Pubdate: Thu, 05 May 2016
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Christopher Cadelago


Gavin Newsom Says Too Many People Are in Jail for Drugs

He and Others Point to 2010 Effort As Turning Point in Debate

Opponents Unveil Their Campaign, Begin Critiquing Details

The coalition behind the campaign to legalize recreational marijuana 
in California launched Wednesday, vowing to avoid the stumbles that 
undermined past efforts here to legitimize the drug.

The as-yet unnumbered initiative aiming for November has begun 
submitting more than 600,000 signatures, far more than the 365,000 needed.

It was California that led the legalization debate six years ago with 
Proposition 19, a pivotal moment in the national discourse that 
spurred Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska to formally recognize 
cannabis, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said at the downtown event.

Now, he said, it's the state's turn to lead again.

"The 'War on Drugs' has been an abject failure," Newsom said, 
contending the decades-old federal policies to clamp down on drugs by 
harshly criminalizing them have disproportionately harmed people of 
color and the poor.

"It's destroyed lives," said Newsom, a declared candidate for 
governor in 2018. "It's destroyed communities."

The carefully planned roll-out of the measure at the Commonwealth 
Club, complete with televisions bearing the slogan "Let's get it 
right CA!" came after months of laboring over the initiative's 
language. The early efforts underscore the stakes of the campaign and 
demonstrate how the proponents are trying not to repeat the mistakes 
of six years ago.

Surveying a stage of medical professionals, law enforcement 
officials, environmental groups and drug policy reformers, Newsom 
said each of them comes to the legalization issue from different 
perspectives, including ideological. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa 
Mesa, once served as a young speechwriter for former President Ronald Reagan.

Rohrabacher, the only person on the stage to endorse Ted Cruz for 
president, framed the legalization issue as one of freedom and 
liberty. The U.S. has amassed too much federal debt, he said, trying 
to control the private lives of adults rather than tending to pressing needs.

"We got a criminal justice system spending billions of dollars ... to 
try to take care of someone who wants to smoke weed in his backyard," 
he said. "How many women have been raped or people have been murdered 
by distracting our law enforcement?"

Altering a famous line from his old boss, Rohrabacher declared the 
walls of cannabis prohibition should stand no longer.

"Join us in tearing down this wall," he said to applause.

With funding from billionaire entrepreneur Sean Parker, the founding 
president of Facebook, the campaign has largely coalesced many of the 
disparate marijuana groups around the signature-gathering effort.

It would legitimize possession of 1 ounce of marijuana and 
cultivation of six marijuana plants for adults 21 and over. It would 
impose a 15 percent excise tax on all retail sales, though localities 
could still ban marijuana sales in their jurisdictions.

It also would impose an infraction and maximum fine of $100 for 
possession of more than an ounce of marijuana.

The opposition campaign includes the Police Chiefs Association, 
California Hospital Association, California Teamsters, California 
State Sheriffs' Association and California Peace Officers 
Association, among others. On Wednesday, their lead consultant, who 
also opposed the 2010 measure, promised a strong defense.

Wayne Johnson circulated a white paper by the San Diego District 
Attorney's Office that said the the initiative "allows persons 
convicted of dealing large amounts of controlled substances such as 
heroin, methamphetamine or cocaine to become 'legal marijuana dealers.' "

"That's a big problem," Johnson said. "They knew it was a problem. 
They were told expressly."

Jason Kinney, a spokesman for the legalization campaign, said the 
measure explicitly denies a license to anyone with prior offenses for 
drug trafficking or drug-related offenses involving minors.

Newsom, noting the coalition's efforts to prepare for the initiative 
after the loss of Proposition 19, characterized its provisions as 
"tough" and said they would decrease trafficking and youth use of marijuana.

"I am promoting this as a father who is concerned with four kids 
about drug use and drug abuse," he said. "You do not have to be 
pro-marijuana to be pro-legalization."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom