Facebook's bipolar relationship with Proposition 19 activists got a little better last week. The site is both crucial to the Yes on 19 campaign, yet has rejected their ads. Now one of Facebook's own is giving Prop 19 some cold hard cash. Legalization Nation broke the news that Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz — whom Forbes says is worth $1.4 billion — has kicked in $50,000 to the Yes on 19 effort to decriminalize cannabis in California, according to mandatory late contribution reports.
Moskovitz was the CTO and later VP of Engineering for Facebook, the sizzling hot web site and subject of new film The Social Network, where actor Joseph Mazzello plays his character. He attended Harvard University for two years before moving to Palo Alto to work full-time at Facebook. He's also the co-founder of San Francisco tech company Asana. Moskovitz now ranks among Prop 19's biggest individual funders, a campaign notable for its lack of big-name donors like anti-prohibition activist George Soros.
National media promptly jumped on the news item. Subsequent stories reported that Moskovitz has contributed $100,000 in total donations.
Once thought to be a million-dollar affair, Prop 19 has emerged as the low-budget action thriller of the 2010 California election. According to a Field Poll, a startling 84 percent of the electorate is aware of the measure, a figure well more than twice as high as the second best-known proposition on the ballot.
Both sides have received and spent fractions of the millions of dollars usually spent on ballot measures, yet a war of words rages daily in the press. As absentee voters vote by mail, the initiative is pulling ahead in most polls, on course to win by a small but significant margin, assuming voters show up November 2.
Local would-be cultivator Jeff Wilcox chipped in another $25,000 to the Yes on 19 campaign, and smaller amounts of contributions have been coming in from Prop 19's creator Richard Lee of Oakland. Lee had told Legalization Nation that he was done spending on Prop 19, but politics, like Facebook, can prove addictive.
On the no side, several politicians and lobbyists of all stripes have contributed to the No on 19 campaign, run by professional lobbyist John Lovell out of Sacramento. Aspiring sheriffs for Burlingame and Fresno, along with a San Mateo police lobby and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians have kicked in $91,000 to the No on 19 campaign this October. The yes campaign is on track to have out-raised the no side by a factor of 10:1 mostly through small donations and individuals, instead of lobbies.
Comment Cut From Permitting
The Oakland City Council is planning on cutting public comment out of its historic plan to permit the country's first licensed medical cannabis farms. During its Tuesday meeting, councilmembers said they prefer that public comment on potential permitees occur only after the council had selected who would get the city's coveted permits. Typically, neighbors and other citizens speak before local government issues permits for all types of development.
A who's who of Oakland insiders, many of whom have made contributions to city councilmembers' warchests, is expected to apply for the four coveted permits. Permits are scheduled to be issued by the council by January.
The council has created a mound of red tape around its "Request for Permit Application" process, and attempted to sort through it Tuesday, ultimately sending it back to the Public Safety Committee for tweaking. But the council apparently doesn't want to tweak the unusual idea that the public would only be able to comment on potential permitees after the council had chosen them. Councilwoman Jean Quan said the city was worried about organized neighborhood opposition to pot farmers.
"We thought that would be a mess because you could have people sabotaging each other by organizing each other's communities," Quan said at the hearing.
Staff member Arturo Sanchez noted that public comment usually happens before a permitee is chosen, as is the case with massage parlors, bingo halls, and what were once cabarets.
Seeds & Stems
California's absentee voters have begun sending in their ballots, but even if Prop 19 passes, Republican candidate for Attorney General Steve Cooley might try to stop it, the Sacramento Bee reports. "I really am strongly opposed to Proposition 19 for many reasons," Cooley said during a debate at UC Davis. "I would be inclined to advise that it is unconstitutional and pre-empted by federal law." A new poll released by Reuters-IPSOS shows Prop 19 down 43-53, but their sample was biased towards Republicans. IPSOS asked 223 Democrats and 223 Republicans how they would vote, but California's electorate skews sharply toward Democrats, according to voter data provided by the Secretary of State. Meanwhile, California Watch says the No on 19 campaign is scrambling to turn out the vote after being outfunded 10:1 by the Yes side. ... Hot Tub Time Machine won "Best Comedy" at the High Times-produced annual Stony Awards in Hollywood last weekend, CelebStoner reports. Other winners included: Holy Rollers (Best Drama), Cheech & Chong's Hey Watch This (Best Documentary), Breaking Bad (Best TV Show), The Boondocks (Best Animated TV Show), John Cusack (Stoner of the Year), Drew Barrymore (Stonette of the Year), Jack Herer (Special Achievement), and Jesse Ventura (Special Achievement)