Pubdate: Fri, 13 May 2016
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Christopher Cadelago


Voters Statewide Rejected Last Attempt by Seven Percentage Points

New Campaign Took Time to Craft Measure and Build Coalition

Reaching Out to Latinos and African Americans

San Francisco - Nate Bradley, co-founder of the California Cannabis 
Industry Association, paused for a moment as he assessed how the 
latest campaign to legalize recreational marijuana differs from an 
effort in 2010 that was decisively rejected by voters.

Bradley, who worked on the failed campaign, said the previous attempt 
was a grass-roots undertaking, while the latest measure is "run by 
experts at passing initiatives."

"It's a completely different ballgame," said Bradley, who stood 
beside Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and other legalization supporters at 
their launch this month. Bradley said it's difficult to compare the 
two "without getting too insulting. ... There's a credibility factor 
we have now with these people on board."

Six years ago, California stood to become the first state in the 
nation to allow recreational marijuana with Proposition 19. As the 
election neared, polls showed it in position to pass, driven by 
strong support from majority Democrats. But the measure faltered in 
the final weeks, and ultimately on Election Day, sunk by a fierce 
opposition that picked apart its provisions while targeting populous 
regions of the state, including Los Angeles County.

As Bradley and advocates unveiled their campaign in San Francisco, 
the lessons of 2010 persist. That year, opponents capitalized on the 
complexity of the initiative. They poked holes in areas of the 
measure they said were too vague and would allow pot to proliferate, 
including in the workplace. Critics were able to coalesce many of the 
state's top elected Democrats, who saw problems with how the measure 
was written and took a united stand against it.

The vast majority of newspaper editorial boards opposed the measure, 
said Wayne Johnson, who ran the opposition campaign and has returned 
to try to defeat the latest pot legalization initiative. His "no" 
campaign, which raised just $350,000, a good chunk from law 
enforcement, ran ads contending it would allow big-rig and school bus 
drivers to smoke pot before getting behind the wheel.

"The Proposition 19 campaign educated people that this is not a 
simple up or down about whether this should be legal," Johnson said.

Legalization proponents took a different approach this time. While 
the 2010 proponents far outspent their critics, the new legalization 
campaign is in better financial position, counting as its top backer 
billionaire entrepreneur Sean Parker. Leading the campaign is a 
veteran team anchored by strategist Gale Kaufman.

This time, they are running the measure in a presidential election 
year, a time when Democratic turnout typically increases. They also 
are focusing outreach on ethnic groups like Latinos, who last time 
turned against marijuana legalization.

Newsom said the most significant change between the campaigns is the 
due diligence that went into drafting the new proposal. He convened a 
task force, holding meetings across the state to study the effects of 
legalization and recommend safeguards. While past attempts were 
marred by infighting among industry groups, advocates said they built 
their coalition by reaching out to sponsors of rival initiatives, as 
well as medical, environmental, law enforcement and drug policy experts.

The resulting measure would allow those 21 years and older to 
possess, use and share up to an ounce of marijuana and the 
cultivation of six pot plants.

It imposes a 15 percent tax on retail sales, in addition to state and 
local sales taxes, and establishes a cultivation tax of $9.25 per 
ounce for marijuana buds and $2.75 per ounce for marijuana leaves. 
Local governments would be allowed to ban recreational marijuana businesses.

"We are not doing this lightly," Newsom said. "We are doing it very 

Roger Salazar, a Democratic strategist who worked against the 2010 
initiative, scrutinized the language that year to find issues that 
would create doubts in the minds of voters.

"It would have created a patchwork of regulations up and down the 
state that would have made enforcement very difficult and confusing," 
Salazar said.

Looking at the new proposal, Salazar said, "I think they have avoided that."

"They have been very straightforward about the measure and not put in 
too many bells and whistles to overly confuse it," he said.

Still, Johnson and other critics of the measure are wasting no time, 
exploiting what they see as the new measure's vulnerabilities.

Early members of Johnson's team include the California Police Chiefs 
Association, California Hospital Association and California 
Teamsters. The group highlights a provision allowing people with 
certain drug felony convictions to apply for a license under the measure.

"You're convicted of getting caught with a kilo, or a couple hundred 
doses of heroin, you got convicted of a felony, you can now go on and 
apply for a marijuana license in California," Johnson said.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos, in a letter 
examining the legalization proposal, said it is plagued with 
"drafting errors." Ramos said the measure "will do nothing" to curb 
the illicit underground market, adding, "We know from the Colorado 
experience (where recreational marijuana is legal) that the black 
market will flourish."

Others point to Colorado, contending that driving under the influence 
of drugs and youth access to marijuana have increased in that state. 
Ken Corney, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, 
said he's concerned about the potency of the drug.

"This is not the legalization of the green bud that was passed around 
at Woodstock or other concerts," Corney said. "It's commercialization 
of a for-profit industry to sell highly potent, concentrated THC 
(tetrahydrocannabinol) compounds in their products, including edibles 
and concentrated oils."

The California Hospital Association opposed the measure over "grave 
concerns" about the impacts on health, breaking with the California 
Medical Association, which supports legalization, arguing that it 
would create a system that better controls use of the drug.

"We look at it as a public health situation no different than issues 
related to tobacco," said Bill Emmerson, senior vice president with 
the hospital group.

Anticipating the attacks, proponents have adopted the slogan "Let's 
get it right!" The campaign counters that the California measure 
prohibits a license to anyone with prior offenses for certain drug 
trafficking or drug-related offenses involving minors. They also 
point to protections to prevent youth marijuana exposure, such as 
buffer zones around schools and a ban on marketing to minors, and 
funding in the measure to establish and enforce a DUI program.

Supporters also begin the campaign amid growing public approval for 
legalization. A Public Policy Institute of California survey last 
year found that 55 percent of likely voters believe that marijuana 
should be legal. For the first time, more than 4 in 10 Latinos, 42 
percent, said they agreed with legalization.

Latinos were evenly divided two months ahead of the vote on 
Proposition 19, but shifted heavily to the opposition side in late 
October, according to the Field Poll. In the upcoming November 
election, Latinos are expected to make up an even larger segment of 
the vote, particularly with presumptive Republican presidential 
nominee Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, said Mark DiCamillo, 
director of the poll.

"To me, a big swing constituency that the marijuana folks have to 
deal with are Latinos," DiCamillo said.

Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Southwest Voter Registration 
Education Project, a nonpartisan organization that works to bolster 
Latino voter participation, said exit poll data from 2010 showed deep 
cleavages in the Latino electorate.

"But this is a whole new day," said Gonzalez, who supports 
legalization. "There have been six years of working the field, 
educating leadership, educating communities. And this ballot measure 
is much more advanced and precise. I think it stands on the shoulders 
of the 2010 initiative and the other legalization efforts."

Among the appealing aspects of the measure are provisions to generate 
money for treatment and drug education, curtail marijuana use among 
minors and weaken the foreign drug cartels that have disrupted 
communities at home and thrived in Central and South America, Gonzalez said.

"Now, it's all about doing the work to get that word out to the 
community to have a sophisticated bilingual campaign," he said.

Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, said the biggest 
challenge for African Americans is clearing up "misinformation" that 
pot is a gateway drug. Huffman, who supported Proposition 19, said 
"we have to get inside the churches, where they are getting 
misinformation, and educate those who are leaders."

Another area of change since 2010 is the maturation of the marijuana 
industry, said Kimberly R. Simms, an attorney in San Diego whose 
practice specializes in cannabis. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed 
a package of bills regulating medical marijuana, decriminalized by 
voters in 1996.

Simms said the cannabis association and main growers group have 
provided structure for what was a loosely bound, and thriving, 
industry. "Before, we were just a bunch of scattered voices, never 
really uniting behind any true organization structure that hired the 
right people to go and relay our message," she said.

She said the groups have benefited from studying successful 
legalization drives played out in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and 
Alaska. It's time for elected officials here and in states that 
haven't yet weighed legalization to participate in the debate, said 
Newsom, California's highest-ranking supporter.

"You got to step up," Newsom said. "You have an obligation. Because 
this is serious business."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom