November 12, 2009 – The U.S. Justice Dept., at the direction of the Obama Administration, last month announced that it would no longer direct federal investigative resources to pursue criminal charges against Picture 2medical marijuana clinics, providing they are operating lawfully. The policy represents a major shift in tactics from the Bush Administration, which had federal agents raiding medical marijuana distributors on the basis of violating federal statutes (federal law outlaws marijuana possession under the Controlled Substances Act) — even if the operators were in compliance with state laws.

Will the new Obama policy kick off an entrepreneurial bonanza in the 13 states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) where medical cannabis is legal? Maybe, experts say, citing the proliferation of medical marijuana training centers in recent years and a plan by one California business to begin franchising the dispensaries. But while the potential for a large medical marijuana market exists, cannabis remains mired in legal ambiguities and political sensitivities that — while changing rapidly — are still difficult for entrepreneurs to navigate.

To start, most of the 13 states do not allow storefront dispensaries; they permit medical patients to grow their own marijuana or purchase it directly from a registered grower certified by the state. In the rare places that do allow dispensaries, they must be structured as nonprofit cooperatives rather than for-profit entities, with marijuana provided by state-certified patients or their caregivers.

Neighborhood nuisance
In California, the first state to legalize medical marijuana sales and use in 1996, this nonprofit requirement came in mid-2008, when State Attorney General Jerry Brown issued guidelines for medical marijuana operations to try to rein in the hundreds — if not thousands — of for-profit dispensaries that had cropped up, many turning into neighborhood nuisances, with doctors on staff who would write prescriptions for anyone who walked through the doors. (California’s guidelines stating they should be nonprofit aren’t law; they’re in an opinion issued by Brown.)

Now the epicenter of the regulated medical marijuana movement is in Oakland, Calif., where four licensed cannabis dispensaries operate under strict city and state guidelines. This summer, the city’s voters approved by 80 percent a special 1.8 percent sales tax on marijuana sales that will go directly into the city’s general fund, says Steve DeAngelo, the founder of nonprofit dispensary Harborside Health Center. He and his attorney, James Anthony, devised the idea of the special tax while discussing the city’s financial straits.

Harborside, which looks something like a tidy community bank, does $20 million in annual sales, has 30,000 registered patients in its collective, and 75 full-time employees, DeAngelo says. His product is tested for purity and potency at a laboratory he helped found, he says, adding that during the past year’s recession his staff grew from 43 to 75, and says he pays each a living wage, provides them with health insurance and paid leave, and has recently added a pension program.

A lifelong cannabis activist and entrepreneur, DeAngelo has also come up with a new business idea. He recently founded for-profit Harborside Management Associates, a firm that currently does consulting for cannabis dispensaries and hopes to become America’s first franchised medical marijuana operation.

College course
Also located in Oakland is Oaksterdam University, a non-accredited private educational facility that teaches would-be dispensary owners to operate their own medical marijuana clinics. About 6,000 students have gone through its certificate program, which meets two hours a week for 13 weeks, says Greg Grimala, an Oaksterdam spokesperson.

While there is no requirement for dispensary operators to be certified, education and training may help entrepreneurs gain local approval for the facilities. “It’s very, very important for people who want to open dispensaries to work with their local government,” Grimala says. “It’s the local government that’s going to dictate whether they want to have this business in their neighborhood. If you open up in a city that does not want you there, they’ll find a way to force you out.”

Capital requirements for a new dispensary are $80,000 to $100,000 minimum, Grimala says. Richard Lee, who founded Oaksterdam University, agrees. He operates the Coffee Shop Blue Sky in Oakland, a combination for-profit coffee shop and for-profit medical marijuana dispensary that he says brings in $3 million in annual revenue. (Oakland’s local ordinance calls for no “excessive” profit, and Lee says so far the city has not deemed his dispensary to be making excessive profits.)

DeAngelo says he advises clients to plan on $250,000 in startup costs for larger operations like his own at Harborside. Along with purchasing marijuana plants and supplies, doing testing, staffing the facility, and providing adequate security, local jurisdictions often impose fees for licensing or conditional use permits, he says.

No cash cow
“If you think this is the newest way to make lots of money, I’d say get into another business,” DeAngelo says. “Even if you’re wildly successful and make a lot of money, you’re going to have to give that back to the community” because of the nonprofit business model, which he supports for the future.

“This is an opportunity for social entrepreneurs, who are willing to help suffering people feel better and expand the zone of freedom in our country. The type of person who should get into this business will be looking for less tangible rewards,” he says.

Bruce Mirken, communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project, a lobbying and educational organization that advocates legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana, says that even in the states with the most liberal laws, storefront dispensaries exist in something of a gray area. While federal enforcement conflicted with state law, many cities were reluctant to issue formal guidelines for dispensaries, leaving the operators in legal limbo, he says. “Things will continue to evolve, and my guess is that more states will be open in time, but that’s anybody’s guess,” Mirken says.

Still, in the past several years, model dispensaries and industry best practices have begun to emerge. The Medical Cannabis Safety Council, in conjunction with other medical cannabis policy groups, is attempting to establish a self-regulatory model built on non-profit industries such as hospital emergency rooms, says Mickey Martin, a founding project adviser for the group and associate editor for West Coast Cannabis Magazine.

Ballot initiative
DeAngelo says he is optimistic about his company’s fortunes. “I believe the Obama Administration is being honest with us when they say we won’t be raided by the federal government if we’re in scrupulous compliance with state law and local regulations,” he says. He and other activists are collecting signatures to place a marijuana legalization initiative on the California ballot next year.

Tax Cannabis 2010 would allow cities and counties throughout the state to tax and regulate marijuana for adult use. “We think it will bring our laws in line with reality,” Grimala says. Even if that initiative is approved by voters — and it is certain to draw fierce opposition — DeAngelo says he will push for the industry to remain not-for-profit. “The country should get it right this time. Let’s take care of our cities and our schools and not give this one to the multinational corporations,” he says.

While he favors allowing adult recreational use, he says he is horrified by the idea of children being exposed to over-the-counter marijuana sales. “Do we want kids to walk into 7-Eleven past cigarettes and booze — and marijuana also? Do we want them to open up Rolling Stone and see a two-page glossy spread for reefers?”
by Karen E. Klein. Source.

Richard Lee, President of Oaksterdam University helped convince Oakland voters to tax medical marijuana dispensaries and make them more legit. Now he’s taking the idea state-wide through the TaxCannabis.org initiative.

October 27, 2009-SAN FRANCISCO — These are heady times for advocates of legalized marijuana in California — and only in small part because of the newly relaxed approach of the federal government toward medical marijuana.915692621578182322b5790tr1

State lawmakers are holding a hearing on Wednesday on the effects of a bill that would legalize, tax and regulate the drug — in what would be the first such law in the United States. Tax officials estimate the legislation could bring the struggling state about $1.4 billion a year, and though the bill’s fate in the Legislature is uncertain, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has indicated he would be open to a “robust debate” on the issue.

California voters are also taking up legalization. Three separate initiatives are being circulated for signatures to appear on the ballot next year, all of which would permit adults to possess marijuana for personal use and allow local governments to tax it. Even opponents of legalization suggest that an initiative is likely to qualify for a statewide vote.

“All of us in the movement have had the feeling that we’ve been running into the wind for years,” said James P. Gray, a retired judge in Orange County who has been outspoken in support of legalization. “Now we sense we are running with the wind.”

Proponents of the leading ballot initiative have collected nearly 300,000 signatures since late September, supporters say, easily on pace to qualify for the November 2010 general election. Richard Lee, a longtime marijuana activist who is behind the measure, says he has raised nearly $1 million to hire professionals to assist volunteers in gathering the signatures.

“Voters are ripping the petitions out of our hands,” Mr. Lee said.

That said, the bids to legalize marijuana are opposed by law enforcement groups across the state and, if successful, would undoubtedly set up a legal showdown with the federal government, which classifies marijuana as an illegal drug.

California was the first state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, in 1996, but court after court — including the United States Supreme Court — has ruled that the federal government can continue to enforce its ban. Only this month, with the Department of Justice announcement that it would not prosecute users and providers of medical marijuana who obey state law, has that threat subsided.

But federal authorities have also made it clear that their tolerance stops at recreational use. In a memorandum on Oct. 19 outlining the medical marijuana guidelines, Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden said marijuana was “a dangerous drug, and the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime,” adding that “no state can authorize violations of federal law.”

Still, Mr. Lee anticipates spending up to $20 million on a campaign to win passage of his ballot measure in California, raising some of it from the hundreds of already legal medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles, which have been recently fighting efforts by Los Angeles city officials to tighten restrictions on their operations.

“It’s a $2 billion industry,” Mr. Lee said of the medical marijuana sales.

Opponents said they are also preparing for a battle next year.

“I fully expect they will qualify,” said John Lovell, a Sacramento lobbyist for several groups of California law enforcement officials that oppose legalization.

Any vote would take place in a state where attitudes toward marijuana border on the schizophrenic. Last year, the state made some 78,500 arrests on felony and misdemeanors related to the drug, up from about 74,000 in 2007, according to the California attorney general.

Seizures of illegal marijuana plants, often grown by Mexican gangs on public lands in forests and parks, hit an all-time high in 2009, and last week, federal authorities announced a series of arrests in the state’s Central Valley, where homes have been converted into “indoor grows.”

At the same time, however, there are also pockets of California where marijuana can seem practically legal already. At least seven California cities have formally declared marijuana a low priority for law enforcement, with ballot measures or legislative actions. In Los Angeles, some 800 to 1,000 dispensaries of medical marijuana are in business, officials say, complete with consultants offering public relations services and “canna-business management.”

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco Democrat and author of the legalization bill, said momentum for legalization has built in recent years, especially as the state’s finances have remained sour.

“A lot of people that were initially resistant or even ridiculed it have come aboard,” Mr. Ammiano said.

In Oakland, which passed a tax on medical cannabis sales in July, several people who signed a petition backing Mr. Lee’s initiative said they were motivated in part by the cost of imprisoning drug offenders and the toll of drug-related violence in Mexico.

“Personally I don’t see a way of getting it under control other than legalizing it and taxing it,” said Jim Quinn, 60, a production manager. “We’ve got to get it out of the hands of criminals both domestic and international.”

Mr. Lovell, the law enforcement lobbyist, however, said those arguments paled in comparison to the potential pitfalls of legalization, including people driving under the influence. He also questioned how much net revenue a tax like Mr. Ammiano is proposing would actually raise. “We get revenue from alcohol,” he said. “But there’s way more in social costs than we retain in revenues.”

The recent history of voter-approved drug reform laws in California is not encouraging for supporters of legalization. Last November, voters rejected a proposition that would have increased spending for drug treatment programs and loosened parole and prison requirements for drug offenders.

None of which seems to faze Mr. Lee, 47, a former roadie who founded Oaksterdam University, a medical marijuana trade school in Oakland, in 2007. Mr. Lee says he plans to use the Internet to raise money, as well as tapping out-of state sources for campaign money.

More than anything, however, Mr. Lee said he was banking on a basic shift in people’s attitudes toward the drug.

“For a lot of people,” he said, “it’s just another brand of beer.” Source.

October 16, 2009 – A nine-block section of downtown Oakland, Calif., has become a modern marijuana mecca—and a model for what a legalized-drug America could look like. Why the stars are aligning for Picture 22the pro-weed movement.

On the corner of Broadway and 17th Street in downtown Oakland, nudged between a Chinese restaurant and a hat shop, Oaksterdam University greets passersby with a life-sized cutout of Barack Obama and the sweet smell of fresh marijuana drifting from a back room. Inside, dutiful students flip through thick plastic binders of the day’s lessons, which, on a recent Saturday began with “Pot Politics 101,” taught by a ponytailed legal consultant who has authored a number of books on hemp. The class breaks for lunch around noon, and resumes an hour later, with classes on “budtending,” horticulture and cooking, which includes a recipe for “a beautiful pot pesto.” There are 50 students in this class, the majority of them Californians, but some have come all the way from Kansas. In between lectures, the university’s founder, Richard Lee, 47, rolls in and out on his wheelchair greeting students, looking the part of a pot school dean in Converse sneaker, aviator glasses, and a green “Oaksterdam” T-shirt.

Locals refer to the nine-block area surrounding the university as Oaksterdam—a hybrid of “Oakland” and the drug-friendly “Amsterdam,” where marijuana has been effectively legal since 1976. Nestled among what was once a rash of vacant storefronts, Lee has created a kind of urban pot utopia, where everything moves just a little bit more slowly than the outside world. Among the businesses he owns are the Blue Sky Coffeeshop, a coffee house and pot dispensary where getting an actual cup of Joe takes 20 minutes but picking up a sack of Purple Kush wrapped neatly in a brown lunch bag takes about five. There’s Lee’s Bulldog Café, a student lounge with a not-so-secret back room where the haze-induced sounds of “Dark Side of the Moon” seep through thick smoke, and a glass blowing shop where bongs are the art of choice. Around the corner is a taco stand (Lee doesn’t own this one) that has benefitted mightily from the university’s hungry students.

An education at Oaksterdam means learning how to grow, sell, market, and consume weed—all of which has been legal in California, for medicinal use only, since 1996. For the price of an ounce of pot and a couple of batches of brownies (about $250), pot lovers can enroll in a variety of weekend cannabis seminars all focused on medicinal use. But “medicinal” is something of an open joke in the state, where anyone over age 18 with a doctor’s note—easy to get for ailments like anxiety or cramps, if you’re willing to pay—can obtain an ID card allowing access to any of the state’s hundreds of dispensaries, or pot shops. (“You can basically get a doctor’s recommendation for anything,” said one dispensary worker.) Not all of those dispensaries are legally recognized, however: there’s a growing discrepancy over how California’s laws mesh (or don’t mesh) with local and federal regulations. But Oakland is unique in that it has four licensed and regulated dispensaries, each taxed directly by the city government. This past summer, Oakland voters became the first in the nation to enact a special cannabis excise tax—$18 for every $1,000 grossed—that the city believes will generate up to $1 million in the first year. Approved by 80 percent of voters, and unopposed by any organization, including law enforcement, the tax was pushed by the dispensary owners themselves, who hope the model will prove to the rest of California that a regulated marijuana industry can be both profitable and responsible. “The reality is we’re creating jobs, improving the city, filling empty store spaces, and when people come down here to Oakland they can see that,” says Lee, who smokes both recreationally and for his health, to ease muscle spasms caused by a spinal chord injury.

The arguments against this kind of operation are easy to tick off: that it glamourizes marijuana, promotes a gateway drug, leads to abuse. Compared to more serious drugs like heroine, cocaine or even alcohol, studies have shown the health effects of marijuana are fairly mild. But there are still risks to its consumption: heavy pot users are more likely to be in car accidents; there have been some reports of it causing problems in respiration and fetal development. And, as the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, put it recently, there are a number of medical professionals, and many parents, who worry that the drug’s increased potency over the years has heightened the risk of addiction. “It’s certainly true that this is not your grandfather’s pot,” says Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Nevertheless, like much of the country, Oakland is suffering economically. The city faced an $83 million budget deficit this year, and California, of course, is billions in the red. So from a public coffers perspective, if ever there were a time to rethink pot policy, that time is now. Already in Sacramento, there is a legalization measure before the state assembly that the author claims could generate $1.3 billion in tax revenue. And while analysts say it has little hope of passing (it faces strong opposition from law enforcement), the figures prompted even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger—who’s vetoed every marijuana-related bill to come across his desk—to proclaimed that “It’s time for a debate.” On a federal level, marijuana is still illegal—it was outlawed, over the objections of the American Medical Association, in 1937. But in February, Attorney General Eric Holder stunned critics when he announced that the feds would cease raiding medical marijuana dispensaries that are authorized under state law. “People are no longer outraged by the idea of legalization,” wrote former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown in a recent op-ed. “And truth be told, there is just too much money to be made both by the people who grow marijuana and the cities and counties that would be able to tax it.”

Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron has estimated that the cost of cannabis prohibition is $13 billion annually, with an additional $7 billion lost in potential tax revenue. Even the students at Lee’s Oaksterdam cite the job market as a reason for showing up: one man, there with his 21-year-old son, told NEWSWEEK he’d lost his business in the housing bust; another was looking for a way to supplement his income as a contractor. “Alcohol prohibition, the result of a century-long anti-alcohol crusade, was fairly quickly repealed in part because of the onset of the Great Depression,” says Craig Reinarman, a sociologist at UC Santa Cruz and the coauthor of Crack in America. “I think we’re in a similar situation now, where states are so strapped for money that any source of new revenue is going to be welcomed.”

Oakland has become a kind of test lab for what legalized marijuana might look like. City Council member Rebecca Kaplan tells NEWSWEEK that the new tax revenue will help save libraries, parks, and other public services, and that the once-destitute area where Oaksterdam now thrives has seen a clear boost. Over the past six years, 160 new businesses have moved into downtown Oakland, and the area’s vacancy rate has dropped from 25 percent to less than 5, according to Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency. And while that can’t be attributed to Oaksterdam directly, some local business owners believe it’s played a key role—particularly as it relates to local tourism. Lee hosts 500 students at Oaksterdam University each month—about 20 percent of them from out of state—and has graduated nearly 4,000 since he opened the school in late 2007, inspired by a “cannabis college” he discovered on a trip to Amsterdam. The Blue Sky Coffeeshop serves about 1,000 visitors a day, half of them from out of town, and neighboring stores say the traffic has helped drive business their way. Regulation, say advocates, has also made consumption safer. They say it gets rid of hazardous strains of the drug, and eliminates the crime that can accompany underground dealing.

Presently, 13 states allow medical marijuana, with similar legalization campaigns underway in more than a dozen others. And a number of cities, such as Oakland and Seattle, have passed measures making prosecution of adult pot use the lowest law enforcement priority. Now Lee, along with an army of volunteers, has begun collecting signatures for a statewide legalization measure (for Californians 21 and over) that he plans to place on the November 2010 ballot. Backed by former state Senate president Don Perata, he’s already collected a fourth of the needed 434,000 signatures, and pledged to spend $1 million of his own funds to support the effort.

In California, where voters rule, getting an amendment on the ballot doesn’t take much more than a fat wallet, but the amount of attention Lee’s campaign has received has drawn attention to just how far American attitudes have changed over the past decade. In April, an ABC/Washington Post survey showed that 46 percent of Americans support legalization measures, up from 22 percent in 1997. And in California, a recent Field Poll showed that 56 percent are already on board to legalize and tax the drug. “This is a new world,” says Robert MacCoun, a professor of law and public policy at UC Berkeley and the coauthor of Drug War Heresies. “If you’d have asked me four years ago whether we’d be having this debate today, I can’t say I would have predicted it.”

The fact that we now are debating it—at least in some parts of the country—is the result of a number of forces that, as MacCoun puts it, have created the perfect pot storm: the failure of the War on Drugs; the growing death toll of murderous drug cartels; pop culture; the economy; and a generation of voters that have simply grown up around the stuff. Today there are pot television shows and frequent references to the drug in film, music, and books. And everyone from the president to the most successful athlete in modern history has talked about smoking it at one point or another. “Whether it’s the economy or Obama or Michael Phelps, I think all of these things have really worked to galvanize the public,” says Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the coauthor of a new book, Marijuana Is Safer; So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?”At the very least, it’s started a national conversation.”

That conversation, in some sense, has always existed. In 1972—a year after President Nixon declared his “War on Drugs”—the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse urged Congress to decriminalize possession of marijuana for personal use. That never happened, in part because marijuana regulation has always been more about politics than actual science, say advocates. But these days, the masses, at least in California, seem to be heading toward greener, shall we say, pastures. “This is sort of the trendy thing to do right now, but I also think there’s an expectation that the time has come to simply acknowledge the reality,” says Armentano. “Hundreds of thousands of Californians use marijuana, and we should regulate this commodity like we do others.” It’s a fight that’s heating up. And the pro-pot crowd in Oakland is ready to light the way. By Jessica Bennett. Source.

October 3, 2009 – SAN FRANCISCO — A majority of Californians in recent polls say the state should legalize marijuana. What pot proponents can’t agree on is how soon voters will really be ready to approve schwarzenegger-highlegalization.

A schism has emerged among California’s pot-legalization advocates. On one side are those pushing to get a proposition to voters quickly, including activists such as Richard Lee, who last month began collecting signatures to put a pot-legalization measure on the state’s November 2010 ballot.

