I have been a progressive political advocate for a half-century. I protested against the KKK, then moved on to civil rights and the Vietnam peace movement, environmental and anti-nuclear movements, for housing, women’s rights, transportation, police oversight and other social justice issues. I turned my attention to cannabis legalization 28 years ago and today am a strong supporter of Proposition 64, which embodies many progressive values.
The Adult Use of Marijuana Act is described accurately in the Attorney General’s Title and Summary: Legalizes marijuana and hemp.” Its supporting details are reasonable and can be adjusted as we move forward from here, but the legislature will never again be able to ban marijuana or industrial hemp farming.
Dragonfly de la Luz has posted a widely read blog that endorses voting against Prop. 64, thereby validating California’s existing marijuana felonies and misdemeanors, allowing police to search people for a cannabis odor, leaving all nonmedical production and supply in the hands of the unregulated and illegal market that gives access to children, keeping growers and dealers with prior convictions from getting work in the legal market and allowing localities to ban home medical marijuana gardens. Those are the known consequences of a no vote. Leaving the failed Nixon-era Drug War intact is not progressive: It is reactionary.
Yes on 64 is a truely progressive vote. Its passage will benefit our citizens, cannabis patients, environment, the urban poor, homeless youth and local economies. Even Bernie Sanders repeatedly endorsed Prop. 64 touring California in 2016 and proclaimed, “If I were a California Citizen I would vote for it.”
Dragonfly makes a false equivalency when she opens and closes her piece by quoting a respected Washington activist who does not oppose Prop. 64 but was speaking about Washington’s I-502. We learned from those mistakes. So, I will offer accurate and concise answers to her straw man attacks. Let’s take a look.
The 13 ‘consequences’ Dragonfly laments
1) Claim: No tax revenue will go to general fund under prop. 64.
Fact: True, and that’s a good thing when you look at where the money goes.
Yes, it directs the funds to achieve certain objectives. An estimated $1 billion per year will flow from Prop. 64. It caps administrative costs at 4% and designates the other 96%, rather than give the legislature carte blanche over the money raised. Prop 64 revenues pay the costs of implementing the program and for cleaning up environmental damage, help for homeless youth, keeping at-risk youth in school, job training, scientific research, law enforcement, preventing impaired driving and grants to help communities damaged by the Drug War. These reflect the values of California voters at Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Blue Ribbon Panel local forums from all over the state.
2) Claim: “Patients could face over 20 percent tax increase.”
Fact: Prop. 64 has the best tax structure of any state and prices are already dropping.
California patients currently pay about 8.5% in state sales tax. AUMA adds a 15% excise tax. The production tax of 34¢ per gram would add $1.19 per eighth of an ounce that now sells for about $50, so add 2.4% for a total of 17.4%. However, patients with a voluntary confidential state ID card get their state sales tax back off, so the patient’s net increase is 8.9%. The legislature can reduce these taxes if found to be too high. The price in other states where marijuana is legal have already dropped by up to 50%, for a net reduction of 41% in price. Dragonfly praises a dispensary system that she says charges a patient $400 an ounce and criticizes Washington, where ounces now sell for about 2/3 that price — including its much higher tax rate. Prop. 64 helps patients when it caps the price of a state ID card at $100 and gives MediCal patients 50% off or free for indigent people. It adds new privacy protections for patients who will no longer risk getting arrested and having to pay attorneys to present a medical defense in court. If you want more affordable medicine for patients, while preventing arrests, vote Yes on 64.
3) Claim: “Prop. 64 lets local gov. decide patients’ rights.”
Fact: That was Prop 215.
No, it was Prop. 215 that allowed local governments and businesses to decide our rights, according to numerous court rulings. Raging Wire v Ross, Inland Empire v Riverside and Maral v Live Oak are three prominent examples. It was loosely written and left patients exposed. Prop. 64 does not change Prop. 215 patients rights, and here is a link to 44 attorneys who agree with that statement. Prop. 64 creates a regulated system for nonmedical adult cannabis. Patients also benefit from provisions such as 11362.2 legalizing cultivation and prohibiting local bans on enclosed home gardens. Likewise Prop. 64 will stop CPS from taking children away from cannabis patients unless there is a different serious issue in the household such as abuse. Prop. 64 protects patient rights and respects the constitutional powers of local governments, employers and property owners. It also complies with the “Cole Memo” on federal marijuana policy, which calls for “strict regulations.”
4) Claim: Almost no one is in jail for any offense prop. 64 would legalize.
Fact: Smoking a joint while on probation lands people behind bars.
Just because Dragonfly doesn’t know their names doesn’t mean almost no one is behind bars, in fact inmates are nearly forgotten and families are ashamed to talk about it. Roughly 10,000 people are arrested each year for felony marijuana charges down to about 8,800 for the last year in which statistics have been released. Many more are imprisoned for probation violations that result from smoking marijuana.
I personally have worked on more than 2200 criminal cases and a handful of civil cases, which represents only a tiny fraction of the total caseload. So I beg to differ: Getting rid of nine felonies is a very big deal.
Prop. 64 legalizes use, limited possession (now a § 11357 infraction), cultivation (now an 11358 felony) and transportation (now an 11360 misdemeanor). It reduces intent to sell (now an 11359 felony) and sales (now an 11360 felony) to misdemeanors at least the first two times.
A no vote says getting a felony or misdemeanor is no big deal; adults should be treated as criminals, get searched for an odor and cited with infractions for having a little weed.
I disagree. Marijuana should not be a crime. Minors should not be in jail for it and adults should, at a minimum, have the right to cultivate and possess small personal amounts. That is why the California NAACP and ACLU and other progressive groups endorse Yes on 64.
5) Claim: “Prop. 47 has already made Prop. 64 obsolete.”
Fact: Prop. 47 did not legalize cannabis or stop police searches.
Proposition 47 did not legalize adult use, possession, sharing and cultivation of marijuana. It did not reduce marijuana penalties across the board. It did not prohibit police searches for odor and it did not put an end to incarceration of minors for a plant. Prop 47 did not fund environmental restoration, scientific research or social justice grants. Prop. 64 does all those things and much more. That’s why true progressives support Prop. 64.
Below is a chart showing some changes made by Prop. 64 that were not undertaken in Prop. 47:
6) Claim: “Racial disparity in arrests worse under Prop. 64.”
Fact: Cannabis will be legal and penalties lower for all races.
Since Prop. 64 has not passed, this whole claim is mere conjecture. However, if keeping marijuana a felony is supposed to reduce racial disparity, ad Dragonfly suggests, why has it not happened in the past 103 years of prohibition? In the past 40 years since California passed these criminal prohibitions that are on the books today? Prohibition simply makes things worse and gives police a tool to target people of color. We know from history that marijuana laws were written to target minorities. We know that decriminalization has reduced arrests significantly, and legalization will do it more so. That does not mean that ending marijuana prohibition means the end of racism, it just takes away one of the major causes of police encounters that lead to harassment, searches, arrests and even shootings.
That is why the CA ACLU and NAACP support Prop. 64 and so should you. Learn more about the progressive groups that endorsed Prop. 64.
7) Claim: “Prop. 64 will decimate small farmers.”
Fact: Prop. 64 helps small growers to survive in a changing economy.
The cannabis economy has been changing rapidly over the past 10 years. Prop. 64 helps protect small farmers by providing scaled lower fees for smaller operations. It also creates the “microbusiness license,” akin to the craft beer and winery models. It has anti-monopoly provisions and forestalls large scale grows for at least five years — if they will be allowed at all. Small boutique businesses can compete with “big marijuana” just like California craft beers and wineries do right now against vast global competitors. It insults growers that they won’t be able to produce quality products that compete, and for those in the market there are various options. Transition to the regulated MCRSA market. Transition to the regulated AUMA market. Continue as an SB420 collective until 2019 and disband. Continue as an illicit grower and risk only low-level misdemeanors instead of felony prison time if things go wrong. In claim 2 above Dragonfly decried the high cost of cannabis, here she wants to keep prices high by limiting competition and large-scale production. Where will patients get affordable FECO or Phoenix Tears oil to treat cancer? It can’t be done cheaply on a small scale, so a no vote means the cost of cancer medicine continues to be inflated by restricting access to justify the prices charged by a few.
8) Claim: “Few could legally grow under Prop. 64”
Fact: Home gardens up to six plants will be legal statewide. Adult homeowners, renters with their landlords approval and many licensed growers could all grow.
Not that many people even want to grow marijuana at home. How many people grow vegetables at home? Fruits and nuts? Tobacco or hops? Contrary to Dragonfly’s claim, Prop. 64 uses the word “legalize” correctly, we looked it up in Blacks’ Law Dictionary. Local regulations are allowed but the initiative says they must be reasonable. If you want to grow at home you can buy a house, be discrete or rent from a friendly landlord. Otherwise, get into the licensed business, but first we have to Vote Yes on Prop. 64.
9) Claim: “By allowing unlimited mega grows with such limited resources prop. 64 is poised to destroy the environment.”
Fact: Prop. 64 has strict environmental regulations and requirements.
Prop. 64 requires compliance with all environmental laws to get a license. It protects water rights and purity, endangered species, parks and forests. Does it make sense to expect that illegal growers are going to be more compliant than licensed ones with inspections? If Dragonfly really uses six gallons of water per day on every single plant that is ¾ of a foot in diameter, as claimed, she needs to learn how to grow better. Even a gallon a day on plants that are two feet in diameter will yield a few ounces of bud.
Illegal growers caused the problems Dragonfly talked about in her polemic — licensing and inspections under Prop. 64 will undo that harm. If you agree with her that Prop. 64 needs tougher controls, pass it anyway and lobby for more environmental regulations. A last point here, if the environment is a concern. Has she ever heard of hemp and how it is the world’s premier sustainable natural resource that is ecologically sound and uses fewer pesticides and herbicides, fertilizer and, in many cases, water? Prop. 64 will let California farmers grow hemp again to reduce the use of cotton, logging and fossil fuels for industrial raw material. That is good for the environment.
10) “Prop. 64 could end medical cannabis industry as we know it”
Fact: The legislature passed MCRSA that already has ended the industry “as we know it.”
While Dragonfly was up in the woods, Jim Wood and other legislators in Sacramento voted to end the medical marijuana collective defense, felonize collective gardens as they have operated since 2003 and impose a very strict, expensive and difficult to navigate scheme named the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. It has its good parts and its bad parts, but it definitely got adopted while Prop. 64 was still being written. The situation in Washington State is completely different and doesn’t apply here. The problem is that Dragonfly knows how to cut and paste text but does not understand the laws here or in other states and does not follow legislation, she is too busy working to keep cannabis illegal. The legislature changed the situation and now California voters can streamline the regulatory process and protect home gardens with a simple vote of Yes on Prop. 64.
11) Claim: “In progressive California, doing nothing is better than prop. 64”
Fact: Progressives fight for social change and Prop. 64 is far better than today’s laws.
Progressive doesn’t mean to do nothing and leave a bad situation just as it is. She claims that keeping nine felonies on the books plus multiple misdemeanors, letting cops search anybody they say smells like cannabis, keeping the nonmedical market unregulated and endorsing all the social stigmas against cannabis is better than legalizing adult use, cultivation, sharing and licensed businesses.
In addition to all the social benefits of ensuring the quality and purity of products, requiring proof of age to purchase and making the industry pay a share of taxes and follow socially responsible regulations, consider the criminal justice benefits of legal marijuana, and any real progressive will jump at the chance to vote Yes on 64.
12) Claim: “Prop. 64 lets legislature alter it without voter approval”
Fact: One of Prop. 64’s best features is flexibility without demanding more voter initiatives.
As a voter, I am tired of having to do the legislature’s work. Legislators are supposed to make the laws and I don’t want to have to vote about every change of minor details. I’m happy to go to my legislators to lobby for improvements. Prop. 64 allows them to address and adjust important aspects like tax rates and overregulation while considering market saturation and changes in society. It allows legislators to legalize greater amounts, bigger gardens, to deschedule cannabis from the list of controlled substances, reduce penalties and otherwise increase personal freedoms. They can allow bigger grows in five years and reorganize the way tax monies are spent in ten years. What is irrevocable in Prop. 64 is that it does not allow the legislature to roll back its reductions or to ever legalize marijuana again. If we don’t pass it, the legislators will have unrestrained power to increase penalties and create further barriers to access to this useful plant.
13) Claim: “”
Fact: There is no number 13, apparently Dragonfly got stoned at this point of her article, wandered into the woods, mellowed out and ran out of complaints.
That was actually a joke, because I probably have smoked more marijuana than she has and I can still count to 13. I’m not sure who else noticed, but the point of this is that it shows how sloppy her thinking is in constructing this deliberately misleading polemic in favor of prohibition. And how many bothered to read the whole thing?
A final point on Dragonfly’s lack of accuracy
Dragonfly commented that she spoke with me and I could not find certain provisions in Prop. 64 on my phone, but left out that my phone does not have a search feature so I could show her AUMA HS 11362.45(i), as I pointed out to her before I returned to a meeting with other people. She claims I never sent her an email response but I certainly did on June 29, 2016 and kept a copy for my records. That was two months before she posted her fallacious diatribe. Then I put her in touch with attorney Bill Panzer, who explained the legal issues behind my analysis in detail and went back and forth with her. As a result wrote a detailed article about Prop. 215 for theLeafOnline.com based on that conversation. Click here to read the article Bill Panzer wrote to respond to her questions. He also did a point by point debunking of her claims from this same story to which I am responding.
Did she forget, did she simply ignore the facts or is this whole article a pretext designed to confuse voters and get them to vote against legalization? What are her financial motives and who is paying her to disseminate false information about Prop. 64? It is unlikely she will ever tell us.
I am not going to assign a motive to her behavior, only to state that one thing progressives should agree on is that facts matter.
Here are some facts. I am a medical marijuana patient. I am a progressive political activist. I am a court qualified cannabis expert whose truthful testimony has affected important appeals court and even California Supreme Court decisions. My word is my bond.
Proposition 64 is an incredible opportunity for all Californians, whether or not they use cannabis, to turn the page on global prohibition. To reject it is to turn down our duties as citizens and to betray our shared Progressive values.
I encourage you not to give in to fear but to embrace the future. Do the right thing. Please Vote Yes on Prop. 64.