By Doug Porter
As we come down the stretch into the final year before the 2016 general election, there are competing interests backing ballot measures seeking to legalize recreational marijuana use and increase taxes on upper-income earners in California.
The downside in this situation is the possibility of enough confused voters rejecting the choices on the ballot on both issues. And you can bank on opponents of legalization and tax increases will do their best to sow doubt and confusion.
Divisions in the pro-pot camp led to the defeat of Proposition 19 in 2010, despite not having a competing measure on the ballot and polling showing voters favoring legalized marijuana. Advocates for tax increases in 2012 were divided between competing propositions, but a strong effort on the part of organized labor gave Proposition 30 the votes needed to win.
Billionaires vs Cannabis Activists
Although there are at least ten versions of pro-legalization measures circulating, right now there are only a few groups with the potential access to resources to mount a statewide signature gathering campaign.
Reform California, generally representative of long time California activists, is circulating language legalizing possession of an ounce of pot and personal cultivation of 100 square feet of marijuana for adult recreational use. Its approach proposes a tiered taxation system on cultivation, distribution and sales and requires voter approval for local bans on marijuana dispensaries and businesses.
The Drug Policy Action is a national group affiliated with the Drug Policy Alliance, funded by philanthropist George Soros. They were involved in successful legalization initiatives in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Washington DC. Their ideas differ on language concerning marijuana industry and cultivation rules, anti-discrimination protections for users of medical marijuana.
And then there are the big money people. Former Facebook president Sean Parker has taken matters into his own hands and is organizing other potential big donors.
According to the Sacramento Bee, they’ve hired political consultant Gale Kaufman and the law firm Olson Hagel & Fishburn to draft a 2016 initiative and lead the marijuana legalization effort.
The word is they’re working on an initiative appealing to a broader audience than constituencies of marijuana advocacy or business interests. This move comes in the wake of a report by a Commission on Marijuana Policy headed by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said he was hopeful it would influence authors of marijuana legalization measures.
From the Bee:
In the cannabis community, the Parker effort is considered the most likely to reach the ballot due to its financial clout alone. Marijuana advocacy groups such as Reform California and the Drug Policy Alliance, which until now have been pursuing initiatives of their own, are uncertain over what influence – if any – they will have on the 2016 measure.
Besides Parker, a billionaire tech executive who co-founded the file-sharing music service Napster, other likely initiative investors include wealthy heirs to the Hyatt hotel chain and Progressive insurance, according to multiple sources.
Previously, Justin Hartfield, an Irvine venture capitalist who founded Weedmaps Media, a website and mobile app that guides consumers to marijuana dispensaries, put up $1 million on April 20 for a separate committee backing legalization efforts. Hartfield also donated another $1 million to support marijuana-friendly political candidates.
Sacramento Bee reporter Christopher Cadelago pointed out the absurdity of the present situation:
With the 2016 election drawing near, no fewer than 17 proposals have been submitted for consideration, with at least 10 already receiving the cursory title and summary from the Attorney General’s Office. Aides to Kamala Harris have estimated the cost to prepare the measures for signature gathering at $8,500 apiece.
That puts the running tab to taxpayers at $85,000, plus whatever untold sums the Department of Finance and Legislative Analyst’s Office spends to draft its perfunctory fiscal analysis. The attorney general is set to spend another $60,000 just for the remaining seven measures slotted for consideration.
That’s enough to buy Phish tickets for the entire town of Garberville, with plenty left over for snacks.
Tax The Rich. But How?
Also coming up on the 2016 ballot are constitutional amendment initiatives (which require more signatures to make the ballot than garden variety measures) backed by labor groups.
Both groups seek voter approval to extend Prop. 30 taxes on the wealthy to (mostly) help fund the state’s schools.
The California Teachers Association is supporting a measure calling for raising $7.7 billion in taxes on the wealthy. K-14 school funding would receive $4.2 billion, the rest into the state’s general fund.
The Service Employees International Union/United Health Workers, along with California Hospitals and Common Sense Kids Action, are also seeking to raise taxes on wealthy individuals making over $300,000 a year, indexed for inflation, with an additional hit on so-called “super-earners,” couples who jointly earn between $2-10 million annually.
The SEIU/UHW measure breaks out $4.5 billion of the funds for K-14 education, $4 billion for health care, $1 billion for pre-K/child care and $500 million for high education.
Both groups will be circulating petitions seeking 600,000 signatures during the first few months of 2016.
Newsom Gung-Ho on Gun Measure
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has elected to go all-in on a proposed gun control initiative banning military-style magazines and requiring background checks for ammo sales.
Being the public face of the 2016 ballot measure he helped craft with San Francisco’s Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence will not only keep Newsom in the news, it will also keep the gubernatorial candidate so busy he will have little time to get deeply involved with the other initiative he has been close to in recent years — legalizing recreational marijuana.
Newsom tells us he still supports legal marijuana, but that the gun issue “is a very deep issue for many of us, particularly those of us with children.”
And that, yes, considering the track record of the gun lobby, pushing for a ban on large gun clips and background checks for ammo sales will probably take up most of his time.
Meanwhile, the guys who really are gung-ho on guns have their web site up. At least they haven’t put cross-hairs on Newsom’s head yet.
Speaking of other realities, in Kansas state legislators are working on a bill offering scholarships to veterans who agree to carry guns on campus.
Headline I Wish I’d Written
From the Reader, along with a snippet:
Tijuana sex-promotion project goes limp
Anaheim has Disneyland. Las Vegas has casinos. And Tijuana has, well, prostitutes.
Red-faced city officials are back-pedaling ferociously after a high-ranking functionary suggested in a recent television interview that Tijuana should promote sex-for-sale as a way to draw tourists.
Miguel Ángel Badiola Montaño, president of Tijuana’s tourism and conventions committee, reputedly unveiled a plan called “Tijuana Coqueta” during an interview televised on Friday, October 23, by Síntesis TV. (A link to the interview is provided toward the end of an October 24 story published on SanDiegoRed.com) The video includes a short clip of former mayor Jerry Sanders saying it would “be a good promotion” (though the context of the interview may have been manipulated).
Happy Birthday to the OBRag
Eight years ago today, the OBRag blog began publishing, building on the history of the 1970’s underground newspaper of the same name.
Editor-dude Frank Gormlie, along with techno-dudette Patty Jones and a host of others, has created a unique place in the world of the interwebs, which manages to be both part of the community and, when needed, its biggest critic. Gormlie was among the founders of the original OBRag, which began as a mimeographed publication and went on to a tabloid format before folding the mid-70s.
For all the hand-wringing and conjecture going on in discussions about the future of news media, its success is all the more amazing. Our daily paper has changed hands twice and seen its circulation plummet, even as more than 5.6 million viewers have stopped by the OB Rag site to get the latest community news, read about the world and leave their impressions.
The OBRag birthed the San Diego Free Press in 2012. Here’s the link to their Birthday article.
On This Day: 1879 – Union organizer and anarchist Luisa Capetillo was born in Ariecibo, Puerto Rico. She organized tobacco and other agricultural workers in Puerto Rico and later in New York and Florida. In 1916 she led a successful sugar cane strike of more than 40,000 workers on the island. She demanded that her union endorse voting rights for women. In 1919, three years before her death, she was arrested for wearing pants in public, the first woman in Puerto Rico to do so. The charges were dropped. 1919 – The Congress enacted the Volstead Act, also known as the National Prohibition Act. Prohibition was repealed in 1933 with the passing of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution. 1956 – Elvis Presley’s song “Love Me Tender” became the No. 1 Billboard Pop Hit. He became the first artist to follow himself into the No. 1 position. The song “Don’t Be Cruel/Hound Dog” had been the No. 1 song for 11 weeks.
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