Pubdate: Wed, 24 Feb 2016
Source: Lodi News-Sentinel (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Lodi News-Sentinel
Author: Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times


SACRAMENTO - Devout cannabis advocates and social justice reformers 
believe this may finally be the year California voters legalize 
marijuana, and that optimism has led to a mashup of proposed 
statewide ballot measures - more than 20 filed so far.

They vary from a one-sentence constitutional amendment that simply 
declares California adults are free to "grow, own (and) purchase" 
marijuana to a 62-page treatise on how to best regulate and tax legal pot.

But just one has attracted the deep-pocketed donors and leading 
advocacy groups to emerge as the clear favorite to make the November 
ballot - the so-called Adult Use of Marijuana Act. The initiative 
would allow those age 21 and older to possess and use up to an ounce 
of marijuana, making California the fifth state in the nation to 
legalize recreational use.

The measure's stature is in no small part thanks to the backing of 
former Facebook president and Napster cofounder Sean Parker, who has 
donated $1 million of the $2.25 million raised by the campaign.

The initiative's bankroll dwarfs the funds collected by rival 
marijuana initiative campaigns and has prompted a few to abandon 
efforts because they lacked the money to compete.

Momentum behind the Parker-backed initiative was further strengthened 
by an endorsement from Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. The 2018 Democratic 
gubernatorial hopeful chaired a blue-ribbon commission to determine 
the best way to legalize marijuana in California while still limiting 
children's access, targeting illegal activity and regulating the 
drug's cultivation and sale.

"We stood down. Basically, he sucked all the funding oxygen out of 
the air, and we were left high and dry," Dale Gieringer, director of 
the state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of 
Marijuana Laws, said of the Parker donations, tongue firmly in cheek.

Still, these groups take it seriously. "I'd describe it as a hostile 
buyout by a billionaire ... so small growers are going to be in real 
trouble," Gieringer added.

Gieringer was involved in a competing marijuana initiative sponsored 
by the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, also known as ReformCA. 
The group suspended its campaign in December after some of its board 
members opted to join with the Parker-backed initiative.

Of the 20 separate ballot measures to legalize marijuana or expand 
protections for medical marijuana users and suppliers, six already 
have failed to qualify, and supporters of four others have, in 
effect, abandoned their efforts. None yet have qualified for the ballot.

Lynne Lyman, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said 
her organization held more than 100 consultation meetings with local 
governments, law enforcement agencies, environmental leaders and the 
cannabis industry as it drafted a version of the legalization. It 
ultimately joined forces with Parker, who for years has been one of 
its generous financial supporters.

"It was rough and tumble politics - 2015 was not easy for any of us," 
Lyman said. "But in the end, what came out of that was the best 
initiative to have ever been drafted."

The California chapter of the National Association for the 
Advancement of Colored People also abandoned its legalization measure.

Alice Huffman, president of the civil rights organization, said after 
getting "scooped by the Parker initiative" she decided to join his 
effort, and negotiated for changes to address the NAACP's top 
priorities: to end the arrest of thousands of nonviolent cannabis 
users and to resentence those already convicted of marijuana crimes 
that would be reduced or rescinded under the initiative.

"I'm not advocating for the use of marijuana. I'm advocating for 
social justice," Huffman said. "They gave us the five or six things 
we asked for."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom