By Doug Porter
California’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy is releasing an interim report today outlining issues needing to be addressed in any legalization measures going before voters in 2016.
The commission, led by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and including the ACLU, assorted academics, activists along with, law enforcement officials, will not officially take a position on legalization. Public forums in cities around the state will soon be announced as part of forming a policy road map towards legalization. Issues such as taxes, driving under the influence and a means for prohibiting access to minors are among those being considered.
The panel hopes to have its policy analysis completed by August.
Newsom told the San Francisco Chronicle, “This isn’t as black and white as some people think — on both sides of the issue. And we have the time now to ask and answer these questions. We’ve got an enormous challenge of implementing this”
According to a copy of the report obtained by The Chronicle, the commission isn’t shying away from some of the thornier questions surrounding legalization: What to do with people who remain incarcerated on marijuana-related charges? If voters legalize pot, should their criminal records be cleaned? Should convicted felons be allowed to work at marijuana-related businesses?
The report acknowledged the racial disparities in marijuana-related arrests, noting that “surveys consistently show people of color and whites consume marijuana equally, yet arrest rates and conviction rates have historically been much higher for people of color, particularly for African-Americans, with serious negative effects on their communities.”
The report states that any new law should be able to ferret out people who are driving under the influence of marijuana. The challenge is that detecting stoned drivers is not as clear-cut as nabbing drunk ones.
It also wrestles with how steeply to tax legal cannabis. Taxing it too high might force people to buy it on the street, where it would be untaxed and likely cheaper. And will a tax apply to medical marijuana — which has been legal in California since voters approved its use in 1996?
Are Voters Ready for Legal Pot?
Polling Says Yes, History Says Maybe
A poll conducted earlier this month indicates that 55% of likely voters support legalization of marijuana.
From the Associated Press, via the Fresno Bee:
The Public Policy Institute of California survey found that support for legalization among all adults was similar to the tally for likely voters, 53 percent.
Pollsters say support for legalizing marijuana is at its highest point since the survey began asking the question in May 2010.
The telephone survey of 1,706 residents was conducted March 8-17.
There are currently four groups indicating they are preparing languages to put before California voters in 2016, according to the Chronicle’s marijuana industry blog (I’m not making this up), Smell The Truth.
The group that sponsored the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2014, which failed to garner enough signatures to make the ballot has created an open Google Document to solicit public input on language for 2016.
The California Cannabis Hemp Initiative, which failed to make the ballot in three elections starting in 2010, to legalize twelve pounds of pot for personal use.
Northern California lawyer Omar Figueroa is backing the California Artisan Cannabis Initiative – 2016, which aims to protect small farmers from post-legalization competition by bigger businesses.
The Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, which also goes by ReformCA, is the most high profile of the groups seeking legalization. This is coalition from 2010′s Proposition 19. It includes California NORML, the NAACP, and Oaksterdam University. In conjunction with the Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance, ReformCA has been focused on conducting stakeholder meetings around the state.
Infighting among pro-legalization factions has been a stumbling block in California over the past few years. The squabbling has often been juvenile, with accusations and conspiracy theories disrupting any focus on organizing.
The Chronicle estimates it will take a $20 million war chest to conduct a legalization effort in 2016.
None of the groups have submitted language to the California Secretary of State, which is the first step in the initiative process. According to the state’s own guidelines, the groups should be submitting ballot language by July 7 in order to give themselves enough time for review and signature gathering.
None of the groups are historically likely to make the ballot, but thanks to record-low voter turnout in the 2014 California general election, the bar has never been lower for groups who want to get their issue on the ballot.
Can Kamala Harris Suppress the Sodomite Suppression Act?
Following several days of glee from right wing blogs over the discomfort Attorney General Kamala Harris must be facing in having to issue a title and summary for the so-called Sodomite Suppression Act, she issued a statement Wednesday saying she’d rather not do the deed.
Harris asked a state court for permission to reject the proposed ballot initiative that stipulates anyone who engages in gay sex be killed by “bullets to the head or by any other convenient method,” along with a $1 million fine or banishment for distribution of gay “propaganda.”
“As Attorney General of California, it is my sworn duty to uphold the California and United States Constitutions and to protect the rights of all Californians. This proposal not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in a civil society. Today, I am filing an action for declaratory relief with the Court seeking judicial authorization for relief from the duty to prepare and issue the title and summary for the “Sodomite Suppression Act.” If the Court does not grant this relief, my office will be forced to issue a title and summary for a proposal that seeks to legalize discrimination and vigilantism.”
