Bid to Legalize Pot Counter To U.S. Trend?

With Californians likely to vote in November on whether to legalize marijuana, some key swing voters – Democratic and independent women – are expressing a surprising reason why they would support the initiative.

The suburban “soccer moms” who are likely voters have told pollsters that the measure, which would give local governments the authority to tax and regulate the sale of cannabis to adults 21 or older, would provide a safer way for their adult children to buy pot.

“One of the scary things to some people is that their kids may be buying it from someone dangerous,” said Ruth Bernstein, a pollster with EMC Research, an Oakland firm that has been doing polling and focus groups on behalf of the measure’s proponents.

California already boasts some of the nation’s most pot-friendly laws. Possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor, and those who obtain approval from a physician can grow or possess cannabis under the state’s voter-approved 1996 medical marijuana law.

In 2001, state voters approved a law allowing first- or second-time possession-only offenders caught with larger amounts of pot to avoid jail by requesting a treatment program instead.

The initiative, known as the Tax and Regulate Initiative, would expand those laws by allowing local governments to tax and regulate marijuana sales, increase penalties for providing marijuana to a minor, and prohibit consumption of marijuana in public, smoking marijuana while minors are present and possession of pot on school grounds.

But none of those provisions matters to law enforcement organizations and conservative religious leaders who oppose legalization on public safety and “moral” grounds.

Battle in the suburbs

The battleground to legalize marijuana will be in the suburbs, experts say.

“The legalizers have yet to explain what the social betterment is by legalizing another mind-altering substance,” said John Lovell, a lobbyist for law enforcement agencies, including the California Peace Officers’ Association, that are opposed to legalization. “They’re smoking something if they think soccer moms are going to go their way.”

“It’s a moral issue,” said Bishop Ron Allen, leader of the International Faith Based Coalition. The former crack cocaine addict is on stop No. 14 of a tour of 100 churches that oppose the initiative. “Can you imagine legalizing more drugs in this area?” asked Allen, pastor of a south Sacramento congregation where, he says, “there are more liquor stores than grocery stores.”

Proponents of the measure said last month they had gathered 680,000 signatures – far more than the 433,971 required to get on the ballot – and said they will submit the signatures to the secretary of state in mid-January to be verified.

“People generally know where they stand on this issue,” much like how people feel about same-sex marriage, Bernstein said. “But there is about 15 percent in the middle that is kind of soft.”

Some soccer moms acknowledge that it is relatively easy for even their adult children to buy pot, Bernstein said. They have talked with their kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Twelve percent of those surveyed have smoked weed and 19 percent say a family member has, according to an EMC survey of 800 likely voters in August.

Bernstein said parents are worried about “this scary black-market system.”

Follow the money

Legalization advocates want to capitalize on a wave of renewed interest in legalization, much of it bolstered by a state Board of Equalization study saying that the taxing and regulating of marijuana could raise as much as $1.4 billion in annual revenue.

Proponents say that resonates with Californians in light of the state’s projected $20.7 billion budget deficit from now through the fiscal year that begins July 1.

In addition, an Assembly hearing will be held this month on legislation by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, to legalize and tax marijuana in the state.

Proponents of the initiative, led by Richard Lee, owner of Oakland’s marijuana-related Oaksterdam University and Coffeeshop Blue Sky, are stocking their campaign with top talent. Blue State Digital – the political firm that created the groundbreaking Obama campaign Web site – created the technology for the marijuana campaign’s online effort.

With that in place, Lee expects to raise at least $10 million online – “10 dollars from 1 million people,” he said. Opponents expect to raise $1.5 million, Lovell said.

Too soon to vote?

But behind the scenes, some proponents of legalization worry that taking the measure to voters this year is too early. They argue that 2012 would offer a better chance of victory in a presidential election year that would bring out more young voters.

Few major elected officials – with the exception of Ammiano and Oakland mayoral candidate and former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata – are expected to publicly support the initiative. Internal polling by initiative backers puts support at about 52 percent.

Only one statewide initiative aimed at legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana has ever passed in the United States – a 2008 Massachusetts measure that replaced criminal penalties with a civil fine for possession of less than 1 ounce.

But that law is less sweeping than what’s being proposed in California because possession and sale of pot remain illegal in Massachusetts.

The success of California’s medical marijuana initiative isn’t a good predictor of whether voters will approve legalization, said Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group.

Nationally, marijuana legalization initiatives have failed five times in three states – Oregon, Nevada and Alaska – since 1986, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. The most recent, in Nevada in 2006, polled strong in the months before the election but received only 44 percent support of the vote.

What was the disconnect between early polling and election day?

“I wish I knew,” Mirken said. Polls show that “people feel that that the state’s marijuana laws aren’t working. It’s a matter of whether they want to make a change.”

State pot measures

Initiatives to legalize or remove penalties for marijuana use have had little success in several states, including California. Only a 2008 Massachusetts initiative to decriminalize marijuana, replacing criminal penalties with a civil fine for possession of under an ounce, was approved by voters.

Here is a history of statewide initiatives, with the percentage of voter support received:


(with some regulation)

1986: Oregon, 24 percent. Defeated.

2000: Alaska, 41 percent. Defeated.

2002: Nevada, 39 percent. Defeated.

2004: Alaska, 44 percent. Defeated.

2006: Nevada, 44 percent. Defeated.

Removal of all penalties

(without taxation, regulation)

1972: California, 34 percent. Defeated.

2006: Colorado, 41 percent. Defeated.


2008: Massachusetts, 65 percent. Approved.

Source: Marijuana Policy Project

– Article from the San Francisco Chronicle on January 5, 2010.



  1. Anonymous on

    Nice article. It does show how ridiculous it looks when you reverse the roles. Unfortunately, once territory gets taken or cheated from the indigenous population by another group it rarely is given back on the grounds that it is the nice thing to do. Ask the Muslims how many countries they gave back to the people they acquired them from. I used the word “acquire” because, similar to the Caucasians in America, they usually claim that the indigenous willingly embraced Islam and thanked them for bringing their fair and democratic form of government to them.

    Simple fact is that if whatever group first discovers a particular territory is less powerful or tricky (strategically minded) than whatever other group “discovers” it next, they don’t have a promising future in that territory. When the Spanish give back South and Central America to the descendants of the Aztecs and other natives then maybe the British will give back North America and give back Britain to the descendants of the original Celtics. Maybe the French will give France back to the descendants of the Visigoths and maybe the Arabs will give Pakistan back to the Indians. So you see, that’s the way it works. The more militarily advanced group continues to hold territory and the former holders continue to express their grief that their people didn’t devote more or their resources to military development. The American natives thought they had so many people with spears and bows and arrows that nobody could stand against them. Who knew they had to also develop explosives to compete in the military world? You gotta keep developing and improving. You can’t just throw a few virgins into a volcano and hope for the best. The preemptive virgin sacrifices didn’t prove as effective as the Aztec scientists had predicted. In fact their gods tricked them by telling them that their lord was a white man with a beard and would show up at a certain predetermined time to lead them to glory. Their gods chose the same arrival time for the white lord as the Spanish would choose to get themselves some American gold and some slave labor to dig it up. That’s how their gods sealed the Aztec’s fate. They welcomed the Spanish with open arms and the Spanish cut them off. Anyway, long story short, Natives aren’t doing themselves any good by grieving over their ancestors’ lack of effective military powers.

    The American natives screwed up and paid the price, like the Canaanites and the native Pakistanis. You snooze you lose. If only they had moved beyond the canoe to full size ships they might have stood a chance. Bunch of canoes against the Spanish navy. What odds would give me on that fight?

  2. Anonymous on

    International – Promotion of International Understanding

    To Unite All People Of Color


    United Native Americans is proud to announce that it has purchased the state of California from the whites and is throwing it open for Indian settlement.
    UNA bought California from three winos found wandering in San- Francisco. UNA decided the winos were the spokesmen for the white people of California. These winos promptly signed the treaty, which was written in the Lakota language, and sold California for three bottles of wine, one bottle of gin, and four cases of beer.
    Lehman L. Brightman, the Commissioner of Caucasian Affairs, has announced the following new policies: The Indians hereby give the whites four large reservations of ten acres each at the following locations: Death Valley, The Utah Salt Flats, The Badlands of South Dakota, and the Yukon in Alaska. These reservations shall belong to the whites ‘for as long as the sun shines or the grass grows’ (or until the Indians want it back.)
    All land on the reservations, of course, will be held in trust for the whites by the Bureau of Caucasian Affairs, and any white who wants to use his land in any way must secure permission from Commissioner Brightman.
    Of course, whites will be allowed to sell trades and handicrafts at stands by the highway. Each white will be provided annually with one blanket, one pair of tennis shoes, a supply of Spam, and a copy of ‘The Life of Crazy Horse’.
    If you are competent enough, you will be able to be a BCA reservation superintendent. Applicants must have less than one year of education, must not speak English, must have an authoritarian personality, proof of dishonesty, and a certificate of incompetence. No whites need apply.
    Commissioner Brightman also announced the founding of four boarding schools, to which white youngsters will be sent at the age of six (6). ‘We want to take those kids far away from the backward culture of their parents,’ he said. The schools will be located on Alcatraz Island, the Florida Everglades, Point Barrow Alaska, and Hong Kong. All courses will be taught in Indian languages, and there will be demerits for any child caught speaking English. All students arriving at the school will immediately be given IQ tests to determine their understanding of Indian language, spirituality and hunting skills.
    Hospitals will be established for the reservations as follows: Whites at Death Valley may go to the Bangor, Maine Hospital; those at the Utah Salt Flats may go to the Juneau, Alaska Hospital; those at the Yukon may go to the Miami Beach Hospital; and those at the Badlands may go to the Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. Each hospital will have a staff of two part-time doctors and a part-time chiropractor who have all passed first aid tests. And each hospital will be equipped with a scalpel, a jack knife, a saw, a modern tourniquet, and a large bottle of aspirin.
    In honor of the whites, many cities, street cars, sports teams and products will be given traditional white names.
    One famous Indian movie director has even announced that in his upcoming film, ‘Custer’s Last Stand’, he will use many actual whites to play the parts of the soldiers, speaking real English. But of course, the part of Custer will be played by noted Indian actor Jay Silverheels.
    Certain barbaric white customs will, of course, not be allowed. Whites will not be allowed to practice their heathen religions, and will be required to attend Indian ceremonies. Missionaries will be sent from each Indian Nation to convert the whites on the reservations. White churches will either be made into amusement parks or museums, or they will be torn down and the bricks and ornaments sold as novelties, souvenirs and curiosities.

  3. freethehumans on

    its wha you got on the inside, people so pretty in their ribbons and bows with their little dogs warmer than a homeless man on the side of the street.. wake up motherfuckers!

  4. freethehumans on

    they wouldn’t be able to make large amounts of money from smuggling them. they smuggled coak in the iran/contra affair in the 80’s and created the crack epidemic in south central and now they are doing the same in afghanistan except now its heroin. they also would lose a lot from not persecuting people. im 19 years old and grew up not knowing any of this shit, i had to find and research it myself. you fucking older generations need to stop turning round and taking it HARD in the ass. buncha pussies curressing the balls of the governemnt ever so slightly in your mouths.. dont you know sending your kids to public schools brainwashes them and we are eating foods with hardly any nutritional value? did you know we were put on this earth 250,000 years ago geneticly and eveolution does not occur in the human being? bill clinton, the president of much for a great amount of years i was in the minimum security prison i.e the school system, killed two children for seeing a cocaine drop, TRUE FUCKING STORY. you work fucking worthless talentless jobs for the little comforts we get and when young ones ask why you say , “its just the way it is”. fuck that and fuck you. if you accept how things are now you are a blowed up cock sucking peckerwood.

  5. joe on

    The only dangerous harm that we get from marijuana is Prohibition.