We Must Choose One Initiative

“There are three viable initiatives for cannabis legalization that are bidding to make the ballot in California, and the honest truth is that we cannot afford to split the effort for legalization into three camps, all fighting for resources and energy. We must choose one effort to rally around and all put our best foot forward if we have any chance of making the ballot and actually passing a cannabis freedom initiative in 2012. Any of the initiatives are better than what we have now by a long shot.” – Mickey Martin, Dec. 30, 2011


For once I find myself agreeing with Mickey Martin. We shouldn’t be fighting amongst each other for funding and volunteers, we should just pick the best initiative and go with it.

I should disclose at this point I also serve as “Director of Activist Communications” for the Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act (RMLW) team. I’ve already chosen which initiative is the best one. But I will still try and do a good job of accurately pointing out the relevant information that would allow an undecided person to decide which initiative it would be in their own interest to support. The comment section will be open – as always – for others to add information they find relevant and correct me on any mistakes they feel I may have made in this analysis.

There is talk on the Drug Policy Forum of California email list of a “Cannadome” – a “four initiatives enter and one leaves” debate event. However, don’t hold your breath for RMLW to participate in such an event, as others involved in it enjoy misspeaking about our team and then when we successfully refute their confused statements they refuse to print retractions, ever. For example, Mickey Martin misrepresented RMLW Chief Officer Steve Kubby’s statement of support for all the initiatives as a statement saying he was pulling his initiative from the running – and never printed a retraction:


Even when it was pointed out to him that he was mistaken:


Bill Panzer called me a liar, and then failed to apologize when I proved myself to be correct (see the article and the comment section, DML, Wed, 11/16/2011 – 12:24):


We expect more of the same from these people.

The RMLW team is all for the public comparing our initiatives and for our community to rally behind the best one, but I feel such a comparison could take place in an article like this far more easily than in an event.

Currently in the running there are four marijuana-related initiatives that could be on the California ballot in 2012. Three involve legalization and one involves the regulation of medicinal marijuana. Let’s look at the medicinal marijuana regulation initiative first.

It’s called the “California Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act”.

It has a website: http://www.regulatemedicalmarijuana.org/

You can read the actual initiative here: americansforsafeaccess.org/downloads/MMRCT.pdf

I read the initiative and then sent it’s author and chief proponent, California Cannabis Association organizer and attorney George Mull some questions – his answers are in block quotes:

1) It says in your press release of Jan. 19th, 2012, that:

“Mandate state registration after July 1, 2013 for every person in California engaged in cultivating, processing, manufacturing, transporting, distributing, selling medical marijuana for use by others.”

Would federal prosecutors have access to this information?

The initiative mandates that “No funds shall be spent by state or local officials to assist federal authorities in enforcing marijuana prohibition on activities carried out by persons in compliance with the provisions of this article. Section 11362.97(b). This mandates that state and local officials not actively assist federal authorities, but nothing passed as state law, whether by the legislature or by initiative, would be able to stop a federal warrant.

If the answer is yes, does this not put everyone at risk of federal prosecution?

There is always a risk of federal prosecution and would continue to be with registration. The hope is that with a well regulated system in place, there is actually less likelihood of federal prosecution of registrants as long as they are acting in conformance with the regulations.

If the answer is no, what provisions within the Act will prevent federal prosecutors having access to this information?

As stated earlier, a proper subpoena could get at specific information.

2) It says on the FAQ page:

“While the Act imposes a sales tax of 2.5% on medical marijuana, patients can expect an overall decrease in the cost of their medication due to the lower operating expenses from a safe, well-regulated environment.”

What operating expenses would you expect to be lowered from this Act?

The better way to view this, in my opinion, is that registration, and the concomitant benefit of knowing that the business is legal and authorized under state and local rules, will allow more certainty as to return on investment. This will allow providers to feel secure in recovering their investment over a longer period, without feeling they need to recover their investment in a short time out of fear they will be closed before making their money back.

3) Does Article 2.8 of the Act permit a minimum of one dispensary per 50,000 residents of a city? Is there a maximum number of dispensaries allowed per 50,000 residents?

Yes, there will be a minimum of one dispensary per 50,000 residents in any city with a population of greater than 50,000 persons. The maximum in excess of that could be set by the county or city. Any city or county wanting LESS than one per 50,000 would only be able to accomplish that by putting a measure on the ballot and having the people approve that smaller number or ban.

His answers reveal to me three things:

1) He is unconcerned that this initiative solves the US Federal Government’s only obstacle of rounding up of all those involved in dispensaries at once – how to get all the information about everyone involved. The Feds lack the resources to do this … this initiative does this.

2) Any concerns addressed by med pot clubs being “more legal” under state law will be outweighed by the “making it easier for the Feds to get everyone” element, and therefore there will be no savings to “operational expenses”.

3) His initiative makes total prohibitions difficult but monopolies easy. In contrast, RMLW makes both total prohibitions AND monopolies impossible.

For these reasons, the “California Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act” is worse than no change at all, and I will be advising people not to support it or vote for it.

Now let’s look at the remaining three initiatives:

The “California Cannabis Hemp & Health Initiative 2012” is by far the best of the three initiatives from the cannabis community’s perspective. It has large personal grow allowances – 99 plants – minimal licensing requirements and minimal taxation. It is also known as the “Jack Herer” initiative and has been trying to get on the ballot for years. It was written by Chris Conrad and edited by Jack’s lawyer – Bill McPike. Mr. McPike was also the main author of RMLW.

The reason it probably won’t make the ballot this year is the reason it hasn’t ever made the ballot – it has yet to attract the millions of dollars required to collect signatures. My intuition tells me that it won’t get this money until there are thousands of “like-wine” pot cafes willing to pool their resources, as the billionaires who fund initiatives are careful only to give money to initiatives that poll over 60%, and the “minimal regulation” model that CCHHI represents barely polls over 50%.

If you happen to be one of those billionaires who is willing to put a million or two on a longshot, this is the website to go to:


The last remaining initiatives are the “repeal” initiative and the “wine model” initiative. Both stand a chance of attracting major funding.

Let’s examine these last two initiatives with these questions in mind.

How does the wording of the initiative poll among potential voters?

How much money has the initiative already raised?

How many signatures has the initiative gathered so far?

How many endorsements has the initiative managed to gather?

Let’s look at the numbers and see which one is in the lead.


“A recent article by Phil Smith of StoptheDrugWar.org reports, “Marijuana Legalization Trails in New California Poll”. According to Smith, “The Public Policy Institute of California poll had 51% opposing pot legalization, with 46% in favor.” However, we should point out that there is a world of difference between “legalization” and “regulation”.

Take the following poll by the Economist on regulation:

30. Some people say marijuana should be treated like alcohol and tobacco. They say it should be regulated and taxed and made illegal for minors. Do you agree?

Strongly agree . . 34%

Agree . . 24%

Neither agree, nor disagree . . 19%

Disagree . . 7%

Strongly disagree . . 16%

As you can see, Strongly Agree + Agree = 34% + 24% or 58% support. However, this was a nationwide poll of 1,000 respondents. When data just for the West was teased out of the results by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, the polling climbs to 62%.


In this independent poll of cannabis activists on Facebook, RMLW has beaten it’s next closest competitor by 3 to 1 (221 votes to 72 votes and 37 votes):


Amount of money and number of signatures

“But the news wasn’t all bad–apparently, the fourth quarter of last year  saw a major boost for the so-called Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Initiative, which is slated for this November’s ballot and if passed, would effectively legalize marijuana for recreational use by adults. Specifically, according to the campaign’s organizers, they raised $100,000 and collected 20,000 signatures last fall.”- OC Weekly, Jan 3, 2012


No other initiative even comes close to those numbers … or looks like they will, for that matter.

Number of endorsements


Gov. Gary Johnson

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher

Kenny Loggins

Judge James P. Gray (ret.)

LAPD Deputy Chief S. Downing (ret.)

Assemblymember Chris Norby

Lt. Diane Goldstein (ret.)

Ed Rosenthal

NORML Founder Keith Stroup

Tommy Chong

Rick Steves

Vivian McPeak, Seattle Hempfest

Lynnette Shaw Marin Alliance

Alice Huffman, President California NAACP

Rob Kampia, MPP

Norm Stamper, former Seattle Police Chief

Craig Beresh California Cannabis Coalition

A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing)

LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition)

The Libertarian Party

Marc Emery

Dr. Lester Grinspoon


Grace Slick

Dr. Lester Grinspoon


We can spend all day and all night arguing about which initiative has the better wording … and the fact of the matter is, we already have done so:




But the truth of the matter is that one team has gotten organized first and submitted it’s language first, is way ahead in public AND activist polling AND fundraising AND endorsements. It’s the wine model by a long shot.

The RMLW team has paid for a professional private polling firm to see how our initiative does with 800 potential California voters. We expect the results back in late January. We expect to get at least 55% support for our initiative. We expect to attract big money donations if our initiative does well in this poll. If other initiatives can’t even raise the money to do such polling and we poll at or over 55%, we strongly recommend those organizing the other initiatives to read the writing on the wall, quit beating their heads against the wall and join our initiative early enough to take positions of responsibility and influence. Being on the winning team is the best way to ensure one will actually earn the bragging rights that is inevitably tied to such a victory.

Many people predict an increase in cannabis crackdowns in the USA. As one writer put it:

“Logic and culture will not be relevant in the coming marijuana madness; all that shall matter is that even more money and resources will accrue to the benefit of the most powerful in society.” –http://publiccitizen.sonomaportal.com/2012/01/19/marijuana-madness/

The madness will not end by educational activities alone. It will not end by appealing to reason, or lobbying politicians, or through the courts. Only the initiative process has a hope of success, because it’s the only process that has yielded results.

Perhaps, if the wine model doesn’t pass in 2012, we can all band together and try the repeal model next time. Perhaps, if the wine model does pass in 2012, we can band together and push the Jack Herer initiative through next time. That’s the type of unity that the movement should be displaying during these difficult times.

Given the fact that times are tough, money raising is not easy, the raids are happening left and right … it’s time to get honest with ourselves. If we’re going to be honest with ourselves and each other, the initiative we should get behind is Regulate Marijuana Like Wine.

So let’s stop wasting time and energy and let’s all legalize cannabis. For everyone. Together.

David Malmo-Levine