Pubdate: Fri, 19 Aug 2016
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Column: California Journal
Copyright: 2016 Los Angeles Times
Author: Robin Abcarian


A Statewide Ballot Measure on Adult Recreational Use Is Complicated - 
and Highly Likely to Pass.

SACRAMENTO - I know you've been distracted/disgusted/gobsmacked by 
the presidential campaign all summer.

But history, polling and common sense tell us that California's 
electoral votes already belong to Hillary Clinton (sorry, Donald 
Trump fans). So stop wasting time worrying about that, Golden State 
types, and turn your attention to the doorstop of a ballot that 
you'll be facing when you vote Nov. 8.

This year, 17 measures qualified for the statewide ballot. There is 
something for everyone to get worked up about: prescription drug 
prices, the minimum wage, background checks for ammunition purchases, 
plastic bags, the death penalty - and something I really wish I 
didn't have to think about, mandatory condoms for porn shoots.

One of the most far-reaching measures is Proposition 64, which would 
legalize marijuana for adult recreational use.

No disrespect to Colorado or Washington or Alaska, but California's 
pot business would totally dwarf those already legal markets. 
Colorado, for instance, collected more than $135 million in 
potrelated revenues last year. California could collect up to $1 
billion annually within a few years of legalization.

And if California votes to legalize, other states will follow. That 
will bring new pressure on the Drug Enforcement Agency to alter its 
preposterous classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, which 
means it has no known medical benefit and is considered as dangerous 
as heroin and LSD. (Twenty-five states, by the way, already have 
medical marijuana laws. Why the feds continue to resist rescheduling, 
even as they loosen rules on growing pot for medical research, is 
just plain bizarre.)

This week, I spent a couple days listening to advocates on both sides 
of Prop. 64. I support legalization, but it's complicated. And I 
would not underestimate the potential ramifications.

On Monday, I met with strategist Jason Kinney, who helped develop the 
measure. "The war on marijuana is universally recognized as a 
failure," Kinney told me. "It ruins lives."

Tuesday, I visited Andrew Acosta, a Democratic consultant who is 
working to defeat Prop. 64. "It's a little disingenuous when you have 
people talking about social justice and they want to make millions 
selling edibles and other things," he said.

I chatted with Nate Bradley, a former smalltown cop who founded the 
California Cannabis Industry Assn. trade group and has worked to make 
sure the initiative protects existing growers.

"There isn't any secret plan to create a 'green rush,' " he said. 
"The reality is, the green rush is already here."

And I caught up with Roger Salazar, a political consultant who worked 
to defeat legalization the last time it appeared on the California 
ballot in 2010. It lost 53.5% to 46.5% "I'm not saying this one is 
perfect," he said, "but my instinct tells me it's likely gonna pass."

These days, you can't really find anyone who dismisses cannabis as 
intrinsically evil. You don't even hear the "gateway drug" argument very much.

Even the Sacramento County district attorney, a Prop. 64 opponent who 
wore a scowl through much of a 90-minute forum co-sponsored Tuesday 
evening by Capital Public Radio and KPCC, had a nuanced view.

"I agree with medical marijuana 100%," Dist. Atty. Anne Marie 
Schubert said. "I had a mother who died of breast cancer and would 
love to have had her have the benefit of it. But there's a very big 
difference between saying somebody needs it for medical purpose and 
removing the stigma we've had for years associated with marijuana 
use.... We don't have studies to show what the effect will be on 
future generations." Ah, the children. As it turns out, both sides 
claim to have, at heart, the best interests of children.

In the next two months, I'll be writing more about the children and 
many other issues around legalizing pot - the social justice 
implications, how Latinos hold the key to passing the initiative, how 
law enforcement will assess stoned driving, the dangers of an 
all-cash industry, why the black market will never go away, the 
vexing issue of edibles and dosing, the role of tech entrepreneur 
Sean Parker and the online directory Weedmaps in all of this, and why 
some small pot farmers loathe the idea of legalization. I'd love to 
hear your suggestions too.

But for now, let me explain as simply as possible what Prop. 64 would do.

It's easy to get lost in the legal weeds trying to read the 62-page 
initiative, so I turned to the most succinct breakdown available, 
courtesy of the Legislative Analyst's Office.

According to the office's nonpartisan review, the Adult Use of 
Marijuana Act would allow people 21 and older to grow six pot plants 
at home (out of public view), possess up to an ounce of marijuana and 
use it for non-medical purposes.

Prop. 64 would allow California to regulate and tax marijuana, much 
as it does medical marijuana, which has been legal here since 1996. 
Revenue from a 15% state excise tax, a cultivation tax on flowers and 
leaves and a sales tax - plus whatever taxes cities and counties 
might levy - would be deposited into the California Marijuana Tax Fund.

Most of that money would be spent on youth programs including 
substance abuse education and treatment, with smaller amounts devoted 
to cleaning up the environmental messes created by illegal grows and 
to programs designed to reduce impaired driving and other negative 
impacts pot may have on public safety or health.

The measure also would change the sentences for marijuana crimes - 
most notably reducing the punishment for selling recreational pot 
from a maximum of four years in prison or jail to six months in jail 
and/or a $500 fine. It would allow judges to consider resentencing 
people who are now serving time for selling or growing marijuana illegally.

Counties and cities could regulate marijuana any way they wanted, but 
they could not prevent people from growing it at home or transporting 
it across their boundaries.

Oh, and one other thing stands out: Pot prices almost certainly would 
drop significantly.

Places that rely on the cannabis economy - Humboldt, Mendocino and 
Trinity counties - could take a big hit. This is why the bill gives 
small farmers a five-year head start. Licenses for large cultivators 
would be granted only after five years of legalization, and doing so 
would be at the discretion of regulators.

That would allow farmers, some of whom are multi-generational 
growers, to benefit from the establishment of regional appellations 
and command premium prices for their legendary products. At least 
that is the hope.

The latest polls show that more than 60% of likely voters favor 
legalization. And according to government filings, pro-Prop. 64 
interests have contributed $6.5 million to passing the measure; 
opponents have raised $185,870.

Yeah, I know. Probably safe to start firing up those old bongs.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom