Marijuana Supporters Still Split Over 2016 Ballot Initiative

marijuana-leafThe biggest of the California marijuana initiatives has at last been unveiled. But it has yet to lock up enough support to wipe out the competition.

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Striking a balance

“The Control, Regulate and Tax Cannabis Act of 2016 would allow people 21 and over to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana and it would set up legal marijuana commerce overseen by a pair of new state agencies, the California Cannabis Commission and the Office of Cannabis Regulatory Affairs,” as Alternet reported. The law was crafted, according to ReformCA, “to comport with the guidelines laid down by pro-legalization Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy and to complement the statewide medical marijuana regulation scheme approved last month by the legislature.”

Newsom, off to an early start in his campaign to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018, labored to find a middle path with the commission’s proposals. As CalWatchdog noted previously, Newsom’s panel put forth “a suite of policy prescriptions likely to leave many Californians with diminished hopes as well. Rejecting the notion of a free market for pot, the authors pushed for central regulatory oversight, standards for licensing and training, and rules barring youths from entering shops and purchasing certain types of product such as so-called edibles.”

ReformCA’s parent organization, the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, was the driving force behind the initiative. Chairwoman Dale Sky Jones, who also runs Oaksterdam University — “the first college in the country for the study of cannabis” — has amassed a list of supporters from California’s variegated pro-marijuana constituency; “Americans for Safe Access, the Emerald Growers Assn., Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance and the Council on Responsible Cannabis Regulation” have all signed on, according to the Los Angeles Times.

A fractious field

But ReformCA hasn’t managed to unite the pro-pot community completely. After the LA Weekly reported that ‘the coalition includes NORML, the Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project,’ ReformCA had those organizations removed from its website,” the Weekly reported. “The Drug Policy Alliance, one of the biggest players in marijuana politics, might go its own way. It’s preparing its own language for circulation that could be filed later this month if DPA principals aren’t happy with other initiatives being prepared.”

“The DPA initiative, then, could end up being one of three serious proposals to tax and regulate recreational marijuana for those older than 21 in California. The other two could include one from Silicon Valley billionaire Sean Parker, multiple sources confirmed, and the one from ReformCA.”

In some pro-legalization circles, Parker has become something of a savior figure. Unlike the others jockeying to pass marijuana reform, he has money. “Reform CA ($167,000 annual budget in 2014), NORML ($312,000 in 2012, the most recent filings), and Americans for Safe Access (which was $182,000 in debt in 2012, according to income statements filed earlier this year), are all broke,” SF Weekly noted. Parker, by contrast, “put $600 million of his reported $2.5 billion fortune in a philanthropic foundation this summer,” while recently he has brought on “Sacramento campaign veterans Gale Kaufman and Brian Brokaw, as well as former Newsom campaign insider Jason Kinney,” according to the SF Weekly’s anonymous sources.

The Weekly even suggested that Newsom’s own recent silence on the topic of pot legalization might indicate his unwillingness to endorse an initiative until Parker comes forward with one of his own.

Speedy timetables

If the Act were to become law, change would come swiftly. “Similar to Oregon’s model, the initiative would not give state regulators much time to drag their feet before providing consumers with an outlet to purchase legal weed,” High Timesreported. The Office of Cannabis Regulation “would be forced to issue temporary licenses to the medical marijuana sector, so that recreational sales could begin as early as July 2017. Meanwhile, the state would be required to begin drafting definitive regulations for the new market in order to make it fully operational by the turn of 2018.”

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  1. Just what CA needs, even more people suffering from “Spicoli Syndrome”.

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