FEW COULD LEGALLY GROW POT UNDER PROP. 64

Saturday, 9-5-2016

INTRODUCTION: BEYOND THE RHETORIC TO THE TRUTH ABOUT PROP. 64

I thought for decades that legalization meant that we would all keep doing what we were doing without fear of arrest or prosecution. I failed to grasp that the powers that be would see it as just another angle [from] which to gain control and hand opportunity to the wealthiest, most ruthless, [and] most connected…”
– Vivian McPeak, Executive Director, Seattle Hempfest

Proponents of the Adult Use Marijuana Act (Prop. 64) have been fueling their campaign with buzz words every progressive voter wants to hear, saying the initiative would end the drug war, free up cops and courts to focus on true crime, and even let imprisoned pot POWs go free. But a deeper look beyond the headlines and beyond the rhetoric, a deeper look at the text of the initiative itself, reveals that Prop. 64 will not do what it claims. In fact, in many cases, it will do the opposite. It’s almost as if, in this age of sound-bytes and skimming headlines, Prop. 64’s proponents are operating under the assumption that Californians will simply not take the time to actually read the initiative. And clocking in at a mammoth 62 pages of dense legalese, they’re probably right.

But no one signs a 62-page contract without reading it first. And this particular contract will be binding for you, the ones you love and our environment, having a direct impact on your life whether you consume cannabis or not. If there is any cue we can take from Bernie Sanders on this issue, it is that we must not support an initiative simply because it’s on the ballot. We must devote time to reading and understanding it, to know what we’re voting for, and we must only support it “if the wording is reasonable,” to use his words. Otherwise, we, like so many in Washington State, may come to regret it.

Keep in mind that when progressive leaders call for the decriminalization of cannabis and an end to prohibition, what they’re really saying is no one should go to jail over a joint, and no one should have their lives ruined by having a criminal record for cannabis. On this point, it’s safe to say that most sensible citizens in California agree. But these leaders are not saying to vote for any specific initiative, and it is highly unlikely that they have read Prop. 64. Well, I have. And I am here to tell you that Prop. 64 is not what we thought it was.

Ironically, this so-called “legalization” initiative doesn’t actually legalize cannabis, nor does it end prohibition. In fact, it leaves all but the most inconsequential cannabis laws intact, and even creates new prohibitions that currently are not on the books.

Despite the fact that it touts itself as a “legalization” initiative, the text shows that Prop. 64 would make criminals out of casual cannabis consumers for activities that are not crimes today. Regardless of supporters’ claims that it would protect patients’ rights, the text proves it would virtually eliminate them. And irrespective of Prop. 64’s assertions that it would protect small farmers and the environment, by allowing corporate mega grows to cultivate an unlimited number of plants, Prop. 64 would both wipe out the mom-and-pop farmers who built the industry and set our already drought-ridden state up for unprecedented environmental disaster. Even the claims that Prop. 64 would reduce the prison population and end racial disparity in arrests are misleading and unsupported by the text, and the promises of tax revenue are outright deception.

Evidently, what Prop. 64 claims to do and what the text of the initiative actually will do are two different things entirely. We owe it to ourselves and the planet to take the time to actually read the initiative before making a decision one day in November that could have far-reaching consequences for generations to come.

Friday, August 26, 2016

NO TAX WINDFALL FOR CITIES AND COUNTIES UNDER PROP. 64

Prop. 64 has always been touted as a way to generate income for the state’s coffers, and most people have assumed that would translate to much-needed funding for public schools, health care, infrastructure and cash-strapped local governments. Even the state’s own Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, formed by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, concluded that “taxes on legal marijuana should be used for education, public health programs and public safety.” Unfortunately, under Prop. 64, that would not quite come to fruition. Instead, all tax revenue would go into the California Marijuana Tax Fund – an enormous slush fund designated solely to financing the massive bureaucracy that Prop. 64 would create:

Section 34018
(a) The California Marijuana Tax Fund is hereby created in the State Treasury. The Tax Fund shall consist of all taxes, interest, penalties, and other amounts collected and paid to the board pursuant to this part, less payment of refunds.
(b) Notwithstanding any other law, the California Marijuana Tax Fund is a special trust fund established solely to carry out the purposes of the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act…
(c) Notwithstanding any other law, the taxes imposed by this part and the revenue derived therefrom, including investment interest, shall not be considered to be part of the General Fund…

Not only does this create a system ripe for corruption and cronyism, since only Gavin Newsom – who is slated to head up this recreational weed bureau and oversee its massive treasury – and his appointees would have the power to decide who receives those millions, but it is in stark contrast to what’s happening in other states that have recreational cannabis. In Colorado, $40 million a year is ear-marked for building schools, while 15 percent of excise tax revenue goes to local governments. In Washington, the $67.5 million in pot taxes the state collected last year are being “directed toward its general fund and health-related services,” according to an article in Bloomberg. But even in those states, only localities that opt to participate in recreational commercialization may receive a share of the revenue. And in California’s case, almost no city or county would see any benefit at all, because, according to NORML, more than 75 percent of the state either already has bans or is considering enacting bans. But that’s a moot point, since Prop. 64 would give absolutely none of the tax revenue to the General Fund in the first place. So, despite the rhetoric from proponents, no city or county would stand to gain any tax revenue at all from Prop. 64.
 
And it’s worth pointing out that in Washington, where recreational tax revenue is shared with its general fund and health care, it wasn’t initially this way. Like Prop. 64, Washington’s I-502 originally “’didn’t provide for any revenue going to cities or counties,’ said Candice Bock, a government relations advocate with the Association of Washington Cities…. That frustrated many county and local municipalities and lead [sic] to the passing of House Bill 2136, which set in place a program of tax fund sharing between the state, counties and cities.”

Surely, the proponents of Prop. 64 are aware that local governments will not be getting a piece of the pot pie. Yet they promote the idea of a tax windfall as if the people of California will actually see some benefit from it, when in reality, they will not. The only thing they will see is the wool over their eyes. This is yet another one of Prop. 64’s deceptions.
If you’re beginning to feel misled, you’re not alone. Even a California judge recently ruled that Prop. 64 has “made misleading statements.” Take for instance the patently false assertion on its website about “protecting workers.” There is absolutely nothing in the entire text of Prop. 64 that supports this claim. In fact, the initiative states the opposite. Prop. 64 offers no protections against being fired for cannabis consumption, while explicitly protecting employers:
Sec. 11362.45

Nothing in section 11362.1 shall be construed or interpreted to…

(f) affect the ability of employers to have policies prohibiting the use of marijuana by employees or prospective employees.
Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric; read the text for yourself. Clearly, what Prop. 64 proponents say, and what the initiative will actually do, are two highly incongruent things. 

If you want to keep medicating, start educating. We have only one chance to defeat Prop. 64, so spread the word. Share and re-post this on social media and hit the forums hard. This article is the second installment in a series on the various ways Prop. 64 will do more harm than good for California. Sign up for email updates on future articles and check back often.
 

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