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Prop. 19

  • by Sabrina Fendrick October 29, 2013

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    There’s an air of cognitive dissonance about it, that a woman, especially a nurturing, professional woman, could both smoke pot and not be Jim Breuer in Half Baked was, to many, a revelation.” Emily Dufton, The Atlantic (10/28/13)

    Emily Dufton does an excellent job identifying the cultural challenges and social setbacks that are experienced by female cannabis consumers on a regular basis.  The issue of women and weed has become a hot topic recently, and being on the forefront of this push for female engagement has been nothing short of fascinating.  The emergence of independent, mainstream professional women becoming more outspoken about their cannabis use has prominently challenged traditional stereotypes, and started the long-overdue process of reframing gender norms.  As marijuana goes mainstream, its cultural connotations will continue to evolve.  In return, more women will feel comfortable coming out of the cannabis closet.

    A little over 4 years ago, I wrote an aptly named blog; Because Women are NORML Too, in response to the overwhelming interest to Marie Claire’s famous Stiletto Stoners article.  In that post, I noted, “The normalization of recreational cannabis consumption is not just happening with men, which is what most people think of when they think of pot smokers.  Women, who are not necessarily left out of the movement, are rarely recognized as a major demographic that is essential for the reform effort to push forward in a truly legitimate fashion.”   It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come.

    Since then, there has been a major effort on behalf of NORML and the movement to identify and close the gender gap.  Reformers are acutely aware that in order to succeed in ending blanket prohibition, female outreach has to be a key component to their advocacy work.  Women, a significant demographic were largely responsible for bringing down California’s Proposition 19, but were also a key factor in the passage of Washington and Colorado’s legalization initiatives in 2012.  In fact, campaigners in Colorado and Washington spent a significant amount of time and resources cultivating the female vote. Though a gender gap still exists nationwide, it is shrinking, fast.

    While great strides have been made culturally and politically, there still remains a great deal of curiosity and intrigue surrounding female cannabis consumers.  Many want to know, who are these women who smoke pot?  Why do we smoke pot? Is it because we are sick or in pain, need a crutch or because we simply want to relax with a substance that has less side effects than alcohol?  Why don’t more of us speak out about it?  Why aren’t there more women leading the fight?  Can a responsible mom still smoke pot?  It’s truly amazing how a single chromosome can alter the entire construct and perception of a certain behavior.  One can write volumes on each of these questions, but the interest clearly comes from the disconnect of deeply rooted gender norms regarding women, intoxication, and our various roles in society.  Many of these abstract components have been mulled over time and again by different authors and publications.  But if we look at our current policies, some of these questions are answered in very real terms.

    For example, a mother who chooses to unwind with a joint after her child has gone to bed is no more a danger to her child than one who chooses a glass of wine.  Yet, our laws say otherwise.  A mother who smokes pot is in constant danger of losing her children because child protective services maintain the false presumption that this behavior (or the mere presence of pot) poses a threat to the child’s safety.  This is just one example of how the culmination traditional gender norms and our current marijuana policies play a real and tragic role in our society.  The proliferation of government agencies across the country removing children from safe, loving homes for the mere fact that a parent is a cannabis consumer, even in states with a legal medical marijuana program, or where marijuana possession is no longer a criminal offense is not just an abstract discussion, but a tangible, legal issue that requires immediate attention and an expedited solution.  Support for marijuana legalization is higher than ever before, and as the political winds change, so too will the scope of the marijuana culture.  Women, and our relationship with marijuana will have political and social implications for years to come, and it is therefore up to us to make sure we take a leading role in defining what those outcomes will be.

     

     

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director April 3, 2012

    Richard Lee Speaking at a NORML Conference
    Earlier this week, agents with the U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service raided several properties owned by longtime marijuana law reform advocate Richard Lee. Richard has devoted over a million dollars of his own money and countless hours of his life to championing Proposition 19 and marijuana legalization in California, to say nothing of all the time and passion he has poured into helping revitalize his community of Downtown Oakland, can you give him just a minute of your time and sign his petition to President Obama?


    Click here to sign

    From Richard Lee:

    On Monday, April 2, my school — Oaksterdam University in Oakland — was raided by the DEA, IRS, and US Marshals. Oaksterdam provides training to the medical cannabis industry, and is fully compliant with state and local law.

    President Obama promised at the beginning of his administration to respect state medical marijuana laws. He has broken this promise time and time again — and the consequences have been devastating.

    This was a senseless act of intimidation. But I’ve been an activist far too long to become intimidated — and with the majority of Americans and common sense on our side, I know this is a fight we can win.

    With our government trillions in debt, why is our government using taxpayer dollars to come after me, Oaksterdam, and the thousands of patients who need medical marijuana just to get through the day?

    Tell President Obama and the DEA: Enough is enough. Keep your campaign promise, and stop the raids on the medical cannabis industry!


    Click here to sign!

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director January 23, 2011

    Just a Matter of When?
    Legalizing marijuana has failed in California. But even in defeat, Proposition 19 might mark the beginning of the end for prohibition.

    Brian Doherty from the February 2011 issue of Reason

    On Homecoming Day at the University of Southern California, Elizabeth Tauro strode purposefully through the dense, shifting mob of pre-game partiers, bearing huge rolls of “Yes on 19” stickers on each arm.

    Saying yes to California’s Proposition 19 would have meant that adults could legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana. They also would have been allowed to grow marijuana on up to 25 square feet of their property. Local governments would have been free to raise (but not reduce) these limits on possession and cultivation. They would also have been authorized to license, regulate, and tax sales of the long-demonized weed.

    Tauro, a senior majoring in public policy, was working the crowd on this Saturday before Election Day on behalf of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. At this point in the campaign, she said, she was mostly “just letting everyone know that Tuesday is Election Day” rather than arguing the benefits of pot legalization. “Our generation supports reforming marijuana laws,” she said. “It’s just a question of whether they vote.”

    Not enough of them did. Proposition 19 lost by 54 percent to 46 percent just six weeks after most polls showed it winning. The drug war’s foes had been on the verge of achieving a staggering victory, one that would have forced a confrontation with the federal government. Instead they saw history slip through their fingers.

    Yet reformers are still optimistic. Prop. 19 won a higher vote total (and higher vote percentage) than any previous attempt to legalize pot in the United States. It made legalization—not medical marijuana, not decriminalization, but full legalization—a legitimate political debate in the country’s biggest state. And it forged a coalition that stretched far beyond the usual axis of antiprohibition activists, notwithstanding some dissension within the ranks. The opposition, meanwhile, conceded some important arguments to the reformers, suggesting that public opinion has moved further along than ever before. The legalization of marijuana, activists argue, is a matter of when, not if.

    Who Supported Prop. 19
    Prop. 19 sprang from the brain and bank account of Richard Lee, a medical marijuana entrepreneur who operates a big dispensary and associated retail stores in Oakland as well as Oaksterdam University, a vocational school for the new industry that has had more than 12,000 students pass through since 2007.

    Lee has played the local politics of medical marijuana as skillfully as anyone, winning city approval for industrial-sized indoor growing operations to feed the medical distribution system as well as a statement of intent to legalize the general sale of marijuana to adults as soon as the state permits it. Lee’s opponents paint him as the would-be kingpin of legal pot, using the political system to guarantee that his in-the-works industrial grows will corner a market he is fighting to create.

    Even while thriving within the medical marijuana system, Lee has always pushed for full legalization, because he thinks “prohibition is hypocritical, unjust, and unfair.” In March 2009, a poll Lee commissioned showed, for the first time, a majority of California voters supporting legalization. At that point, he began drafting language for a ballot initiative. Two other legalization measures vied for the 2010 ballot, but only Lee, who spent nearly $1 million just on gathering signatures, had the money to succeed.

    Traditional drug reform groups initially either snubbed Lee or advised him that a presidential election year would be better. “It was surprising to see how hostile they got,” he says. Lee joined the board of the Marijuana Policy Project, hoping he could steer it toward supporting his initiative, but the group lacked the money and the will, leading Lee to resign and go it largely alone. Representatives of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) did help him with drafting the language of the initiative, while remaining doubtful about the timing.

    The major drug reform groups did eventually all get behind Prop. 19, and two of the biggest moneybags in reform circles, George Soros and Peter Lewis, chipped in during the last days of the campaign. (Soros’ $1 million donation was funneled not through Lee’s organization but through a separate pro-19 group managed by the DPA.) It “hurt us,” Lee says, that the big drug policy groups “didn’t get on board until late in the process.”

    But long before Soros hopped on, the Yes on 19 coalition had expanded far beyond the drug policy world. Seasoned Democratic operatives joined the pro-19 campaign, even though incoming California Gov. Jerry Brown opposed it and Sen. Dianne Feinstein chaired the opposition. The progressive netroots blog Firedoglake launched a “Just Say Now” campaign that, together with Students for Sensible Drug Policy, placed 50,000 targeted get-out-the-vote calls. And perhaps most significantly, the proposition was endorsed by such drug policy newbies as the California chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the League of United Latin American Citizens of California.

    “The groups most adversely affected by the drug war—minorities, Latinos, African Americans—were not [traditionally] in the fray,” says Neill Franklin, a former police officer who leads Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) When the NAACP endorsed Prop. 19, he says, it was “a game changer I called [Alice Huffman, head of the California NAACP,] up and told her I was law enforcement, and I was for Proposition 19. She said she practically fell out of her chair.” LEAP sent representatives to more than 250 events around the state, emphasizing that police and court resources should be used more productively than in the failed attempt to get people to stop selling and using a relatively benign drug. (A September 2010 study for the Cato Institute by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron found that California spends $960 million a year on marijuana law enforcement.) LEAP recruited the National Black Police Association and the National Latino Officers Association for the cause.

    Organized labor was another important source of new support. Dan Rush, special operations director for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local #5, got excited about the jobs that could be created in a legal market for marijuana and hemp. He convinced his union, against initial doubts, that “this initiative would create an industry in retail, agriculture, and food processing, and UFCW is a retail, agriculture, and food processing union.” He became labor director for the Yes on 19 campaign.

    Rush convinced the powerful Service Employees International Union and the Northern California Council of the Longshoremen to back Prop. 19, and he persuaded the California Labor Federation (CLF) to refrain from opposing it. When the next legalization campaign comes along, Rush swears he’ll be able to move the CLF from neutrality to support, which could be a key step toward changing minds in the Democratic Party.

    Who Didn’t Support Prop. 19
    Although Prop 19 found new allies in the civil rights and labor movements, it did not have the unified support of the marijuana reform movement. The most successful and active medical marijuana group, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), was officially neutral. That in itself was not necessarily a problem. Given the group’s institutional mandate to deal exclusively with medical marijuana, Yes on 19 spokesperson Dale Sky Jones says, ASA’s neutrality was “the closest they could come to officially supporting us.”

    Medical marijuana dispensaries were split on the issue. Although the initiative was ultimately crafted to change nothing at all about the laws in place protecting doctor-certified patients’ access to pot and their ability to grow, possess, and exchange it, rumors were rife that they would be hit with new limits on how much they could possess. (The current limit—set by court decisions, not statute—is whatever is deemed medically necessary for the patient.) Others noted that the proposition didn’t legalize smoking pot in public, and worried that this would be a loophole allowing authorities to harass medicinal smokers. Pro-19 canvassers say many dispensaries refused to allow campaign literature in their shops. Since the passage of California’s Compassionate Use Act in 1996, the medical folks had managed to create a market niche for sellers and a relatively safe haven for users, and many feared that opening up the market to more competition would be bad for their bottom line.

    For the same reason, and with more anger, most of the growers from Northern California’s fertile Humboldt and Mendocino counties were against Prop. 19. The initiative lost in both. Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and one of the oldest warriors in the national drug policy fight, says the growers rebelled when they decided there was “no way post-prohibition for anyone to fetch $15 or $25 for a gram of dried vegetable matter.” People currently making $25 to $30 an hour trimming weed in Humboldt imagined their jobs reduced to minimum-wage work or eliminated entirely.

    Read the rest here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 10, 2010

    Despite last week’s defeat of Proposition 19 at the polls, new taxes on marijuana are coming to California.

    As I write today in High Times online, California voters on election day by wide margins endorsed citywide medical marijuana tax ordinances in Albany, Berkeley, La Puente, Oakland, Rancho Cordova, Richmond, Sacramento, San Jose, and Stockton. You can read the full details of each of these tax measures, as well as Los Angeles’ latest medi-pot tax plan, here.

    While the bulk of these new tax plans impose fees on the dispensaries themselves — fees that will no doubt indirectly be passed on to the consumer via higher retail prices for cannabis — at least one plan (Rancho Cordova’s Measure O) seeks to impact patients directly by instituting local fees on personal home grows.

    While it is possible (read: likely) that this exorbitant fee will be eventually struck down by the courts as an undue infringement upon patients’ rights under Prop. 215, it could be months or years before such a clarification by the courts is made.

    Patient advocacy groups like Americans For Safe Access oppose the implementation of such medi-tax laws, noting that they could unduly raise the already inflated black market price of medical cannabis, lead to fewer dispensaries, and ultimately limit patients’ access. Nonetheless, it is hardly surprising to see a majority of Californians, at a time of record budget deficits, voting to impose additional taxes upon a minority subset of their community.

    In short, the success of these tax measures at the ballot box is yet further evidence that with or without Prop. 19, more and more city governments — rightly or wrongly — are going to be looking at new ways to raise revenue from California’s burgeoning cannabis industry and its consumers. Industry insiders and those they represent, patients especially, would be best advised to begin playing an active role in their local politics, or else risk suffering the consequences of unreasonable taxation without representation.

    You can read my full thoughts on this developing issue, and comment on it, by clicking here: Like It Or Not, Pot Taxes Are Coming to California.

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator November 8, 2010 [caption id="attachment_20010" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Results of 2010 Election added to our Marijuana Laws Map"][/caption]

    Marijuana supporters nationwide awoke on November 3rd to find they had been defeated in all four statewide initiatives on the ballot. While losing these battles is not good news for our movement, the lessons we’ve learned and coalitions we’ve formed will help us win the war even sooner.

    California’s Prop 19 received 3.4 million votes for legalization, which represents 46.1% of the voters.  This is the best a statewide marijuana legalization measure has ever done, besting Nevada 2002 (39%), Alaska 2004 (44%), Colorado 2006 (41%), and Nevada 2006 (44%)

    [caption id="attachment_19837" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="What turned Westerners' 58% support for legalization into just 46% of the vote in California? Details."][/caption]

    The most recent Gallup Poll showed 58% support among Westerners for “legalization”.  That means there are 12% of our supporters who dropped their support for legalization once the details are spelled out.  What lessons have we learned from the loss?  I believe there are ten main lessons we need to learn to succeed in 2012.

    1. We must explicitly protect medical marijuana rights.

    During the campaign some on our side were surprised by the emergence of the “I Gots Mine” crowd, the so-called “Stoners Against Legalization”.  But the fact is that in a medical marijuana state, especially California, what they “gots” is pretty amazing.  Moving forward, any legalization measure in a medical state must include the following three explicit points:

    a) This legalization bill will not affect your medical marijuana rights in any way.

    b) Your medical marijuana rights will not change in any way once legalization passes.

    c) If you are concerned about your medical marijuana rights, please see points a) and b).

    I’m being somewhat facetious, but the point better be taken.  No legalization bill is going to succeed unless the current medical marijuana smokers believe it makes their lives better or at least doesn’t threaten to change their lives.

    Now, I know as well as anyone that Prop 19 wouldn’t have affected medical rights, but it got lost within the Purposes and Intents and buried in a cloud of “notwithstandings” and “excepts”.  The next initiative needs to have an explicit declarative paragraph protecting medical rights. And it has to be written in such a way that it is perfectly clear to even the most unlikely, naive, and uneducated voters, which leads me to… (more…)

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