Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in California: An Interview With Steve Kubby

Activist Steve Kubby, co-author of a new legalization bill for California, at Seattle Hempfest.Activist Steve Kubby, co-author of a new legalization bill for California, at Seattle Hempfest.Steve Kubby is a long-time medical marijuana activist, cancer patient, author, entrepreneur, Libertarian party candidate, and key figure in the drafting and passage of California’s Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana in the state in 1996.

Kubby has co-authored a new California cannabis legalization ballot initiative – the “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act 2012” initiative – with former Orange County Judge (and LEAP member) James Gray and Jack Herer’s former attorney Bill McPike.

Canadian pot activist David Malmo-Levine, has followed the California cannabis legalization initiative issue closely and was an opponent of Proposition 19, the 2010 ballot initiative to legalize cannabis in California. Some in the cannabis legalization movement have accused Malmo-Levine and other growers and dealers of being “greedy” for favoring the existing California Prop. 215 medical marijuana laws over Prop. 19 legalization, but Malmo-Levine maintains that Prop. 19 would have resulted in most growers and dealers remaining criminals and therefore was not acceptable.

Malmo-Levine has written a history of the origin of the different legalization models here.

Kubby’s new initiative would result in hundreds of thousands of licenses for growing and retailing cannabis to be permitted as currently exists in the California winery industry and is supported by Malmo-Levine and other “Stoners Against Proposition 19”.

Steve Kubby was able to answer a few burning questions on Malmo-Levine’s mind in the following interview for Cannabis Culture:

DAVID MALMO-LEVINE: For the CC audience, could you briefly tell us about the “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012” and list a few of the features of the initiative that differentiate it from the 2010 California legalization initiative Prop. 19 and other possible future initiatives such as the “California Cannabis Hemp & Health Initiative 2012”, the “Repeal Prohibition of Cannabis Act of 2012” and the “Legalization of Marijuana Act of 2012”?

Steve Kubby: The “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012” initiative was written by Jack Herer’s longtime attorney, Bill McPike, who also helped draft the “California Cannabis Hemp & Health Initiative,” with Jack Herer and Eddy Lepp. I asked Bill to draft a new initiative that featured full repeal, safeguards against the feds and was as simple and easy to understand as possible. Judge James Gray and I teamed up to work with Bill and edit his draft into something that came at the war on cannabis from several different directions.

So there’s a judge’s view, a defense attorney’s view and my own view as a patient and a successful defendant. Everything that we have included in the new initiative is intended to remove cannabis from the state and federal Schedule 1 classification. So far, the CCHHI ignores rescheduling and the “Repeal Prohibition of Cannabis Act of 2012” only addresses state classification. Our initiative orders the California Attorney General, Congress members and Senators to get cannabis rescheduled at the federal level as their highest priority.

DML: Could you also comment on the poll released shortly after Nov. 2nd 2010 that pointed out that 31% of those who voted no on Prop. 19 were supporters of legalization but didn’t like Prop. 19. What do you think was the biggest concern of the “yes legalization, no Prop. 19” folks?

SK: Our initiative name and wording is based upon a key statement that has received 62% approval in polling. That statement is, “We should regulate marijuana like alcohol and keep it from minors.” In contrast, Prop. 19 never polled above 56% and therefore never really had a serious chance of winning.

Furthermore, Prop. 19 attempted to create a business model that clearly favored some over others and was perceived by many growers as an all out economic war that would leave the pioneers in ashes and feed the greedy bottom line of a few major corporations.

Ed Rosenthal and I decided to hold our noses and support Prop. 19, because we were certain it would fail and we wanted it to lose by as little as possible to avoid the media proclaiming that legalization is dead. Unlike Prop. 19, our initiative does not create any privileged business groups, allow any special taxes, or create new crimes, except for cops who violate our law. Those police and public officials who seek to undermine our new act will face $7,500 minimum fines, per instance, without immunity.

DML: My research on the subject of legalization led me to conclude that “who gets to deal” was the most important issue when discussing legalization within the cannabis community during the last 40 years. I also found that until 2009, the “exclusive” model was supported by only governments and cops, while the “inclusive model” has been supported by a vast majority of cannabis activists since the movement began.

SK: That certainly appears to be the case. Folks who have invested their lives in pioneering the cannabis way of life felt betrayed and sold out. This time we are going to shift gears and fight fire with fire. That’s right, this time we will rely upon Judge Jim Gray as our chief proponent and other members of LEAP as proponents to carry a new message to voters that will literally fight fire with fire.

This time we will run a campaign of former drug warriors who have turned against this failed policy and can look California voters, square in the eyes and tell them it is time to repeal these bad laws. We believe that a campaign of fighting fire with fire will be much better received than the approach taken by the Prop. 19 folks to create special taxes and establish a “limited number of licenses” model. Considering that the Orange County Register has already written an editorial of support for our initiative, we believe that such an endorsement from a conservative newspaper in the heart of Southern California shows that we can also win the support of those who voted against 19 for other reasons.

DML: Your initiative guarantees that cannabis will be regulated like alcohol. Will your initiative destroy the “limited number of licenses” model set up in Los Angeles and Oakland” or will there have to be subsequent legal battles required to do that?

SK: The IRS is already hard at work destroying the dispensaries, refusing to allow any business deductions for those who sell controlled substances. In other words, you can’t deduct the cost of buying your cannabis or paying your employees and must pay full tax on all sales. Our initiative will save the dispensaries and permanently end the raids, because we will get cannabis rescheduled. On the other hand, special taxes will be out and any restrictions on licenses will be hotly contested.

DML: Your initiative prevents advertising for cannabis unless it’s within a medical context. Will “replacement therapy” with alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceuticals or caffeine” or “stress, depression, fatigue” be part of that medical context, or will a narrower definition of medical arise within the advertising regulations?

LEAP's Judge James Gray, a co-author and proponent of the "Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012".LEAP’s Judge James Gray, a co-author and proponent of the “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012”.SK: Judge Gray wants to avoid “glamorizing” cannabis, while still respecting the rights of medical patients and their providers. Since he has donated over a year of his time to campaign for Prop. 19, we believe Judge Gray has an excellent sense of what the voters have as issues. Our team has been careful to listen to Judge Gray and that is what led to the ban on non medical advertising.

Based upon my experiences living in Mendocino after Measure G passed and legalized 25 plants per adult, I can tell you that many people flaunted our new freedom, grew big stinky plants in suburban neighborhoods, flashed their stash and cash in public and succeeded in turning our political allies against us. Ultimately, a new measure was introduced to kill all our new found freedom and it passed. So the lesson here is to avoid situations that could result in a backlash to make cannabis illegal once again. In that context, we feel the advertising ban is a necessary part of transitioning into full legalization.

DML: Assuming the “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act” is financed well and makes it on the ballot and passes, will there be future battles that California activists will have to win to gain full dignity (and if so what) or is this “total legalization” with nothing more to win?

SK: Yes, it will be total legalization, on the day it passes. Unfortunately, the day after it passes, we will face endless challenges and threats intended to undermine our new freedom and scare people away from exercising that freedom. At that point we will need every activist to join the fight and ensure that police and public officials obey our new law.

DML: What are the financial hurdles that must be overcome by those wishing to support this initiative, and what can be done by the readership of CC to help you out?

SK: We will be rolling out the new campaign at the state convention for the Libertarian Party of California on Friday, April 8, 2012. Within Libertarian circles are people who have written me checks of $10,000 or more. I raised the $500,000 to put Prop. 215 on the ballot and I raised $600,000 for my legal defense fund. I can and will raise the $2 million we will need for this campaign.

Meanwhile there are two ways CC readers can get involved. If they send us a check for $100 or more they will be official founding donors of the campaign. If you are a business and would like to become an official sponsor of the initiative, we have a program that will allow you to piggyback on our media coverage.

DML: I support this initiative because I believe that “regulation like alcohol” allows we in the cannabis community enough dignity to survive the witch-hunt against us and will hopefully prevent any monopolies from arising in cultivation and distribution. Are you having trouble uniting the medical movement and the recreational movement behind your initiative? What does Dennis Peron think of it? What do the Herer folks think of it?

SK: As someone who has been at ground zero in this movement for the past 20 years, I have a keen sense of what is possible here in California and I have the track record to back it up. For example, I recall that some of our fellow activists were extremely reluctant to back 215, because of the cultivation clause. I argued that it was meaningless without the right to grow our own medicine and that cultivation wasn’t that big an issue with voters. In contrast, they were very worried it would prevent the initiative from passing. I even recall them advocating we wait out this election cycle, since it was too late to qualify a less controversial version on the ballot.

Yet during the actual campaign, the issue of cultivation was hardly ever mentioned and was not a significant part of the debate. In fact, our more controversial version received the absolute highest percentages in passing of any initiative since then, all of which have many more restrictions regarding cultivation than 215. So I think folks like Peron and the Jack Herer CCHHI2012 group know my history and respect my work, even if we may not agree on everything.

Visit Steve Kubby’s website to find out more about the “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012”.