Many legal experts seem to think Harris will lose this battle.
From NBC7 News:
University of California, Davis law professor Floyd Feeney, an expert on California’s initiative process, said Harris alone cannot impede the proposed law. And despite the numerous legal problems with McLaughlin’s proposal, Feeney said he was not convinced a court would agree to halt it at this stage.
“The courts, rightly or wrongly, treat the initiative as sort of the citizen right and they are reluctant to get involved in trying to get rid of it, at least in advance, by using the law to keep something from being presented to the electorate,” he said.
On Wednesday, a Southern California real estate agent, Charlotte Laws, countered the so-called “Sodomite Suppression Act” with an initiative of her own. Titled the Intolerant Jackass Act, it would require anyone who proposes an initiative calling for the killing of gays and lesbians to attend sensitivity training and make a $5,000 donation to a pro-LGBT group.
… Parrinello thought Harris might have some legal ground to stand on. He cites two California cases where courts allowed local election officials to ignore local ballot measures submitted for title and summary.
One was a 2006-08 case from Ojai, where City Attorney Monte L. Widders did just what the California attorney general did this week — ask for judicial permission relieving him of his duty to write the titles and summaries. In that instance, the proposals involved chain stores and affordable housing. The lower court denied Widders’ request to ignore the measures, but an appellate court reversed it in favor of the city attorney.
The other case Parrinello cites is from 1996-99 in Shasta County. In that one, county counsel Karen Keating Jahr sought relief from writing the ballot title and summary of a measure allowing voters to adjust the salaries of Shasta County’s Board of Supervisors. The trial court sided with Jahr’s contention that she did not have to write a title and summary of a ballot measure that was clearly unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, the petition to have the act’s author, lawyer Matt McLaughlin, disbarred has gathered nearly 50,000 signatures. The Los Angeles Times tried visiting an address in Huntington Beach based on voter registration information to interview McLaughlin, but found a 24 year old who had no clue about what they were talking about. The address listed by the state bar for the lawyer in question is a mail box express location.
WikiLeaks Posts a Damning TPP Document
Here’s an example of a story the local fishwrap will either ignore (it’s not in today’s paper) or downplay (maybe an inside page on Saturday): A chapter of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement concerning “Investor-State Dispute Settlement” issues has been leaked.
While many trade agreements around the globe include language addressing disputes, the increased use (and some say abuse) of the ISDS had raised major concerns as the TPP neared completion.
The document Wikileaks and the New York Times disclosed yesterday does nothing to dispel those concerns. The cover says the chapter should not not be declassified until four years after the Trans-Pacific Partnership comes into force or trade negotiations end, should the agreement fail.
From the New York Times:
An ambitious 12-nation trade accord pushed by President Obama would allow foreign corporations to sue the United States government for actions that undermine their investment “expectations” and hurt their business, according to a classified document.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership — a cornerstone of Mr. Obama’s remaining economic agenda — would grant broad powers to multinational companies operating in North America, South America and Asia. Under the accord, still under negotiation but nearing completion, companies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings — federal, state or local — before tribunals organized under the World Bank or the United Nations…
…“This is really troubling,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat. “It seems to indicate that savvy, deep-pocketed foreign conglomerates could challenge a broad range of laws we pass at every level of government, such as made-in-America laws or anti-tobacco laws. I think people on both sides of the aisle will have trouble with this.”
The United States Trade Representative’s Office dismissed such concerns as overblown. Administration officials said opponents were using hypothetical cases to stoke irrational fear when an actual record exists that should soothe worries.
The “actual record” referred to above are the US NAFTA-related 17 investor-state cases, 13 of which went before tribunals. The United States has lost none.
The document in question doesn’t do much to allay fears of future legal actions challenging (for instance, environmental) regulations. It’s legalese does nothing but raise questions; questions that need to answered with more than the fast track “take or leave it” approach being pushed by the administration and Senate Republicans.
On This Day: 1827 – Composer Ludwig van Beethoven died. 1868 – San Francisco brewery workers began a 9-month strike as local employers followed the union-busting lead of the National Brewer’s Association and fired their unionized workers, replacing them with scabs. Two unionized brewers refused to go along, kept producing beer, prospered wildly and induced the Association to capitulate. A contract benefit: free beer. 1997 – The 39 bodies of Heaven’s Gate members are found in a mansion in Rancho Santa Fe. The group had committed suicide thinking that they would be picked up by a spaceship following behind the comet Hale-Bopp.
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