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Marijuana Legalization: 'No We Can't?'

The prospects for TaxCann 2010 may be dim because fewer young progressives vote in mid-term elections. Plus, the $1 trillion War on Drugs has failed.



The Tax Cannabis 2010 initiative can't count on cannabis' strongest ally — progressives — because history indicates they stay home in mid-term elections, analysts say. Fifty-six percent of Californians favor legalization, but voter turnout will drop dramatically from the historic 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama. Obama's election saw 80 percent of registered voters turn out to vote one way or the other, but perhaps 60 percent of registered voters will turn out this year, said professional pollster Ben Tulchin.

That drop is expected to include many youthful idealists. "A lot of younger voters voted for the first time, a lot of ethnic voters voted for the first time. That dynamic won't be in play this year," Tulchin said. "Quite frankly, when you go from 80 to 60, that difference in the electorate is the progressives."

And those who do vote are there for the main event: the likely gubernatorial election of either Republican businesswoman Meg Whitman or former Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

"My experience is candidate campaigns drive turnout," Tulchin said. "They are the highest profile in terms of what people are paying attention to and that drives turnout. Every ballot initiative is along for the ride."

So is Whitman and Brown's stated opposition to reform going to hurt the initiative? It could, Tulchin said, but opinions of politicians are at new lows. "Voters are cynical," Tulchin added. "They're fed up with the status quo."

Driving that cynicism is a cycle of budget crises that California's leaders cannot seem to terminate. California's wrecked balance sheets actually fuel TaxCannabis 2010. Pot sales could mean billions of dollars in local taxes, and there's early proof that TaxCannabis 2010 can amass the campaign funding necessary to advertise that fact. Their direct opponents, on the other hand, don't seem to have much cash for a fight.

When Whitman and Brown tussle over fixing the state budget, they help TaxCann by reinforcing perceptions of the fiscal crisis' severity. Tax revenues from alcohol encouraged the end of Prohibition in cash-strapped Depression-era America. The same dynamic could come into play.

"It's an activity that is already being done," Tulchin said. "If the 'Yes' side can frame this as, 'Let's regulate and tax it to help balance the budget and fund essential services,' the public is open to coming up with creative and alternative ways to raise new revenue."

Still, Californians are notoriously unpredictable. The state banned gay marriage and okayed stem cell research. It prosecutes non-violent drug offenders while collecting almost $100 million in medicinal marijuana taxes each year. "It all depends on timing and mood," Tulchin noted. "I think it's a very bellwether initiative because of voters' competing motivations. Traditionally, California voters have voted for every tough-on-crime measure on the ballot. It's a pretty consistent pattern that goes against what the initiative is trying to do. With the budget deficit being a fundamental problem, this is a change from the status quo. You can take advantage of cross currents in this election."

$1 Trillion Drug War Has Failed

The Associated Press, using Freedom of Information Act requests, figured out the tab for America's War on Drugs last week, and checked to see if the war has met any of its goals. The answer: After forty years and $1 trillion, the War on Drugs has failed.

Among the highlights: "$33 billion in 'Just Say No' marketing even though high school students report the same rates of illegal drug use as they did in 1970, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports drug overdoses have "risen steadily" since the early 1970s to more than 20,000 last year. ... $121 billion to arrest more than 37 million nonviolent drug offenders, about 10 million of them for possession of marijuana even though studies show that jail time tends to increase drug abuse. ...$450 billion to incarcerate those people in federal prisons alone. Last year, half of all federal prisoners in the U.S. served drug offense sentences."

TaxCannabis 2010 Benefit in Oakland

TaxCannabis 2010 is hoping you'll join it Tuesday, May 25 at 6 p.m. at À Côté Restaurant in Oakland for a $99-per-person benefit, to include hors d'oeuvre, wine, and cocktails. You'll be able to meet Richard Lee, the man behind the Control and Tax Cannabis 2010 Campaign. The campaign expects to need anywhere from $10 to $20 million dollars to win in November. Preliminary campaign finance records show it's off to a good start but have a ways to go to meet their goal.

Cannabis Law Institute in Wine Country

Some of the top medical cannabis lawyers in the country will host a seminar on the rapidly evolving field Saturday, June 5, at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country. Admission is $420. The seminar will focus on developments in medical marijuana law with scheduled speakers to include: Bill Panzer, co-author of Proposition 215 and member of NORML board of directors Chris Conrad, cannabis expert; and Joe Rogoway and Omar Figueroa, co-founders of Cannabis Law Institute LLC.

Presentation topics include Motions in Medical Cannabis Defense, Effective Use of a Medical Cannabis Expert, and Common Misconceptions About Medical Marijuana Laws. Organizers state this private event is not open to criminal prosecutors, police officers, or law enforcement.

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