by David Downs
If you're not online, you're missing a key component of the legalization debate in California, where the writing is on 56,000 Walls. Tax Cannabis 2010 has an impressive 56,075 fans on their Facebook page, more than the governor, Jerry Brown, Meg Whitman, and Steve Poizner — combined.
Fifty-six thousand individuals constitutes a massive reformer army getting daily updates from the TaxCann2010 website. They're also organizing to raise funds. The latest public target is $42,000 by April 20, 2010. Opposition groups like CALM or NipItintheBud2010.org on Facebook? Nothing. Zilch. Nada.
That might be to the opposition's detriment, says Larry Tramutola, veteran Oakland political consultant with no stake in the initiative. He says Facebook, Twitter, and other online networks are fast replacing the sometimes infantile dialog found in mainstream media outlets.
For example, look at LA Weekly's dumb pun last week about a Tax Cannabis campaign financier:
“Maybe [Men's Warehouse CEO George] Zimmer, who resides in Northern California, should change his motto: 'You're going to like the way you toke. I guarantee it.'”
Meanwhile, Tax Cannabis 2010 aggregates links to meaningful stories, and offers personal testimonies from cops and kids. Visitors can volunteer to endorse the measure, secure endorsements, host parties and fundraisers, volunteer for phone banks, blog for the campaign, and help further organize online. It looks clean and professional, and best of all, it works.
That's just the tip of the iceberg. Groups like MMJ News on Yahoo and the Media Awareness Project aggregate headlines daily, and disseminate them to activists who watchdog press and pundits. Bullshit gets called out.
“We're seeing a rapid decline in the influence of straight media on electoral campaigns,” says Tramutola. “We have the partisan press now. It may be decided in the blogosphere. It may be decided on informal networks. People just have more options today.”
In another barometer: California users of Google have been searching about equally for “Meg Whitman”, “Jerry Brown” and “legalization” over the last year. The numbers are dwarfed however by the number of California residents who apparently aren't interested in voting and are just searching for “marijuana”.