Battle Royale Starts to Erupt Among California's Legalization Factions


Legalization activists voted for continued cannabis prohibition in Ohio Tuesday, and many will likely do so in California in 2016.
  • Legalization activists voted for continued cannabis prohibition in Ohio Tuesday, and many will likely do so in California in 2016.
California is having a roaring debate about what it means to legalize cannabis, and the disagreements threaten any potential campaign in 2016. On Monday, a noted doctor and environmentalist filed a new initiative to legalize cannabis in California. Many reports indicate it has the backing of tech billionaire Sean Parker, plus the support of the Marijuana Policy Project and Drug Policy Alliance, the California Cannabis Industry Association, and other groups. We haven't heard a peep from anti-legalization conservatives about it. But from Oakland to Lake Tahoe to Santa Cruz, pro-legalization activists are divided while calling for unity.

Harborside Health Center founder Stephen DeAngelo immediately voiced his non-vote for the Parker-backed "Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act." DeAngelo called for unity while saying he supported a different initiative filed Tuesday by Sacramento attorney George Mull, the Cannabis Control and Taxation Act.

“If the initiative filed today by proponents associated with Sean Parker were the only cannabis reform initiative on the ballot, I would vote for it. However, I think California can do better — and the language also filed today by longtime activist and cannabis attorney George Mull is closer to the mark. It is much shorter and easily understood, firmly closes the door to Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol, and mandates more appropriate penalties for cannabis infractions," DeAngelo said. "I continue to believe our best strategy for victory in November is bringing the entire cannabis community together behind one initiative, and call on all initiative proponents to work towards that goal.”

However, it's not clear whether Mull has the financial resources needed to run a successful campaign. The initiative didn't even include a press release.

Also, the legalization coalition building since California’s failed Prop 19 — ReformCA — sent an email to its reported 80,000-person-strong list touting its own initiative, filed on October 2, but subject to revision.

“Our proposition has been vetted, and received most favorable comments by key elected officials, policy experts, journalists, and campaign strategists nationwide," ReformCA stated. "We are continuing to work diligently towards unity in this movement, while ensuring that the final measure promotes social justice, compassionate patient care, education, environmental protection, and community restoration.”

The International Business Times now counts ten legalization proposals filed with the State of California.

And Sean Parker has finally spoken up, saying in a statement posted by SF Weekly earlier this week:

“I've been following this issue with great interest for some time,' the Parker statement reads. "It's very encouraging to see a vibrant community of activists, many of whom have dedicated their lives to this issue, coming together around a sensible reform based measure that protects children, gives law enforcement additional resources, and establishes a strong regulatory framework for responsible adult use of marijuana—one that will yield economic benefits for all Californians. I'm cautiously optimistic that a coalition is forming around these shared goals.”

Cautious optimism may prove to be too optimistic.