by David Downs
The road to legalizing over-21 possession and cultivation of cannabis is a long and winding one whose true distance remains unknown. Last night, the Oakland City Council officially joined local businessman Richard Lee on that road by endorsing Tax Cannabis 2010. The endorsement joins the support of select police officers, teachers, and about 78,000 Facebook supporters. Diametrically opposed: narcotics enforcement associations, police chiefs associations, select growers in Northern California, and both radical and conservative elements of the drug law reform community itself.
The Oakland City Council unanimously endorsed the initiative Tuesday evening, becoming the first in California to do so. Oakland City Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan said regulating use of cannabis by controlling and taxing dispensaries creates a boon to public safety, public health, and city tax coffers. Oakland permits and taxes four dispensaries, earning $500,000 in tax receipts per year. The Board of Equalization and the Legislative Analyst Office estimates California governments could earn around $1.4 billion per year doing the same.
Despite a bashing from drug war lobbyists at places like Public Safety First, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition's Tom Angell reports many cops are for the initiative and LEAP itself has endorsed TaxCann 2010.
“California has its public safety priorities wrong,” stated former Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Stephen Downing in a LEAP release. “In 2008, we arrested over 61,000 Californians for misdemeanor cannabis possession. The same year, almost 60,000 violent crimes went unsolved in California. Let’s stop arresting non-violent adult cannabis consumers so police can focus on violent crime.”
Joining Downing in announcing their support for the Initiative are: Former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff MacKenzie Allen; Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Walter Clark (Ret.); Los Angeles Police Department Narcotics Detective David Doddridge (Ret.); Former Lakeport Police Officer Rick Erickson; Former San Jose Police Department Narcotics Detective Russ Jones; Former San Diego Deputy Sheriff Leo E. Laurence; Former Stanton Police Officer Jerry Ross; Former Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriff David Sinclair.
Also, a head of major teacher's group has expressed support for the measure. Head of the 1.4 million-member American Federation for Teachers Randi Weingarten answered that she'd back the measure when "Real Time" host Bill Maher asked her in April: "Everything in moderation is pretty much fine. ... And should marijuana become legal, I believe it should remain off-limits and illegal for children. ... As a baby boomer, I smoked marijuana. But as a baby boomer with asthma, my experimentation with it was short-lived."
Final note: That's all fine and dandy, but the initiative is largely going to be won or lost in the scared Californian suburbs where "Oakland" is used as an epithet. (I'm looking at you, Walnut Creek.) TaxCannabis2010 needs to get some new, straight friends, stat. Something with cachet, too. Not just a Concord or a Tracy, either. How about it Marin County?