Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

April 22, 2010
Sacramento consultant leads campaign against pot legalization

The political campaign team that defeated a 2008 initiative that emphasized treatment over jail for non-violent drug offenders is organizing anew to take on the November initiative to legalize marijuana for California adults over 21.

Two years ago, Sacramento political consultant Wayne Johnson rallied a coalition led by law enforcement associations in a successful campaign that defeated Proposition 5. The campaign branded the measure as "The Drug Dealers' Bill of Rights."

Now Johnson is heading the newly-formed Public Safety First campaign. It is backed by the California Police Chiefs Association and other law enforcement groups, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and a transportation trade group, the California Bus Association.

Public Safety First doesn't have a catch phrase yet. But Johnson said the "no" campaign will argue that legalizing marijuana will harm California employers, endanger drivers and lead to rampant pot distribution - with the Golden State "shipping drugs to 49 other states."

Johnson charged that legalization proponents falsely assert the measure will be tax generator for California's beleaguered state budget. Johnson said the initiative leaves taxation decisions up to local governments, "the same people that issue permits for pot shops."

Dan Newman, spokesman for the legalization campaign, Control & Tax Cannabis, said the measure will reduce crime in California and produce much needed revenues. He assailed opponents as backing a "street dealers' and cartels' bill of rights" by opposing the initiative.

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