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The Prop. 19 Battle Lines Are Drawn: Will Californians Make the Right Decision and Vote to Legalize Pot?

Prop. 19 would make California the first state to legalize marijuana.

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The Prop 19 campaign fervently hopes they continue to do just that. Its worst fear at this point is a last-minute negative advertising blitz, and there is still time for that to happen. That's because, like the opposition, Prop 19 is essentially broke. Although it has raised more than $700,000 this year, it only has $67,000 in the bank. An independent pro-Prop 19 group,

Students for Sensible Drug Policy(SSDP), has another $100,000 in the bank, thanks to surprise donations from Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapsand the DC-area store Capitol Hemp. SSDP is spending the money between now and Election Day on a Yes We Cannabis Fire Truck Tour doing voter registration and get-out-the-vote work on California campuses.

For the opposition, the lack of cash means it has to work to try to get its message out. Aside from the former drug czars coming out against the measure, a handful of debates, the penning of some op-eds, and a presence on the web, People First hasn't done much. It has held a handful of lackluster press conferences, which have generated some coverage, and spokesmen are always willing to give good quote when reporters call, but so far, that's about it.

Other than for the lack of cash, opposition from the usual suspects is pretty much as expected. What is surprising is the emergence of a vocal anti-Prop 19 movement with the marijuana community.  From cannabis connoisseur Dragonfly de la Luz and her

Stoners Against Prop 19to Vote No on Prop 19, with its warning of a "Prop 19 cartel," to medical marijuana dispensary operators like HopeNet, the Green Door, and the California Cannabis Association, a fifth column within the marijuana movement is seeking to defeat Prop 19.

Their arguments, which can be read on their web sites, are varied, but boil down to a couple of main claims: that passage of Prop 19 will somehow hurt medical marijuana patients or dispensaries, and that Prop 19 is "not legalization" because it sets possession limits and allows for taxation and regulation of cultivation and distribution. There is an additional fillip of conspiracy-tinged fears that Prop 19 will lead to a corporate takeover of the pot industry. Left unspoken is the economic self-interest of growers and dispensary operators.

Those arguments have been heartily answered in detail by, among others, Chris Conrad ( here), national NORML outreach director Russ Bellville ( here.) Those readers interested in the battle over clauses, intentions, and meanings can compare the two sets of sites and decide for themselves.

"They have said nothing we have not been able to disprove," said Conrad, "but it doesn't matter because they're not reality-based. They're like our own little Tea Party, with a politics of fear and conspiracy stuff, tangents about corporate takeovers, and libertarian anti-tax and anti-regulation notions."

"We want parity and equality, and that means if you sell something, you have to pay taxes," said Mikki Norris, Conrad's long-time partner in life and activism. "The anti-tax thing has inserted itself into every movement, including this one."

Tensions boiled over during a debate last weekend at the Cow Palace in San Francisco during the International Cannabis and Hemp Expo, a pot industry trade show. Medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee, the primary motivating force behind Prop 19, was subjected to loud heckling and shouting as he attempted to explain why pot people should vote for the initiative. A disgusted Lee finally rolled away in his wheelchair, leaving Conrad to carry on.

Nevertheless, Conrad sees the "Stoners Against Prop 19" types more as a distraction than as serious opposition. "I don't think they're that important, really," he said. "We have some serious opposition, and we're waiting for those ads to come out, we're waiting for the school bus full of children with the stoned driver. We're more worried about that kind of opposition in the works than we are by these people."

 
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