Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

October 29, 2010
Sports anchor gets a whiff of California: 'People smoking weed'

While the San Francisco Giants left the Texas Rangers dazed and confused after a dual thumping in the first two games of the World Series, Dallas sports anchor Newy Scruggs inadvertently experienced some of California's renowned medicine.

His reactions during stand-up outside AT&T Park, after witnessing Giants fans firing up for the game with Golden State weed, have have gone viral.

Check out his report below:

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcdfw.com/video.

October 29, 2010
Pot backers air Comedy Central ad, dress up for 'Sanity' rally

The Drug Policy Action Committee backing California's Proposition 19 is spending some of the $1 million it just got from George Soros to target legal pot supporters who are devotees of comedians John Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

Jon Stewart - Legalize Pot.JPGThe political action committee, backed by the Drug Policy Alliance, began purchasing spots Thursday on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with John Stewart and The Colbert Report. And Proposition 19 proponents are also seeking to capitalize on Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" in Washington D.C. on Saturday.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of Drug Policy Action, said supporters of legalized pot "will march in business suits, not Birkenstocks," to the event on the Washington Mall "to reinforce the message that there is no archetypal marijuana legalization supporter."

An announcement for the group's piggy-back "Rally to Restore Drug Policy Sanity" gathering called for legal weed backers to "wear nice clothes, suits, ties, etc., to maximize impact."

The Stewart-Colbert commercial comes as Public Safety First, the No on 19 campaign, is running a California radio ad that warns of stoned school bus drivers, the potential loss of billions in federal funding and "a jumbled legal nightmare" for the Golden State if it legalizes pot for recreational use.

The pro-legalization commercial running on Comedy Central can be seen below:

October 28, 2010
Husband and wife medical pot providers spar over local taxes

PK_PROP19 0013.JPGAn interesting political debate stirs these days over at Canna Care, one of Sacramento's most established medical marijuana dispensaries.

As California voters contemplate Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana for recreational use, Canna Care co-founders Bryan and Lanette Davies are united in their opposition to allowing pot for anything other than medical use.

But they are parting notably on Sacramento's Measure C. The local measure would allow the capital city to impose a tax of up to 4 percent on existing medical marijuana outlets and a tax of up to 10 percent on recreational pot sales if Prop 19 passes.

Neither Davies cares about recreational taxes. They say Canna Care has no interest of going into the leisure weed business.

But, though he thinks "4 percent is a little steep," Bryan Davies says it's a good idea to impose the local fee on dispensaries - despite the fact Canna Care already pays about $200,000 a year in state sales taxes.

"I would support a tax, an extra tax on top of the sales tax, for the money to go directly to emergency services, police, fire and ambulance," Bryan Davies said. "I'm going to trust my leaders in this community to allocate the money properly. I'm going to vote yes on that."

But Lanette Davies sees Measure C as an unfair levy on dispensaries and medical marijuana users.

"I couldn't care less if they tax recreational," she said. "But on medical, our patients are already ill. They're on disability. They're off work because of their illnesses. Many are low income. They're using cannabis because they can't afford pharmaceuticals. I don't feel that the tax is fair. I can't think of any other medical industry that they're doing a special tax for."

Two views on Sacramento's Measure C: For the husband, vote "yes;" for the wife, vote "no."

Pictured: Lanette Davies and Canna Care employee Joe Hough with dispensary's mobile billboard against Proposition 19. Davies and her husband, Bryan, both oppose Prop 19 but part on local taxes on medical marijuana. Sacramento Bee file/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

October 27, 2010
CalChamber radio ad depicts Reefer Madness in the workplace

A statewide radio advertising blitz paid for by the California Chamber of Commerce's Business PAC features a commercial depicting a stoned California workforce.

The spot calling for a "no" vote on the Proposition 19 marijuana initiative is bound to get your attention. But it merits a closer look - and some chilling out on its more colorful claims.

Here is the text of the CalChamber commercial, followed by some observations:

Imagine coming out of surgery and the nurse caring for you was high - or having to work harder on your job to make up for a co-worker who shows up high on pot. It could happen in California if Proposition 19 passes.

Prop 19 would do more than simply legalize marijuana. Prop 19 is worded so broadly that it would hurt California's economy, raise business costs and make it harder to create jobs. Employees would be allowed to come to work high and employers would be unable to punish an employee for being high until after a workplace accident.

Not only could workers compensation premiums rise, businesses will lose millions in federal grants for violating federal drug laws. California's economy is bad enough. Prop 19 will hurt workers and business and cost jobs.

Twenty five California newspapers, including the Chronicle and the Bee, and Dianne Feinstein agree: Vote No on Prop 19.

The chamber's over-the-top depiction of a stoned post-surgical nurse and its frets about people coming to work high contradict rules on marijuana in the workplace upheld by the California Supreme Court and federal law.

But businesses may indeed need to worry about potential employee litigation if Proposition 19 passes, based on a declaration in the initiative: "No person shall be punished, fined, discriminated against, or be denied any right or privilege for lawfully engaging in any conduct permitted by this act."

Yet the initiative also says the measure doesn't supersede "any law prohibiting use of controlled substances in the workplace or by specific persons whose jobs involve public safety." It goes on to say "the existing right of an employer to address consumption that actually impairs performance by an employee shall not be affected."'

The chamber's warnings of companies being defenseless against stoned workers - and in danger of losing millions of dollars in federal drug-free workplace grants - don't square with a landmark 2008 state Supreme Court decision.

In the case of a Sacramento man, a legal medical marijuana user who was fired by a telecommunications firm for testing positive for pot, the court ruled that employers have a right to set and enforce workplace rules against drug use and to require drug testing.

The plaintiff, Gary Ross, contended his rights as legal marijuana user under California's 1996 Proposition 215 medical marijuana law were violated when he was dismissed after results came in from a pre-employment drug test.

The court ruled that employers can fire workers - or refuse to hire them - based on positive drug tests or impairment, whether their drug use is legal or not. It also ruled that the federal Fair Employment and Housing Act "does not require employers to accommodate the use of illegal drugs."

Notably, the court also declared that earlier claims by medical marijuana opponents who argued Proposition 215 "would make it legal to smoke marijuana in the workplace" were "obviously disingenuous." It said public intoxication laws remain in place - and stoners in the workplace can be fired just as easily as drunks.

October 26, 2010
Can Soros and his $1 million light up Proposition 19 comeback?

Only a few weeks ago, California's prospects of becoming the first state in America to legalize marijuana for recreational use couldn't have seemed much higher.

A Sept. 30 Public Policy Institute of California poll showed the Proposition 19 ballot initiative leading by a 52-41 percent margin a week after a Field Poll showed the measure up by seven points.

Now with recent polls showing Proposition 19 rapidly losing support, billionaire fund manager, philanthropist and marijuana legalization advocate George Soros is coming to the rescue and donating $1 million for the closing campaign to pass the initiative.

"Our marijuana laws are clearly doing more harm than good," Soros wrote in an opinion piece, "Why I Support Legal Marijuana," that was published in today's edition of The Wall Street Journal.

His column and cash comes after blistering attacks on Proposition 19 by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former national directors of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

While Holder said the federal government will "vigorously enforce" marijuana laws in California if Proposition 19 passes, current and former authorities argued that the mere act of paying taxes on retail pot sales permitted under the initiative would constitute admission of a federal crime.

Last Saturday, the results of new Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll showed Proposition 19 losing by 52 to 41 percent.

But the Yes on 19 campaign on Monday began airing its first campaign television commercial. The spot, featuring former San Jose Police Chief Joseph McNamara declares that "the war on marijuana has failed" that that Proposition 19 "will generate billions in tax revenues" and "put drug cartels out of business."

Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said Soro's contribution to an independent committee supporting Proposition 19 will pay for increased airings of the McNamara ad and get-out-the-vote efforts on behalf of the initiative.

"We've always said is going to be a close election," Gutwillig said. "This infusion of resources will help us make sure that reform-minded voters get to the polls on Tuesday."

In his Wall Street Journal article, Soros wrote that "regulating and taxing marijuana would simultaneously save taxpayers billions of dollars in enforcement costs, while providing many billions of dollars in revenue annually."

He said Proposition 19 "would represent a major step forward," adding: "And just as California provided national leadership in 1996 by becoming the first state to legalize the medical use of marijuana, so it has an opportunity once again to lead the nation."

Roger Salazar, a spokesman for Public Safety First, the No on 19 campaign, said the Soros donation will be unable to rescue the Proposition 19 campaign.

"We always knew we weren't going to match them dollar for dollar," he said. "But the more they spend the more the public becomes aware of the flaws of Proposition 19."

Proposition 19 would allow adults over 21 to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to 25-square-feet of pot at home. It would also permit local governments to tax and regulate retail pot sales.

October 25, 2010
New Proposition 19 ad declares 'war on marijuana has failed'

With the polls shifting against legalizing marijuana for recreational use, the Yes on Proposition 19 campaign is going to the airwaves with its first television commercial.

A spot featuring former San Jose Police Chief Joseph McNamara begins running in the Los Angeles television market today. He declares that "the war on marijuana has failed" and it is time to legalize pot "to allow police to focus on violent crimes, and put drug cartels out of business."

Proposition 19 strategist Dan Newman said the campaign picked the L.A. market for its initial commercial run "because it's the biggest market with the most swing voters and the largest proportion of election day voters." He said the Yes on 19 effort plans to "ramp up" ad airings in other markets soon.

The commercial comes as a recent Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll shows Prop 19 losing among likely California voters by 51 to 39 percent. A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California had Proposition 19 trailing by 49 to 44 percent after the same poll had the initiative leading 52-41 percent in late September.

Here's is the text of the ad featuring McNamara, followed by the video below.

"Let's be honest: The war against marijuana has failed. I know from 35 years in law enforcement. Today, it's easier for a teenager to buy pot than beer. Proposition 19 will tax and control marijuana just like alcohol. It will generate billions of dollars for local communities, allow police to focus on violent crimes, and put drug cartels out of business. Join me and many others in law enforcement. Vote YES on Proposition 19!"

October 21, 2010
Pot legalization group pitches a revived California in the green

The campaigns for and against California's Proposition 19 marijuana initiative have yet to hit the airwaves with commercials. But an on-line spot for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is laying out an idyllic vision for what legal pot can do for California.

The video pitch is accompanied by images of a child holding a "Save our Schools" sign and of pockmarked drug addicts said to need state-funded treatment. There are images of medical professionals and a list of pot's medicinal benefits. There are also depictions of state parks that can be protected from ravages of illegal marijuana cultivation and of urban gardens that can be paid for with taxes on legal weed.

Here's the text and some observations:

Vote yes on Prop 19. It's no secret that our state has taken a hit from the recent budget cuts, and one of the hardest hit has been our education system.

In order to ensure our children have a bright and prosperous future, we propose that the revenue from the legalization of marijuana can be used to supplement the education system in California.

Addiction has become an epidemic in the United States, and California is no exception.

Revenue from the legalization of marijuana should be used to fund addiction treatment centers and give California an opportunity to be on the forefront of the cure to addiction, as opposed to the leader in incarceration.

The legalization of marijuana gives us the opportunity to supplement the treatment of diseases that marijuana has long been known to cure.

For years, the illegal drug trade has taken a toll on our state parks and open spaces. We propose revenue generated from the legalization of marijuana also be used to keep our state parks open and thriving.

At the some time, we need to encourage more local green spaces and community gardens. This will ensure that our state remains beautiful for generations to come.

Vote yes on Prop 19.

Got a better idea?

The NORML spot articulates a vision for spending tax dollars from legal marijuana that won't be found in any requirements of Proposition 19. The initiative would legalize possession of an ounce of marijuana and allow small residential cultivation for adults over 21.

The initiative vows to "generate billions of dollars in annual revenues for California to fund what matters most to Californians: jobs, health care, schools and libraries, roads, and more." But nothing in the measure specifies how marijuana tax dollars will be spent - or even what the taxes may be.

The initiative would permit local governments to tax and regulate retail marijuana sales - if they decide to permit them. It also allows room for the Legislature to amend the measure "to establish a statewide regulatory system for a commercial cannabis industry."

If Californians do pass Proposition 19 - and the federal government doesn't intervene - at least one part of NORML's vision is bound to be realized.

California will indeed bloom with "more local green spaces."

Check out the spot below:

October 18, 2010
Comic identifies symptoms of pot paranoia: 'Arresting people'

For certain, there have been more meticulously reasoned and argued forums on whether California should legalize marijuana for medical use.

But the Sacramento Punch Line comedy club's recent "Cannabis Comedy Festival" may have been the most entertaining.

In the clip below, Sacramento comedian Keith Lowell Jensen, who doesn't smoke marijuana, offers his theory for why pot makes people paranoid: "It might be you keep arresting people for it."

And he shares his amazement that Californians are about to vote on taxing marijuana sales. "Basically, California said, 'We can't pay our bills. Hey, I know: Let's sell some weed.'"

A cast of comedians will be performing tomorrow night in another Cannabis Comedy Festival at Punch Line's San Francisco venue.

October 14, 2010
Battles over medical marijuana still stirring across California

Thumbnail image for MAJ MARIJUANA.JPGWith California voters now readying to vote on November's Proposition 19 to legalize pot for all adults over 21, battles over medical marijuana may seem like some distant memory.

But in several California communities, intense legal and political fights are continuing over medical marijuana operations that police say are illegal sales and over police raids that medical pot activists say are violations of patients' rights.

The latest showdown is to be played out today in front of a San Jose courthouse, where an advocacy group for medical pot users is protesting police raids on marijuana patients and providers - including a local dispensary called the New Age Healing Collective.

Despite the medicinally soothing name, regional narcotics task force officer Bob Cooke told the San Jose Mercury News that the dispensary operator "wasn't providing care or benefits to patients" and was "nothing more than a glorified pot dealer."

Lauren Vazquez, director of the Silicon Valley chapter of Americans for Safe Access, said the police action - and seizure of 40 pounds of marijuana at the dispensary - was part of a series of recent law enforcement raids focusing on medical marijuana.

The advocacy group's news release for today's "protest & press conference with arrested medical marijuana patients" complains that police posed as "sick patients" to infiltrate medical marijuana businesses.

"In a democratic society, we develop laws that protect our sickest people, not leave them susceptible to police harassment and criminal prosecution," Vazquez said in a statement.

Last summer, law enforcement sweeps in Butte County targeted medical pot dispensaries near Chico, stirring complaints from advocates and intensifying debate over whether pot shops should be permitted in the county.

In a later incident, Nevada County authorities and Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided the farm of John Gross II, seizing more than 2,800 marijuana plants and arresting eight people.

Authorities said Gross was selling marijuana to patients of the P Street Health Center dispensary in Sacramento. In a statement, Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal said: "It appears a substantial profit has been made from this marijuana cultivation via the dispensary."

Gross, now awaiting trial on federal marijuana charges, said in a phone call from the Sacramento County jail Wednesday that he had medical recommendations for "over 1,500" patients and that he believed he was legally growing for them.

"I was following Eric Holder," Gross said of the U.S. attorney general, who announced last year he wouldn't target legitimate medical marijuana operations in states where medical use is legal.

"He said I'm not going to do anything on people who are growing medical marijuana. So I relied on that," Gross said.

Medical marijuana in California has burgeoned into a $1 billion-plus industry. Yet under state law, marijuana providers must operate as non-profit collectives, charging medical pot users only for reimbursement of the costs of services in providing their medicine.

The on-going raids in multiple parts of California suggest that authorities believe a number of people in the medical pot trade are illicitly earning big bucks - and police are on the lookout for profiteers.

In San Diego County, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis argues that medical pot providers overwhelmingly are illegal retail sellers who violate California's medical marijuana law. After a string of defeats in the court room, she just won her first major medical pot conviction.

In a case that drew intense attention from medical marijuana advocates, Navy veteran Jovan Jackson was convicted last month of illegal possession and sales of marijuana for running a dispensary called Answerdam Alternative Care. He was previously been found not guilty in a case stemming from a separate police raid.

Vowing an appeal, Jackson told the San Diego Union-Tribune he felt "pity and anger" that authorities were targeting him and other medical pot providers.

Pictured: A product sample at a Bay Area medical marijuana producer. Across California, advocates and authorities argue whether it is panacea or profit. Michael Allen Jones/Sacramento Bee file.

October 12, 2010
Rand: Prop 19 hurts Mexican traffickers only if state exports pot

A new Rand Corporation study disputes claims by proponents of California's Proposition 19 initiative that widely legalizing marijuana in the state will cripple Mexican drug cartels.

The Rand report, released this morning, said the ballot measure will have little impact on drug trafficking from Mexico - unless Proposition 19 results in California pot growers smuggling huge quantities of home-grown Golden State weed across the United States.

The report said legalizing marijuana beyond currently legal medical use in California would, at best, put a two to four percent dent in the revenues of Mexican drug cartels.

But Rand researchers offered one notable exception: They said if Californians moved heavily into the illegal pot exporting business to other U.S. states, they could slice more than two-thirds out of revenues from Mexican marijuana networks.

"The only way Prop 19 could importantly cut (Mexican) drug export revenues is if California-produced marijuana is smuggled to other states at prices that out-compete current Mexican supplies," read the report from Rand's International Programs and Drug Policy Research Center.

Prospects of California marijuana legalization reducing drug violence in Mexico were also questioned in the report, entitled, "Reducing Drug Trafficking Revenues and Violence in Mexico - Would Legalizing Marijuana in California Help?"

"With respect to whether marijuana legalization in California could help reduce the violence in Mexico, our best answer is not to any appreciable extent unless California exports drive Mexican marijuana out of the market in other states," wrote Rand researchers Beau Kilmer, Jonathan P. Caulkins, Brittany M. Bond and Peter H. Reuter.

They added: "The extent of such smuggling (from California) will depend on a number of factors, including the actions of the federal government and other states. It is very hard to anticipate how the conflict between state, federal and international law engendered by Proposition 19 would play out."

The Rand study estimated that Mexican drug traffickers generate $1 billion to $2 billion annually exporting marijuana to the United States and selling it to wholesalers. It disputed other studies claiming that pot accounts for 60 percent of Mexican drug cartels' revenues. The report said "15 to 26 percent" is a more credible range for Mexican networks that also traffic in cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin.

Proposition 19 would legalize marijuana use and possession of an ounce of pot in California for adults over 21, permit small residential cultivation and allow cities and counties to tax and regulate retail pot sales.

The Rand report presents a challenge to a ballot argument by Proposition 19 proponents, who say passage of the initiative will help cut into drug crime from Mexico.

"Marijuana prohibition has created vicious drug cartels across our border..." wrote retired San Jose Police Chief Joseph D. McNamara, retired Orange County Superior Court Judge James P. Gray and former Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Stephen Downing, all Prop 19 supporters. "Sixty percent of drug cartel revenue comes from the illegal U.S marijuana market. By controlling marijuana, Proposition 19 will help cut off funding to the cartels."

In a statement, Stephen Gutwillig, California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, disputed Rand's estimates that downgraded the scale of the illicit marijuana market. He said the initiative is a potent tool to weaken criminal drug trafficking networks.

"The prohibition on marijuana in this country has been such a profound failure largely because it fuels a massive, increasingly violent underground economy on both sides of our border with Mexico," Gutwillig said. "Banning a substance outright that is already so widely consumed simply drives that use into the shadows and empowers the criminals that control this enormous, profitable market."

The Rand report estimated that California accounts for one-seventh of U.S. marijuana consumption and pot production "that is already stronger...than elsewhere in the United States."

Kilmer said today that the claim that marijuana trafficking accounts for 60 percent of Mexican cartel business - which Prop 19 proponents cite from the Office of National Drug Control Policy - "is simply not credible." But he said Americans' consumption plays a significant role.

"The drug related violence occurring in Mexico is tragic, and we know a lot of what is happening in Mexico is fueled by American demand," he said.

To see the full report, click here.

October 11, 2010
Ex-DEA chief: Prop 19 backers 'smoking something' in tax pitch

As the United States Attorney in Los Angeles in the late 1980s, Robert C. Bonner prosecuted Mexican drug cartel members and conspirators in the ruthless torture and murder of a U.S. drug agent, Enrique "Kiki" Camarena.

At the time, he vowed: "The United States government will not let the murder of an agent by a terrorist organization go unavenged."

These days, Bonner is refusing let a California ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use go unchallenged.

In an interview for an article in last Friday's Sacramento Bee, Bonner argued that Proposition 19 not only defies federal law but also breaches international drug control treaties. "It would send a terrible signal to countries of the world," he said from Mexico City, where he was attending an international drug policy conference.

Bonner is a former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, a retired federal judge and past commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. He now is a senior principal for The Sentinel HS Group, a consulting firm on homeland security.

The man who has spent much of his life in the drug war has nothing good to say about Proposition 19.

He said in the interview that he doesn't believe the measure can weaken Mexican drug cartels as proponents suggest. If anything, Bonner said, the initiative will force the drug networks to diversity - redoubling efforts on cocaine and methamphetamine and perhaps increasing "kidnappings and extortion" in Mexico.

"It will have very little impact on the overall power of the drug cartels based in Mexico," Bonner said. "They are criminal organizations and they don't go away. To the extent you take away their revenues a little bit, they will make it up in other activities."

Bonner was one of nine former DEA administrators who signed a letter urging Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration to bring suit against California if voters pass Proposition 19.

In the interview, Bonner claimed the initiative is being falsely marketed as a tax revenue source.

Even though California already collects some $100 million in sales taxes on legal medical marijuana operations, Bonner said no one in their right mind would pay pot taxes if state voters legalize recreational marijuana. He said doing so would be a tacit admission of violating federal drug laws.

"Nobody is going to pay taxes," he said. "You would have to be really stupid to pay taxes to the state of California and admit to a very serious crime."

He charged that Proposition 19 proponents selling the initiative as a tax revenues boom "either know that's false or they're smoking something."

October 8, 2010
As Latino group endorses Prop 19, Mexican leader decries it

The news being circulated by "yes" and "no" campaigns for Proposition 19 today offers an interesting juxtaposition in the California marijuana debate.

Marijuana legalization advocates are touting the endorsement of the League of United Latin American Citizens for the initiative to legalize pot for recreational use and allow local governments to tax retail marijuana sales.

The No on 19 campaign is distributing an Associated Press story, in which Mexican President Felipe Calderon expresses some strong concerns about the closely-watched California ballot measure.

In announcing LULAC's endorsement for the issue, California LULAC director Argentina Dávila-Luévano said: "The current prohibition laws are not working for Latinos, nor for society as a whole."

She went on to say: "Far too many of our brothers and sisters are getting caught in the cross-fire of gang wars here in California and the cartel wars south of our border. It's time to end prohibition, put violent, organized criminals out of business and bring marijuana under the control of the law."

The endorsement by the Latino political group followed an earlier endorsement for Proposition 19 by the California Chapter of the NAACP.

In his Associated Press interview, posted on the No on 19 website, Calderon said Proposition 19 created "a terrible inconsistency in government policies in the United States."

"'It's very sad to see how drug consumption is, little by little, tearing apart American society and, if we don't watch ourselves, it will tear apart ours," the Mexican president said. He also suggested that taxing legal marijuana in California may only create new incentives for smuggling cheaper weed from Mexico.

October 8, 2010
Stephen Colbert: Prop 19 'most popular candidate in California'

Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert has just put on a supremely entertaining debate over California's Proposition 19 ballot fight to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Before introducing his panelists, Prop 19 supporter and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and opponent Joseph Califano Jr. of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, the host of The Colbert Report framed the California issue as only he can.

"There is one candidate out there in this election who does not need my help, 'the Honorable Mary Jane Von Spliffenberg,' also known as California's Proposition 19 to legalize 'mari-ju-wana,' Colbert began. "If Proposition 19 were a human, it would be the most popular candidate in California."

He went on to marvel over the initiative to permit Californians to possess up to an ounce of pot, remarking: "An ounce of weed is enough to roll 60 joints. That's enough to give you 6,000 brilliant ideas that will seem stupid later."

And he flashed a Weed Wars blog post on medical marijuana physicians opposing the initiative.

"Thankfully, there is one group fighting legalization, the growers of medical marijuana and the doctors who prescribe it," Colbert said. He asserted that weed-recommending medical professionals "are adamant that pot should be used to treat only serious disorders like sleep apnea, tension headaches, nightmares, color blindness, hiccuping and writer's cramp - which you are especially at risk for if you're a doctor who writes weed prescriptions for anyone who has writer's cramp."

With Colbert as your host, let the debate begin.

View the full segment below:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Proposition 19 - Joseph Califano & Gary Johnson
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive
October 7, 2010
Subjects of 'The Social Network' donate to marijuana measure

Founding cast members of Facebook - the social networking site, not the hot new movie - continue to financially support Proposition 19, the California initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, who is played by actor Joseph Mazzello in the hit movie, "The Social Network," recently contributed $50,000 to the Yes on 19 committee - upping his total initiative support to $70,000.

He was outdone by Sean Parker, a former Facebook president. Parker, who is played by Justin Timberlake in the movie, donated $100,000 to an independent committee supporting the initiative.

October 6, 2010
Will AG candidates defend Prop 19? Don't expect 'yes' or 'no'

The question posed in Tuesday's debate between the two candidates for California attorney general seemed simple enough.

If California voters pass Proposition 19, the initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use, would they defend it court?

Neither Democrat Kamala Harris, the San Francisco district attorney, nor Republican Steve Cooley, the Los Angeles district attorney, could muster a "yes" or a "no."

But Cooley, a persistent critic of California's already burgeoning medical marijuana industry, strongly suggested he won't be carrying the banner for Proposition 19 as a defender of voter-approved recreational weed.

"I really am strongly opposed to Proposition 19 for many reasons," Cooley said during the debate at the University of California, Davis. "I would be inclined to advise that it is unconstitutional and preempted by federal law."

Harris said she would convene state, federal and local law enforcement officials to review the initiative's impact on public safety and discuss how they believe "implementation should look." But she didn't particularly leap forward with a pledge to defend it.

"I believe that if it were to pass, it would be incumbent on the attorney general to convene her top lawyers and the experts on constitutional law to do a full analysis of the constitutionality of that measure...and what action, if any, should follow."

Watch their their full answers to the question in the video clip below:

October 4, 2010
If price drops, future may be hazy for California pot workers

MAJ MATTHEW WITEMYRE.JPGOne key question could affect the commercialization of the California marijuana business and the drive to organize the trade for union-scale workers.

How much will the price of weed drop if voters pass Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana for recreational use?

The Rand Corporation has estimated that legalizing marijuana beyond current medical use could cause its price to drop by more than 80 percent, bringing the cost of a joint to as low as $1.50.

That stirs debate over whether new legal marijuana business that will emerge will be sufficient to create and maintain well-paying jobs - and sustain union dreams of expanding membership in a potent sector of the California economy.

Jeff Wilcox, one of the subjects of Sunday's Sacramento Bee story on the union push to organize current and emerging California pot industries, is bullish on the marijuana market, regardless of potential price fluctuations.

The former construction manager is bidding for an Oakland marijuana cultivation license for a cavernous warehouse serving the current medical marijuana market. A study for his firm, AgraMed Inc., predicted the operations could total $47 million to $71 million in annual cannabis sales.

Wilcox is promising some 400 union-scale jobs serving the medical marijuana market alone. He says the operation could boom in employment and reap up to $250 million if California voters approve Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana beyond medical use.

He said AgraMed could then adjust, and absorb the changes, as the price falls over the next decade.

"Looking at the Rand report, if the prices bottom out, then we're down to $50 million a year - like a large-scale winery or something," said Wilcox, who predicts the price drop will be gradual if Proposition passes.

Lou Marchetti, a Teamsters Union organizer who recently negotiated contracts for marijuana workers in Oakland, said it may be difficult to predict the long-term marijuana employment picture beyond the existing medical industry.

Thumbnail image for MAJ POT CIGARETTES.JPGMarchetti said unions are just "at the tip of the iceberg" in organizing workers in the medical marijuana market. But he won't venture a guess on broader legalization or falling pot prices.

While the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which is also organizing cannabis industry workers, has heartily endorsed Proposition 19, the Teamsters are taking no position on the initiative.

"If it passes, there is a fear of giant corporations coming in and, when the Rand Crop says it could drop the prices, that gets a little scary," Marchetti said.

He said the Teamsters are focusing only on organizing industries serving the legal medical cannabis market. Later on, he said, the union will "adjust with whatever happens after Proposition 19."