On the other side is a go-slow camp calling for a 2012 vote, including activists like Dale Gieringer, director of the California chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, or Norml. “I do think it will take a few more years for us to develop a proposal that voters will be comfortable with,” said Mr. Gieringer.

In recent elections, Californians have been less liberal than their free-thinking image would suggest. That has led to sharp rifts over strategy among proponents of a number of liberal causes in the state. The pot schism mirrors a split in another cause — the effort to overturn Proposition 8, which in 2008 banned same-sex marriage — where advocates likewise disagree over whether to put a measure on the ballot next year or to wait until 2012.

It is clear to both the 2010 and 2012 supporters that pot legalization faces significant hurdles in California. While pot is already widely available under the state’s medical-marijuana laws, and an April Field Poll found that 56% of Californians would support legalizing and taxing marijuana sales to help with the state’s budget crisis, there is a significant anti-legalization lobby that is gearing up to fight any pot proposition.

“I don’t think it matters if it’s in 2010 or 2012,” said John Lovell, a lobbyist for California police groups, “once the public understands what we’re talking about.”

Mr. Lovell said a case in point was the 2008 defeat of Proposition 5, which would have reduced the criminal consequences of drug possession. Internal polling by a campaign to defeat the measure initially showed it passing with 68% approval, said Mr. Lovell, who was chairman of the campaign. But voters changed course and defeated it with 60% disapproval. Law-enforcement groups who campaigned against that proposition are ready to battle any new marijuana initiative, he said.

The 2010 ballot proponents say there is no time like the present, because California’s economic mess gives pot legalization an urgent fiscal appeal. Taxing pot could help reverse cuts in spending to education, health care and other services enacted this year, said Mr. Lee, who along with fellow activist Jeff Jones is gathering signatures for a 2010 measure. “We’re the answer for all of the things on the news,” Mr. Lee said.

Mr. Lee is the founder of Oaksterdam University, an Oakland, Calif., school that trains students for jobs in the medical-marijuana field. California’s marijuana industry, which was already growing, got a boost earlier this year when the Obama administration announced that it was backing off federal raids of dispensaries.

Mr. Lee’s measure would allow local governments to legalize and tax marijuana sales. He said he was providing most of the $1 million he thinks is needed to gather the 434,000 signatures to put the proposition on the ballot. Mr. Lee said he took a private poll of 800 likely voters, which found 54% for an initiative versus 42% against.

His effort got a boost in September when Don Perata, a former California Senate president and a leading candidate for Oakland’s 2010 mayoral race, endorsed the measure. “In this time of economic uncertainty, it’s time we thought outside the box and brought in revenue we need to restore the California dream,” Mr. Perata said last week.

A 2010 initiative would have a reasonable chance of passing, said Thad Kousser, a visiting professor at Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center. Generally, ballot measures that start with 55% or lower support in polls lose to well-funded opposition campaigns, Mr. Kousser said. But marijuana proponents could tip the scale in their favor if they can tie the initiative to the state’s budget woes. “Any social concerns that Californians have can be overridden by bringing in more money to the state,” he said.

Go-slow advocates say Mr. Lee’s camp doesn’t understand the California electorate and the subtle strategies of exploiting election cycles. “The demographics are clearly much better in 2012, and victory would therefore be much easier,” said Aaron Smith, California policy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, a national pot-advocacy group. “You have the younger, more progressive voters that get out in the presidential elections.”

As progressive as California voters may be, they will still scrutinize any pot bill for holes, said Norml’s Mr. Gieringer. For example, Mr. Lee’s 2010 proposal doesn’t address the questions of whether marijuana could be smoked in public or how it could be advertised. An initiative is worth pursuing only if it has a good chance of winning, he said, and Mr. Lee’s measure “wasn’t worth the expenditures.”

Mr. Lee said that if his 2010 measure lost, he would support a 2012 effort as well. Source.

September 27, 2009 – SAN FRANCISCO — Pot advocates started their push Friday to get a marijuana legalization measure on California’s 2010 ballot with backing from a prominent statePicture 7 politician.

Former state Senate president Don Perata announced his support for the Tax Cannabis 2010 campaign, which began gathering signatures for the proposal at the annual meeting of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Supporters need nearly 434,000 signatures to make the November 2010 ballot.

Though Perata did not appear as scheduled at a news conference launching the signature drive, he said in a statement that taxing legal marijuana was key to easing California’s financial woes.

“In this time of economic uncertainty, it’s time we thought outside the box and brought in revenue we need to restore the California dream,” he said.

Term limits forced Perata from the Legislature in 2008. He announced in March that he planned to run next year for mayor of Oakland, where voters in July overwhelmingly passed a first-of-its-kind tax on city medical marijuana dispensaries.

Pot dispensary owners who supported the tax as a way to show their commitment to the city included Richard Lee, the ballot measure’s main backer.

Under the proposal, adults 21 and older could legally possess up to an ounce of pot. Homeowners could grow limited amounts, and local governments would decide whether to allow pot sales.

Supporters argue taxes levied on marijuana sales could help strapped cities weather revenue shortfalls caused by the recession and California’s budget crisis.

Lee said he believed the cost of obtaining the needed signatures would run about a dollar per name.

“We’ve raised a good portion of the amount that we need, so we feel real confident that we’re going to get it on the ballot,” he said.

The measure is the most conservative of three pot legalization proposals certified for signature-gathering by California’s Secretary of State.

A group of Northern California criminal defense lawyers is promoting a measure that would set no specific limits on the amount of pot adults could possess or grow for personal use.

The measure would repeal all local and state marijuana laws and clear the criminal record of anyone convicted of a pot-related offense.

The third measure, proposed by a Long Beach pot activist, would repeal state marijuana prohibitions and give the Legislature a year to adopt new laws regulating and taxing the drug.

The state Legislative Analyst’s Office said all three measures could bring potentially major new revenue to the state from taxing marijuana. The office also predicts the measures would result in tens of millions of dollars in savings of law enforcement costs to state and local governments.

The cost of running California ballot measure campaigns often climbs to eight figures, so supporters of the pot initiatives will need to focus on fundraising.

Some pot activists believe it’s too soon to reach for full-fledged marijuana legalization, a goal the pro-marijuana movement has worked toward for decades.

Backers of the measures hope to tap into what they see as pro-legalization momentum spurred in part by the Obama administration’s hands-off attitude toward states that allow medical marijuana.

If any of the proposals do make the ballot, a Field Poll earlier this year found that a slight majority of state voters supported legalizing and taxing pot.

Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, who specializes in drug issues, said he believes Californians may be ready to lift the ban.

“I wouldn’t be stunned. I could see it going either way,” he said. By MARCUS WOHLSEN. Source.

September 10, 2009

Dear Friends of Oaksterdam University…..

I wanted you to be the first to know that we are about to take our cannabis reform movement to the next level: legalizing, taxing, and regulating cannabis in California.

This month we will start gathering signatures to place an initiative on the November 2010 California ballot to allow adults 21 and over to possess small amounts of cannabis, give local governments the ability to tax and regulate cannabis, and help generate billions of dollars in much needed revenue for California.

In order to qualify the initiative for the ballot, we need to gather 650,000 signatures of California voters in the next 150 days, and to do that, we’re going to need your help!

Los Angeles
Sign up today for one of our upcoming volunteer meetings in Los Angeles!

Bring a friend, or two, or ten, meet fellow supporters, and find out how you can help legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis in California.

Please join us at: 7:30 PM, Friday, September 11th
Patient ID Center (Host of Oaksterdam University – Los Angeles)
470 S. San Vicente Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Oakland
Sign up today for one of our upcoming volunteer meetings in Oakland!

Bring a friend, or two, or ten, meet fellow supporters, and find out how you can help legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis in California.

Please join us at: 7:00 PM, Monday, September 14th
Oaksterdam University
1776 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612

Historic Battle
This is going to be an epic, historic battle for cannabis reform in California, and we are going to need every supporter involved, so please sign up for one of our volunteer meetings today!

Together as faculty, staff, students, and volunteers from Oaksterdam University, we have worked to pass local ballot measures to reform cannabis laws in cities all over our state. Now it’s time to take our movement to the next level: reform on the statewide level.

Please sign up to get involved today.

Thank you,

Richard Lee, President, Oaksterdam University

P.S. If you can’t make it this Friday, or live outside Los Angeles, please sign up at www.taxcannabis.org to find out about future events.

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