
in California).

"Basically, a bare majority of people support legalization," Tulchin 
told SF Weekly recently. "This is not a slam dunk."

This is why it took months for Reform CA to slow its roll and ease 
off on competing with Parker - and also why the legalization campaign 
is designed to appeal to people who don't want cannabis to be legal.

All of the things about the AUMA that tie-dyed-in-the-wool marijuana 
advocates hate - penalties for giving cannabis to children, 
restrictions on where you can smoke, six-plant and one-ounce 
possession limits - are the things political experts insist are 
required for passage.

"There's a majority support for it - if done right," Tulchin says. 
"If you really adhere to restrictions - to adults 21 and over, if 
there's a DUI clause in there, and if you really restrict where you 
can smoke. The more you back away from that, there's the push and pull."

In some ways, it's a near-miracle - and a sign of true commitment to 
the issue - that AUMA has that $1.25 million to play with at all. One 
of the bromides of political work is the threshold of 60 percent 
support. That's the baseline you need to really attract fundraisers, 
who hate to back a losing effort (and ergo lose money with nothing to 
show for it). And right now, legalization measures like AUMA are 
polling in the mid-50s, according to sources close to the effort.

AUMA campaign spokesman Jason Kinney, of Sacramento-based political 
consultancy California Strategies, would not comment on polling. But 
polling in the mid-50s would be consistent with Tulchin's findings.

And this is without organized opposition, which has yet to 
materialize. Both California law enforcement lobbies and U.S. Sen. 
Dianne Feinstein, the nemeses of Prop. 19, have yet to come out 
publicly against the AUMA.

Right now, that's a good thing - silence from those camps is the best 
AUMA can hope for.

For now, the loudest opposition to the Parker-backed effort is still 
from existing medical marijuana businesses and from within the 
legalization movement itself. For true believers, AUMA does not go 
far enough - and it's viewed with suspicion solely because of its 
deep-pocketed backers, who the die-hards accused of wanting to take 
over the industry.

But this isn't about them. It's about the conservative voters of 
California - and navigating that tightrope. If the campaign can't, 
California will remain a semi-legal state - and the global cannabis 
reform movement will suffer another setback.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom