Tag Archives: marijuana

Public Support Grows for Legalization/Regulation of Marijuana

Gavin Newsom (Christian Bale Look)New Poll shows big majority for potential future ballot measure

by Brian Leubitz

It has been almost three years since Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization measure, was narrowly defeated at the ballot. But in that time, both events and the passage of time has moved the issue forward.  Very quickly from the 47-53 position in Nov. 2010:

One, which the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California released last month, found that 60 percent of likely voters overall backed legalization. A survey by San Francisco pollster Ben Tulchin, commissioned by the ACLU and released Thursday, found that 65 percent of 1,200 respondents considered likely to vote in 2016 would support a measure to tax and regulate marijuana. (SF Chronicle)

And along with that poll numbers they released, ACLU of Northern California is teaming up with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to form a “blue ribbon panel” to discuss how best to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana. While Prop 19 had some strong regulations to make the transition smooth, we’ve seen a lot of disorganization and confusion with Washington’s measure.

Who knows what will come out of the blue ribbon panel, but it seems that 2016 will feature a marijuana legalization measure. And because it is likely to pass, it is important that it be done in the right way to make the change as painless as possible.

Field: Support for Marijuana Legalization Continues Growth

Issue may make sooner than expected return to the ballot if numbers continue to improve

by Brian Leubitz

You don’t often get second chances in ballot measure politics. Sure, there are the social conservatives that keep putting anti-choice measures on the ballot, over and over again. But, really, they are the exception that proves the rule. Most measures that go down to defeat aren’t heard from for a few years. But, Field’s latest poll on marijuana legalization may mean that Prop 19 was only the beginning of that discussion:

By a five to four margin (54% to 43%), California voters support legalizing the sale of marijuana, with age and other controls like those applicable to alcohol. This is the highest level of support for marijuana legalization since The Field Poll began measuring California public opinion on this issue in 1969, when just 13% favored its legalization.

The poll finds greater than seven in ten voters (72%) backing the state’s existing medical marijuana law. Two in three (67%) oppose federal government efforts to crack down on businesses attempting to sell marijuana for medicinal purposes. A 58% majority of voters also say they would favor allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in the city or town where they live. (Field)

The victories in Washington and Colorado, and the relatively strong vote total for Prop 19 here, mean that this isn’t really a fringe issue anymore. There has been some rumors that the measure could be back on the ballot sooner rather than later, but 2016 seems more likely than 2014, if only for organizing purposes.

Brian Bilbray and Carl DeMaio: San Diego’s Republican Shapeshifters

If there’s one thing that’s been particularly consistent to campaigns of the far right in San Diego this fall, it’s the unusually desperate attempts to hide the real agenda from voters. It’s one that should be cause for optimism as long as voters pay attention, and betrays an almost impressive self-awareness from the top of the GOP that the party’s agenda has drifted well outside the mainstream.

From the special exemptions of Prop 32 to Brian Bilbray’s teetering re-election bid to Carl DeMaio’s bizarre mayoral campaign, extreme conservatives are doing everything they can to hide their record and who they are.

For the backers of Proposition 32, the deception was part of the design from the very beginning. They surveyed the political landscape and found that, unsurprisingly, nobody wants millionaires and corporations to be able to buy off our political process. Rather than abandon a wildly unpopular idea, they came up with a different plan: fake it.  

Cross-posted from San Diego Free Press

That’s Prop 32, from the same white knights of campaign finance reform who broke the system to begin with by using the Citizens United case to overthrow existing regulations on special interest money. This year, they simply took it a step further, called the plan reform and packed in enough special exemptions to create a system that only works for corporations and millionaires.

It makes sense because everyone wants campaign finance reform. But the reason they want campaign finance reform is specifically because of what Prop 32’s backers have done and continue to do.

The hundreds of millions of unregulated, unlimited political cash flowing into SuperPACs exists specifically because of Prop 32’s backers, and now its being funded by the Koch Brothers and other super-rich conservatives that saw Citizens United as the starting pistol to buy off democracy. Prop 32’s hoping to trick voters. Will they see through it?

At the same time, there’s Brian Bilbray. He has cobbled together a decades-long career of faking moderation when election time comes around, but the reality just doesn’t match the myth he’s built for himself when push comes to shove. Bilbray wants to cast himself as an environmentalist, but mustered just a 17% score on the League of Conservation Voters 2011 scorecard. And it was Bilbray’s early work trying to gut the Clean Water Act that once inspired Donna Frye to become a clean water activist.

He’s done his best to avoid the ramifications of the national GOP’s war on women, right on through to Todd Akin’s ‘legitimate rape’ comments. But the reality of his record remains, including a pitiful 8% score from Planned Parenthood’s scorecard. Brian Bilbray may not want to be lumped in with the war on women, but if that’s what he’s hoping for, maybe he shouldn’t have signed up for it in the first place.

All of that could maybe be overlooked if Bilbray had taken up the mantle of the millions of Americans devastated when the economy fell apart near the end of the Bush administration. But while Bilbray will certainly have populist talking points on the stump, it’s worth remembering that he voted for the Paul Ryan plan to dismantle Medicare and destroy Social Security in response to increased economic security.

And Bilbray’s plan for economic recovery? One part rewarding tax-evading corporate interests, one part Let them eat a Yacht Race! Not exactly your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.

For Carl DeMaio, the attempt to whitewash nearly twenty years as a professional politician has been even more depraved than elsewhere. After coming up with the likes of Newt Gingrich, Virginia Thomas, the Jack Abramoff crew, and the Koch Brothers, it seems to have dawned on Carl that the city of San Diego, well… really doesn’t like that at all.

During his tenure on the council, DeMaio has received the lowest cumulative score on the annual Environmental Quality Report Card. And despite being appointed since joining the council, DeMaio hasn’t appeared in the minutes of a single meeting of the San Dieguito River Valley Regional Open Space Joint Powers Authority since January 2011.

Reality didn’t matter to DeMaio though when he took a week out to declare himself an environmentalist. He didn’t get very far with that, so he moved on to a plan to encourage biking by investing in more roads. Doesn’t make sense? It isn’t supposed to. It’s just supposed to distract from his career-long record on the wrong side of these issues.

Word on the street is, DeMaio spent some time recently trying for an endorsement from the Victory Fund, which led to an unexpected declaration from Carl that he was pro-choice. It has to be considered unexpected since it was certainly news to Planned Parenthood. Why? Because despite the clear reasons that choice matters at the local level, DeMaio has always refused to fill out Planned Parenthood’s questionnaire. And today, if you’re looking for pro-choice candidates in November, you sure aren’t going to find Carl DeMaio on the list.

There are still more examples. He runs as a fiscal conservative while voting against hundreds of millions in taxpayer savings and getting the BS treatment from Mayor Jerry Sanders. He tried out medical marijuana but that fell flat once anyone read past Carl’s own statement.

He took a quick stab at being for the middle class and affordable housing over the summer, trying to pass off support from a landlord group as support for tenants. The claims were called “preposterous,” and the former CEO of the San Diego Housing Commission said in no uncertain terms that “Carl DeMaio is not an advocate for more affordable housing.”

Heck, DeMaio has even tried reaching out to the Latino community while trumpeting an endorsement from Pete Wilson, the father of Proposition 187. And after casting the only vote on the council in support of Arizona’s SB1070, his Latino outreach has featured a plan to have local police enforce federal immigration law.

The most amazing part is the special brand of doublethink that DeMaio has going on in all this. He isn’t just making up an entirely new self for the general election, he’s doing it while criticizing others for the same thing. Like last week at the KPBS mayoral debate:

“The U-T CEO mentioned that he got support from labor, and yet labor has not supported it, that he got support from business groups, but very few groups that are out there have supported the plan,” DeMaio said. “And so I just think that the email probably was making some claims that are not grounded in reality.”

Now, it wouldn’t be shocking to discover the UT making claims that are not grounded in reality. But compare that to DeMaio’s recent record. He’s an affordable housing advocate unless you ask affordable housing advocates. He’s an environmentalist unless you ask environmentalists. He’s a medical marijuana advocate unless you ask medical marijuana advocates. He’s pro-choice unless you ask Planned Parenthood. He’s a friend to the Latino community except for wanting them to be harassed by the police. He’s a fiscal conservative except for imposing a billion dollar tax increase without a vote of the public.

But when Doug Manchester and John Lynch — the very same duo who helped DeMaio defeat essentially the same tax increase in 2005 — don’t poll well, then maybe reality has come loose.

Does it work? Maybe not with anyone who has the time and interest to dig into the substance. But those who never catch more than headlines because they have lives full of working to make ends meet, struggling with health care bills, working into retirement thanks to Wall Street, trying to figure out what to do after a foreclosure… they understandably won’t ever have that time.

And that’s the whole idea. Keep up the game of whack-a-mole long enough that voters never get a chance to examine the truth.

It’s said that great writers steal outright, so here’s a heartfelt tip of the cap to the inimitable Ann Richards before saying: Poor Carl.

He’s never once had a job that asked him to appeal to a majority, or even anyone resembling moderates. So now that he’s stuck in a general election, he’s like Columbus discovering America. He’s found the environment. He’s found the middle class and working people. He’s found women. He’s found the sick and suffering. He’s found Latinos.

Poor Carl. He can’t help it. San Diego just doesn’t want what he’s been selling his whole life.

I’m proud to work for San Diegans for Bob Filner for Mayor 2012

CMA Calls for Legal Pot

Doctors want focus off punishment, and into ways to properly use drug as a treatment.

by Brian Leubitz

The California Medical Association, the 30,000 strong organization of California doctors, has just issued a statement calling for the reclassification of marijuana away from its current Schedule I status.

The California Medical Association (CMA) has adopted official policy that recommends legalization and regulation of cannabis. The decision was based on a white paper concluding physicians should have access to better research, which is not possible under the current policy. The paper, available here, is a thoughtful study and response to an important issue, continuing CMA’s tradition of providing guidance on public health.

CMA is the largest physician group in California and the first statewide medical association to take this official position.

“CMA may be the first organization of its kind to take this position, but we won’t be the last. This was a carefully considered, deliberative decision made exclusively on medical and scientific grounds,” said James T. Hay, M.D., CMA President-Elect. “As physicians, we need to have a better understanding about the benefits and risks of medicinal cannabis so that we can provide the best care possible to our patients.” (CMA)

There are a lot of questions about the pros and cons of marijuana, but because of the classification, very little serious research has been done.  CMA is just taking a look at what the reality is on the ground, acknowledging the facts and seeing what they can do to make the situation better.  We have far too many people locked up in prisons for drug crimes, we’re spending money on a losing battle.  How do we actually address the problem instead of pretending we are still fighting a war on drugs that we clearly lost years ago.

Of course, there are plenty of groups out there to go crazy over this, and one Republican running for the Assembly obliges MediaNews on that front:

But critics, like Paul Chabot, president of the Coalition for a Drug Free California, said the CMA recommendation would harm society. … Chabot, who said his group has more than 1,000 members, called on doctors to tear up their CMA membership cards “in light of leadership’s pro drug legalization stance.”

“Research has shown marijuana use has been linked to testicular cancer, schizophrenia, and depression,” Chabot said. “It’s because of so-called medical marijuana, we now have the highest use-rate for kids in America. What an irresponsible and unethical position the CMA has taken.” (MediaNews)

It is perfect that Chabot is running for Assembly, he’ll fit in well with the pretend reality doesn’t exist GOP caucus.  The “studies” he cites are far from comprehensive and don’t accurately tell anywhere near the full story.  At the very least, we should be doing real research on both sides of the drug, instead of just pretending it is purely this insidious thing.  

Because, you know, tobacco isn’t linked to, oh, I don’t know, every imaginable form of cancer, yet we allow recreational use of that known-killer.  Let’s see Chabot call for outlawing tobacco and see how far he gets in the political world.  I suppose Altria has better lobbyists and more cash than Oaksterdam.

Must We Do This Already?

Three years before the election, Governor already faces scrutiny about his plans.

by Brian Leubitz

While Jerry Brown was busy over the weekend signing bills to ban synthetic marijuana and bar a San Francisco measure to ban circumcision, apparently people are pretty excited about replacing him.  Or perhaps more accurately, people are excited to talk about people who could replace him.

“I’ve extremely enjoyed my first year,” Brown said. “I find it — I don’t know if I’d call it exhilarating — but I find it quite engaging and interesting and fully worthy of my total involvement.”

There had been speculation when the now 73-year-old Brown was first elected to what actually amounted to a third term that he would not run again.

If he does decide to seek another term it would cause serious damage to any number of folks who want to be governor. (LA DN)

Of course, this came up in the context of an interview with CalBuzz a while back, though from their article, the question seemed to be directed more at how Brown was handling his first year back in the Horseshoe.  But, Sacramento being what it is, there are always people eyeing the top spot, and tons more willing to talk about people eyeing it.  From every statewide elected official to a the big city mayors, there will be attention on the 2014 race.

Did I mention that Brown has been in the office less than a year?  Welcome to the 24 hour news cycle.

Let’s be honest: The war against marijuana has failed.

(Note: Crossposted on Huffington Post)

I’ve worked in law enforcement for 35 years, including 15 years as the police chief in San Jose, California. Over my career, I have seen firsthand how misguided our marijuana policies are for our state and our country. That’s why I narrated the Yes on 19 campaign’s new TV ad.


For 70 years, we have prohibited marijuana in this country, each day expecting different results. But as William F. Buckley once said: “Even if one takes every reefer madness allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, marijuana prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could.”

We spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year arresting people for marijuana possession, sending them to trial, and incarcerating small-time offenders.

And yet, despite our war against it, marijuana is so freely available that anyone who wants it in California can get it.

Today, because it is illegal, teenagers have an easier time buying pot than beer. For any high school student, trying to purchase a six-pack without ID means being turned away by a liquor store owner who is concerned with losing his license. The same can’t be said for drug dealers who exploit prohibition to profit off our kids.

On my watch as police chief in San Jose, the city was named the safest large city in the country, despite having the fewest police per capita. That’s because we policed intelligently. And between smart policing and sound policy we can make our streets safe, instead of paying lip service to the failing war on marijuana.

California cannot afford to continue the same failed policies of the past. We need to pass Proposition 19 to tax and control marijuana like we do alcohol.

Controlling and taxing marijuana will generate over a billion dollars in new revenue every year, in contrast to the current $14 billion criminally-controlled market for marijuana, the largest cash crop in California. This money will go to local communities, allow police to focus on violent crimes, and put drug cartels out of business.

Proposition 19 will take marijuana out of the hands of criminals and put it into the hands of licensed vendors. That way, it will be easier to keep it away from our children.

That’s why I am asking you to join me and many others in law enforcement by voting YES on Proposition 19.

You can help the Yes on 19 reach its goal of raising $100,000 to keep the ad on the air by clicking here.

For fifteen years of his 35-year law enforcement career, Joe McNamara served as San Jose’s chief of police. During his tenure, San Jose (California’s third-largest city and the eleventh largest city in the U.S.) was named the safest city in the country, despite having the fewest police per capita. Joe is currently a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and has written five books, including three national best-selling detective novels and a crime prevention textbook.

Opposition to Proposition 19 Vanishing

(News from the Yes on 19 Campaign. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

It sure feels like the tide is turning among voters when it comes to Proposition 19, The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. On Thursday, the PPIC released a poll showing the initiative leading 52-41 with only 7% undecided. Since the last PPIC poll in May, Prop 19 leaped from a 1-point lead to an 11-point advantage.

On the heels of the Field Poll that Brian Leubitz wrote about last week (Yes – 49, No – 42, Und – 9), we here at the Yes on 19 campaign see a clear trend developing. As voters tune in to the upcoming election, they begin to realize what an incredible opportunity California has to lead the nation in ending cannabis prohibition by voting yes.

Voters, fed up with a state budget that’s been dead as Dillinger for months, understand that marijuana prohibition is one more needless drain on the state’s coffers. According to a recent study by the Cato Institute, marijuana prohibition costs the state nearly $1 billion per year to enforce — not to mention the lost opportunities for up to $1.4 billion in tax revenue, if Prop 19 passes.

Going into the final stretch with more that 50 percent support is a great sign for any initiative campaign. Neither Jerry Brown or Meg Whitman have anywhere close to that support. Come November 2, the most popular name on the ballot might just be Mary Jane.

To make sure we have the resources to keep this momentum going, we’re asking everyone to contribute to our $75,000 End Cannabis Prohibition fundraising drive. Please make a generous gift to the Yes on 19 campaign before midnight tonight. Make a contribution of $15 dollars and we’ll send you a bumper sticker; if you contribute $50 or more, we’ll send you a t-shirt.

Prop 19 Debate on KQED

Currently airing on KQED in the Bay Area, Forum has a debate about Prop 19, cannabis legalization.  The debates on the show are typically very informative.  You can listen live online or catch the archive here.

Prop. 19

Proposition 19 on the November ballot would make California the first state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. We hear from a proponent and an opponent of the proposition, known as the “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010.”

Host: Michael Krasny


   * Cliff Newell, district attorney of Nevada County

   * Joseph McNamara, research fellow at the Hoover Institution and retired police chief of San Jose

Moving Towards Rational Marijuana Policy: California ACLU Affiliates Endorse Prop 19

By Kelli M. Evans

Every year tens of thousands of people in California are arrested for simply possessing small amounts of marijuana. These arrests overload our already stressed courts and jails. They also divert scarce public safety dollars that could be used to address violent crime. California’s Proposition 19, on the November 2010 ballot, offers a remedy that will move marijuana policy in a direction that makes sense.  The California Legislative Analyst’s Office explains that the passage of Proposition 19 would allow redirection of court and law enforcement resources to solving violent crimes.

The ballot measure would allow adults age 21 and older to possess and grow small amounts of their own marijuana for personal use, and would allow cities and counties to regulate and tax commercial sales. Unless individual cities and counties enact local regulatory structures, marijuana sale would remain illegal under state law. Similarly, driving while intoxicated will remain against the law, and employers will retain the right to regulate drug use on the job.

Proposition 19 has a growing coalition of support. The three California affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union recently announced their endorsement of the initiative and join a broad coalition of this common sense approach to controlling marijuana, including former U.S. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, the California NAACP, labor unions, and law enforcement officials from around the state.

Enforcement of marijuana prohibition laws consumes California’s police and court system resources, and has a devastating disproportionate impact on communities of color. In 2008 alone, California police made 60,000 marijuana possession arrests, the majority of them young men of color. The arrests don’t indicate actual marijuana usage. A new report from the Drug Policy Alliance reveals distinct racial disparities in California arrests for low-level marijuana possession. Data in the report reveal that African Americans in California are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, but more white youth use marijuana than black youth. Other reports, including a study out of Seattle, show that whites sell drugs at similar – and possibly higher – rates than African Americans.

In Los Angeles County alone, the marijuana possession arrest rate of African Americans is more than 300% higher than the same arrest rate of whites, although blacks made up less than 10% of the county’s population, according to the DPA report.

The significant racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests have serious consequences, for young men of color in particular. The impact of a misdemeanor conviction for marijuana possession creates barriers to finding a house, a job, and even a school loan.

We need a solution that will work.  By regulating and taxing marijuana for adults, Proposition 19 is a step in the right direction.

Kelli M. Evans is Associate Director at the ACLU of Northern California

November’s marijuana legalization initiative: imperfect, but worthy of your vote

At first glance, the November ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in California seems like a no-brainer. It will boost tax revenues. It will lighten the burden on our prison system and allow law enforcement to focus on more serious issues. It will move billions of dollars out of the hands of drug traffickers and into the legitimate economy, creating thousands of jobs. Overall, it will end the prohibition of a relatively harmless drug that has demonstrated medical benefits and is enjoyed by millions of recreational users.

But a closer look suggests the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act – or RCTC for short – is less than ideal. Even so, I think voters should vote yes on RCTC.

The drive to pass RCTC is being funded by Richard Lee, who operates a dispensary and a nursery in the Oakland area. Lee also runs Oaksterdam University, which offers instruction on topics such as cannabis horticulture and legal issues facing dispensary operators. At least one critic, activist Bruce Cain, calls Lee a “marijuana monopolist” and claims a chief goal of RCTC is to line Lee’s pockets. Indeed, Lee’s empire already pulls in single-digit millions every year – though he says his personal share is only about $50,000 – and does seem well-positioned for growth if RCTC passes.

Potential profits for Richard Lee don’t concern me, though. It’s the way RCTC goes about legalizing marijuana that leaves a few things to be desired.

The initiative includes some long-overdue changes to existing law. If it passes, Californians over 21 would be allowed to grow their own marijuana and to keep what they grow on the premises where they grow it. RCTC would also legalize the possession of up to one ounce of pot outside of those premises. These moves would be major improvements over the current prohibition of non-medicinal growing and holding.

On the other hand, the initiative has some key weaknesses. For example, RCTC stumbles by deferring commercial pot policy to local governments instead of establishing a statewide plan for commercial sales. NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, touches on this weakness in its endorsement of the initiative. “The immediate effect of the passage of this measure would be to protect the individual from arrest if he/she possesses or grows a small quantity of marijuana in the privacy of their own home,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a press release. Longer term, RCTC “will provide local governments with the option to regulate and tax the retail distribution of marijuana to adults in a manner similar to the way society controls alcohol.”

Let me reiterate that: the initiative on the November ballot will make it legal to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana, but would not create a framework to buy, sell, and tax marijuana throughout California. Instead, the initiative would give cities and counties the option to create such a framework on their own.

This local-option approach might be okay with Richard Lee up in Oakland, a city so pot-positive it allows medical marijuana patients to fly out of Oakland International with weed on their person. But what about towns run by conservatives, like San Diego? It seems unlikely that our county’s board of supervisors, for example, would take a sensible and fair approach to marijuana when the board doesn’t even take a sensible and fair approach to issuing food stamps. In fact, just this week, the board began zoning medicinal marijuana dispensaries practically out of existence in the county, even though California voters legalized medical cannabis 14 years ago.

That’s why I prefer a statewide pot policy like the one in HR 2254, the Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act, a bill from Democratic state assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco. As calpotnews.com reports, “Ammiano’s bill would impose a $50-per-ounce state levy on pot made available for sale. It also would license private marijuana cultivators and wholesalers and give the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control authority over a legal retail marijuana industry.”

But 2254 is a tough sell in Sacramento, where a majority of our legislators lack the spines to enact legalization themselves. As RCTC gathered momentum in early 2010, Ammiano delayed hearings on 2254 until this fall, apparently hoping the push for the initiative could help his fellow legislators see the light. “We want to see how the legislation can get out in front of the initiative and at the same time be complementary,” Ammiano said. “The initiative does call for more of a patchwork than a uniform state policy, but there may be a way to try to blend those two.”

HR 2254, with its statewide approach, seems like the superior path to legalization. Ammiano’s bill even exempts medical marijuana from taxation, which RCTC does not. Long-time legalization advocates like Ed Rosenthal, aka the Guru of Ganja, and Dennis Peron, whose activism helped Proposition 215 become law in 1996, point out that no other prescription drugs are taxed — so why would it be acceptable to tax medicinal marijuana?

RCTC also does nothing for Californians who are serving time for marijuana-related offenses. Donna Lambert is a San Diego medical marijuana patient and former dispensary operator who was charged with seven felonies by county district attorney Bonnie Dumanis. Though Dumanis’s office retreated after juries acquitted two other dispensary defendants, offering a plea deal that traded the seven felonies for one misdemeanor, Lambert remains concerned about others who weren’t so fortunate.

“I am deeply disappointed that this act does nothing to release the thousands of marijuana prisoners, but in fact actually creates several new levels of punishable crimes,” Lambert said in an email. Lambert says she’ll probably vote for RCTC but hopes that it will be followed by more comprehensive reform.

Under RCTC, anyone who furnishes marijuana to a person aged 18 to 20 could face upt to $1,000 in fines and up to 6 months in jail. A knowledgeable local source told me that about 75% of San Diego’s registered medicinal users are between the ages of 18 and 25, so it seems fair to assume demand is strong among that age group. And since college-age people don’t tend to demand their friends show ID, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where a 22-year-old shares marijuana with a 20-year-old and ends up in trouble with the law. With this in mind, I think it would make more sense for RCTC to extend legalization to people aged 18 and over, not just 21 and over.

HR 2254 also allows adults to grow up to 6 marijuana plants at a time, while RCTC places a 25-square-foot limit on personal growing space. I’ve never tried to grow tomatoes, let alone marijuana, so I’m not sure which limit makes more sense. But the “Prince of Pot,” Marc Emery – a Canadian who was recently extradited to Seattle and currently faces several years in US federal prison for selling seeds to Americans over the Internet – has said that 25 square feet would be more than enough. In a Cannabis Culture magazine article, Emery crunches the “industry standard” horticulture numbers and concludes that “ANY competent grower can achieve 16 to 40 ounces every 10 weeks in their space, a generous personal or medical amount by any standard.”

Emery calculates that a 25-square-foot indoor growing area could yield up to 5 pounds of marijuana a year at a total cost of about $1,000, or somewhere around $12.50 an ounce. Currently, high-grade marijuana’s selling price at California dispensaries typically equals its street price of about $300 to $400 per ounce. These numbers suggest that current prices include massive profit margins, which I couldn’t help but think of as I left a Banker’s Hill dispensary after a recent visit, just as the man who runs the place was pulling up in a brand new Lexus.

In any case, my thumbs are anything but green and are far more comfortable pressing the spacebar than working the soil – so if RCTC passes and I find myself looking to consume some marijuana, I’ll likely be buying it from somebody. Accordingly, I’m a bit perplexed by RCTC’s deferral to local jurisdictions, which could preserve black markets in areas like San Diego and force legal consumers like me to spend my money in more with-it jurisdictions.

But assuming HR 2254 and its statewide sales plan is out of reach, RCTC strikes me as a weaker but still dramatic improvement in marijuana policy that Californians should support. By voting yes on the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act, we will lead the nation forward in an area where the federal government appears incapable of moving beyond the asinine status quo, even with Democrats in firm control of the executive and legislative branches.

In March 2009, for example, President Obama held a town hall-type meeting in which he invited Americans to submit questions online and vote for their favorites. More than 3 million people voted on more than 13,000 questions, and in three separate categories – budget, health care reform, and green jobs – questions about legalizing marijuana got the most votes.

“I don’t know what this says about the online audience,” Obama said with a forced laugh that instantly marginalized the legalization movement. “The answer is, no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy.”

After the event, a reporter complained about Obama’s response to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. “But, Robert, he didn’t take on the serious issue,” the reporter said. “He made a joke out of it. I mean, there were a lot of questions about legalization of marijuana, not as a job creation program, but just as a serious policy issue. And with what’s happening in Mexico -”

“The president opposes the legalization of marijuana,” Gibbs responded, providing another example of how Obama’s progressivism tends to be limited to the pages of his autobiographies. But the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act, despite its shortcomings, would be a big step forward for marijuana policy – and that gives me hope.