Jodie Emery Calls California Marijuana Vote a “Step Forward”

Voters in California rejected a ballot measure on November 2 that would have made theirs the first state to legalize marijuana. But Jodie Emery, a Vancouver resident who’s a leading member of the legalization movement, told the Straight she doesn’t see the defeat at the polls as a failure.

“It was a huge step forward—the fact that it was taken seriously, that the debate did take place, that mainstream media covered it on a regular basis, and that we got all of our arguments and points out there,” she said by phone from Oakland.


Proposition 19—or the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010—failed in a vote that went 46.1 for and 53.9 percent against.

Emery, the wife of Marc Emery—who is serving a five-year sentence in a U.S. federal prison for selling marijuana seeds—maintained that the “yes” campaign did everything right. She argued that the measure failed as a result of a powerful push from groups that profit from the prohibition of marijuana.

“There were a lot of growers and dispensary owners who were telling their medical-marijuana patients that they were going to lose their rights and just spreading a lot of misinformation,” Emery said. “Really, it was just to protect their own profits.”

Emery argued that the legalization of marijuana in California would likely have translated into a decrease in violent crime in British Columbia. “It would have reduced the price of marijuana so much that the gangs in B.C. wouldn’t have been able to compete,” she said.

At the same time, Emery continued, Canada’s Conservative government is intensifying efforts to combat marijuana cultivation and distribution with heavy-handed law-enforcement tactics. “And there are numerous studies that show that when prohibition is more strictly enforced, that drug violence gets worse and the cartels make more money,” she said. “So with the Conservative government’s current campaign, we’re going to see the situation in Canada worsen.”

– Article from The Georgia Straight on November 3.

No vote fails to snuff pot debate

by Douglas Quan, Postmedia News

The failure of California’s marijuana-legalization initiative, Proposition 19, now raises an inevitable question: if not in the left-leaning Golden State, then where?

Backers of legalization on both sides of the border insisted Wednesday that the fight was far from over.

“We may be disappointed. We’re not discouraged. We’re certainly not defeated,” said Steve Gutwillig, California state director of the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance.

Like it or not, Prop. 19 has placed the issue of ending prohibition squarely in “mainstream” American politics, he said during a news conference at the downtown Oakland Yes to Prop. 19 headquarters.

In an opinion piece posted Wednesday on progressive website, The Huffington Post, the alliance’s executive director, Ethan Nadelmann, wrote that support for legalization had reached 50 per cent or more in several western states, including Oregon, Washington and Nevada, “so it’s reasonable to expect ballot initiatives on the issue in those states in coming years.”

“The debate is shifting from whether marijuana should be legalized to how,” he wrote.

But Tim Rosales, who managed the campaign against Prop. 19, said in an interview that the “yes” forces were “delusional” if they thought they still had momentum on their side.

California has a very progressive electorate yet they still rejected the measure, he said. “This is not where we want to go.”

If the ballot measure had passed, California would have become the first state to allow people 21 years and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to 2.25 square metres of marijuana. Local governments would also have been given the authority to tax and regulate the drug’s cultivation and retail sale. The state already allows marijuana for medicinal use.

Canadian pot producers were probably watching the vote results closely Tuesday night. The spectre of legalization in California had prompted speculation in recent weeks that a “yes” vote could deal a blow to the Canadian economy, particularly in B.C., because so much of the underground marijuana business is reliant on demand from south of the border.

But when all the votes were tallied, 54 per cent of California voters rejected the measure, while 46 per cent supported it.

The campaign’s supporters admitted that some California pot growers had opposed the measure because they feared legalization would drop their prices. They also said they could have done a better job of touting the tax-generation and job-creation benefits of legalizing recreational marijuana use.

But mostly they blamed the “no” side for waging a campaign of misinformation and scare tactics, including ads that warned voters legalization would cause people to go to work stoned and potentially lead to more car accidents.

The “no” camp cited the case of an Ottawa woman who was killed last month in California following a collision with an SUV. Police said at the time they suspected the driver of the SUV may have been impaired because of marijuana.

But Rosales said opponents were also concerned legalization would have created a “jumbled, legal nightmare,” and put state law in direct conflict with federal drug laws. What, for instance, was an employer supposed to do if a prospective employee tested positive for marijuana? Hiring that person would contravene federal drug-free workplace laws, he said.

Pro-legalization forces said there’s one thing that the “no” camp can’t deny, and that is support for legalization is growing among all segments of society, from young people to professionals. Even some law enforcement leaders have said that continuing to prosecute and throw people in jail for marijuana possession and cultivation cannot be sustained.

“It’s not just a bunch of hippies who want to get high,” said Jodie Emery, wife of Vancouver activist Marc Emery, who was recently jailed in the U.S. for selling marijuana seeds online.

Emery joined throngs of “yes” supporters — many of whom mugged for the cameras by taking slow drags on their joints — watching results come in Tuesday night in Oakland.

“There’s no way to reverse this,” she said.

An Angus Reid poll earlier this year showed that a majority of Canadians — 53 per cent — favoured regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol and tobacco.

When you have such a “fundamental disagreement” among citizens about this issue, that should send a message to lawmakers, said Eugene Oscapella, a criminal lawyer and lecturer at the University of Ottawa, who supports legalization.

“One group of society shouldn’t be imposing its will on another group in society through the use of such a powerful and punitive device as criminal law,” he said.

“There’s more and more open support for change and understanding of the futility of the current system.”

– Article from The Montreal Gazette on November 3.

Princess of Pot pushed Prop 19

by Sarah N. Fitzgerald, Metro Vancouver

Despite the defeat yesterday in a California referendum to legalize marijuana, the cannabis culture movement will not give up, said Jodie Emery, a high-profile Vancouver marijuana activist.

Emery — whose husband Marc, Vancouver’s so-called “Prince of Pot,” is serving time in a U.S. prison — was in Oakland to support Proposition 19 during the U.S. midterm elections.

“I’m sure the campaign will just start working harder on the election campaign for two years from now,” Emery said.

She called the prohibition of cannabis a failed policy that creates more harm than marijuana itself.

– Article from Metro Vancouver on November 3.

California marijuana legalization hopes go up in smoke

by Douglas Quan, Postmedia News

OAKLAND, California — Sobs and a chorus of boos mixed with the whiff of weed on Tuesday night as supporters of California’s marijuana-legalization initiative went down in defeat.

As of 10 p.m. Pacific time, results showed 56% of voters rejecting Proposition 19 and 44% supporting it with 16% of precincts reporting.

But the pro-legalization forces vowed that the fight wasn’t over and promised to come back in coming years with renewed vigour, not only in California but in other states as well.

“There’s no way to reverse this. The momentum is on our side,” said Vancouver resident Jodie Emery, wife of activist and self-styled “Prince of Pot” Marc Emery, who is serving time in a U.S. prison for selling marijuana seeds online.

Jodie Emery travelled to Oakland, the epicentre of the Yes to Prop. 19 campaign, to help make last-minute calls to voters and to deliver live webcam updates to viewers back home.

“Shame on the anti-(Prop.) 19 people,” Ms. Emery yelled, momentarily livening a mostly subdued crowd. “We’re Canadian and we’re angry.”

Ms. Emery joined throngs of legalization supporters — some of whom mugged for cameras by taking slow drags of marijuana — in the parking lot of Oaksterdam University, a trade school in downtown Oakland that teaches marijuana cultivation and commerce.

She and other legalization supporters blamed a surge of negative advertising and misinformation from the opposition camp in recent weeks for turning the tide.

But Dan Rush, a campaign supporter and representative of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said the “yes” forces could also have done a better job of touting the tax-generation and job-creation benefits of legalization.

The defeat didn’t come as a complete surprise. Polls had showed support for the marijuana initiative waning in recent days.

A yes vote would have meant that anyone 21 years and older could possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to 2.25 square metres of marijuana.

Local governments would also have been given the authority to tax and regulate the drug’s cultivation and retail sale.

Fourteen years ago, the state became the first jurisdiction in North America to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The spectre of marijuana legalization in California prompted speculation in recent weeks that the marijuana industry in Canada, particularly in B.C., could be dealt a huge blow if the initiative had passed.

Marijuana production generates $3- to $4- billion in B.C. and much of the demand for “B.C. bud” comes from users south of the border, Darryl Plecas a professor at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, B.C., has said.

Supporters of the initiative, who in recent weeks had included celebrities Danny Glover and Snoop Dogg, argued that legalization would help raise huge amounts of tax revenue, free up law enforcement resources to tackle more serious crimes, and generate agriculture, retail and textile jobs.

Ms. Emery said it would also have been a huge boost to tourism in California.

“Go to Disneyland. Go to a cannabis café,” she said.

But opponents said widespread use of marijuana would lead to the use of more dangerous drugs and worsen the addiction problem and that legalization would run against federal laws.

Ms. Emery acknowledged that some California growers were also against Prop. 19 because they feared that prices would drop with a yes vote.

About an hour before polls closed, volunteers at the Yes to Prop. 19 headquarters sat at banks of cluttered desks and paced on their cellphones made frantic last-minute calls to voters.

Among them was Gayle Quin of Victoria, a longtime pot activist.

Ms. Quin, wearing a hemp-based tank top and skirt, said even if the initiative was defeated, no one could deny that support for legalization is growing.

The Harper government needs to see that the “world is changing,” and keep up with the times, she said.

“I’ve been an avid cannabis advocate since I’ve been 13 and I’m getting tired of it — seeing people go to jail over a plant.”

– Article from The Vancouver Sun on November 3.