Pictured: Above - Matthew Witemyre of the United Food and Commercial Workers tends to marijuana plants at Medi-Cone in Marin County. Below - Packaging the finished products of marijuana cigarettes manufacturer. Michael Allen Jones/mjones@sacbee.com

October 1, 2010
Governor signs California marijuana decriminalization bill

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed legislation that will reduce the crime of possession of an ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction, handing a victory to marijuana advocates one month before November's state vote to legalize pot for recreational use.

The governor's signature of Senate Bill 1449 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, will not reduce actual penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Under California law, misdemeanor possession of less than an ounce was already punishable as infraction - with offenders facing fines of $100.

Marijuana advocates say the governor's decision to sign the bill will significantly reduce the number of cases clogging California courts by removing the misdemeanor tag.

The law will take effect Jan. 1, meaning it may be superseded - at least for Californians over 21 - by the November legalization measure.

Schwarzenegger said he signed Leno's bill because "possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is infraction in everything but name."

Yet despite signing the bill, Schwarzenegger said he strongly opposes the Proposition 19 measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use for California adults over 21, allow small residential cultivation and permit local cities and counties to tax retail pot sales.

"I am opposed to decriminalizing the possession and recreational use of marijuana and oppose Proposition 19," the governor said in his bill signing statement. "Unfortunately, Proposition 19 is a deeply flawed measure...that will adversely impact California's businesses without bringing in the tax revenues to the state promised by its proponents."

Dale Gieringer, California director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, says the governor's signature cemented the first reduction of marijuana penalties in California in 35 years. In 1975, the state decriminalized minor marijuana possession by imposing the misdemeanor and maximum $100 fine.

Gieringer said misdemeanor defendants still needed to be processed by the court system.

"Gov. Schwarzenegger deserves credit for sparing the state's taxpayers the cost of prosecuting minor pot offenders," he said in a statement. "Californians increasingly recognize that the war on marijuana is a waste of law enforcement resources."

Some law enforcement lobbyists fought the legislation, arguing that it took power away from judges and prosecutors to reduce misdemeanor offenses to citations in exchange for defendants going into drug treatment.

The bill signing was protested in a statement Friday by Dr. Paul Chabot, founder of the Coalition for a Drug Free California.

"It is disturbing and disappointing that the California governor would sign such a law. This sends the wrong message to kids and communities," he said.

October 1, 2010
Head of medical marijuana physicians network decries Prop 19

It may be no surprise that doctors who make a living recommending medical marijuana might be leery of an initiative that can allow consumers to bypass them and merely smoke pot for recreation.

Now the founder and director of one of California's most successful medical marijuana physicians' networks is coming out strongly against Proposition 19.

Dr. Jean Talleyrand, who heads MediCann, a group of clinics that has worked with more than 200,000 medical marijuana users, says the initiative could sharply curtail the rights of legitimate cannabis patients to get their medicine.

In a statement put out on behalf of Talleyrand, MediCann argued that provisions in Prop 19 that allow cities to ban retail pot sales could mean that "over two-thirds of California's counties will refuse to allow dispensaries" currently serving medical marijuana users.

"Therefore, patients who use medical cannabis to treat serious medical conditions could be denied safe access to their medication," the statement said.

Some dispensary operators and medical pot advocates have made similar arguments against the initiative. Recently, the newly-formed California Cannabis Coalition, a group representing several dispensaries and advocates, also announced its opposition to Proposition 19.

But Don Duncan, the California director for American's for Safe Access, the nation's leading medical marijuana advocacy group, said ASA doesn't think the initiative will undercut the rights of medical users. The organization isn't taking a position on the ballot measure.

"Proposition 19 will have zero, zilch, nada impact on the current legal rights granted to patients, caregivers, doctors, collectives and cooperatives under California's existing medical cannabis laws," Prop 19 strategist Dan Newman said in a recent Sacramento Bee article on the split within the medical marijuana community.



About Weed Wars

Peter Hecht

From its pot fields to politics, California is the epicenter for America's marijuana discussion. This blog covers news, trends and people of the California marijuana story.

Contact reporter Peter Hecht at phecht@sacbee.com

» See the sacbee.com marijuana topics page

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