Friday, November 4, 2016

Steve DeAngelo: Prop 64 not perfect, but a really essential next step

Mill Valley community gathering place and venue icon Sweetwater Music Hall last night rocked to a “Get OutThe Vote Concert” to raise awareness on Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act(AUMA), with a show headlined by Moonalice and also featuring Lorin Rowan and the 420 Waldos. The show was opened with a talk by Steve DeAngelo, one of the founders of the Harborside Health Center in Oakland, CA, followed by Lindsay Robinson, director of development of the Marijuana Policy Project, answering questions about Proposition 64 and AUMA.

A survey released by Field Poll and the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California suggests that 57% of likely voters support Proposition 64. As reported by the Huffington Post, that’s similar to the 58% support that the University of Southern California’s Dornslife College and the Los Angeles Times found in a poll released earlier this week.

Roger McNamee, cannabis reform advocate and Moonalice founder, whose "first and driving motivation on Prop 64 is about civil rights," started the evening by explaining why he is so strongly supportive of Prop 64, saying, “This is California and this year on November 8th there is at least one really good thing that can happen. That is that we can pass Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. This is something that is long overdue and absolutely I think essential to the welfare of our state."

Describing the negative impact of the black market in cannabis, Roger said, "As you know, we have an enormous black market in cannabis in California. It takes place outside the economy. It has huge negative environmental consequences. It has huge negative consequences for employees. It has huge negative consequences for everybody who's involved because it's a felony. We have a chance to fix all of that. We have a chance to address the civil rights violations of people of color who are arrested and incarcerated at three times their rate of usage. We can do a lot of really good things.”

Prop 64 – Not perfect, but a really essential next step

In introducing Steve DeAngelo, Roger said, “Folks have sent us a ton of questions on Facebook and on Twitter saying, "Hey, we don't understand this thing." There's been a lot of disinformation in the marketplace. The guys on the other side of this thing are people in the opiate business, people in the hard liquor business whose businesses are threatened by the legalization of cannabis. They've spread a lot of disinformation.”

Steve DeAngelo began by saying that to him Prop 64 was also a compromise, but one that needed to be made, “Let's think about what is this thing 64 in the first place. It's a law. It's a law that's going to be passed by the people as opposed to the legislature, but it's a law. Like most laws, it's a compromise. There were many, many different groups who got around the table to help draft Prop 64. Some of them had interest A or interest B. There were a lot of different opposing interests that needed to come together around that table to put together a team that could get this initiative on the ballot, and compromises were made in the process of drafting.”

Steve continued, “The result, from my point of view, is there is stuff in there that I love. One of things is that people like me who have felony cannabis convictions will be able to be licensed in the legal cannabis industry under Prop 64. There's things in there that I really, really, really don't like, like the power of local governments anywhere to overrule the will of the voters of California and say that, "Just in our little city, in our little town, in our county, we're not going to allow a legal cannabis industry. Even though the voters of California approved this law." Is there stuff I like? Yeah. There's stuff I like. Is there stuff I really find distasteful? Yes, absolutely.”

“That's generally the way it is with almost all laws in a democratic society,” Steve said. “That's what we do. We come around a table. We have disagreements. We have different interests. We trade things off, and we come up with compromises. Prop 64 is very much a compromise. We need to understand that it's not perfect, but it is a really essential next step. It comes at a really, really critical time in our country. We can disagree from now until eternity about the details of Prop 64, what you like, what I like. The reality is we are in the midst of an election season that we do not know how it's going to turn out.”

With the results of the election on November 8 uncertain, Steve stressed the importance of not losing the vote on Prop 64, saying, “If we don't pass Prop 64, to the only west coast state where cannabis is still illegal under state law, they will come to California, and they will unleash a reign of terror on the Emerald Triangle and in our cities and on our manufacturers and on our patients that will make what happened in 2011 look like a practice rehearsal. We can't afford to lose this one. This is not an election where we know what is going to be the outcome.”

“Best thing ever for small growers of the Emerald Triangle”

Many of the concerns that people have about Prop 64 are about the impact that it will have on small growers. Steve addressed this saying, “I've heard questions from folks like: What will happen to small growers? Is Monsanto coming? Is there going to be a corporate take over? The answer to most of those really, really scary questions, in my opinion, is mostly no. Mostly no.”

Talking about the need of “letting go” and “one last sacrifice” that needed to be made by the community of cannabis growers, Steve said, “We won't do it alone, we're not going to do that alone. There's not enough hippies in northern California, there's not enough of us, our arms aren't long enough to reach all around the world. We need to welcome new people who have just heard this call that we've called for so long, that we followed for so long into this community, and allow them to help us carry this plant forward.”

Set the cannabis culture free

Steve stressed that there is “enough room in the new cannabis industry for everybody who wants to be there,” and that Prop 64 will be “the best thing ever for the small growers of the Emerald Triangle who are the folks that are probably the most nervous about Prop 64 right now.”

Talking about the multi-generational community in the Emerald Triangle that is centered on the production of cannabis and that has developed a culture that “lives by the lessons and the values that the plant teaches us,” Steve said, “Set that culture free. Let that culture have wings. Let us bring an avalanche, a river of tourists from all over the world. Let's bring them into our communities, let's show them what a community that lives by these lessons and values actually looks like. That's what 64 can do for the Emerald Triangle.”

Lose Prop 64 – Lose the national market

Steve concluded his talk by describing what would happen if Prop 64 did not pass, saying, “What happens if we don't pass 64? Two things. One, the federal crackdown that I was talking about before. Two, other states are moving forward. They're not going to stop. Today California has cannabis as it's number one cash crop. Number one cash crop. We outproduce every single other state in the country by far. If we don't pass 64, those states are going to start gaining on us. Colorado, which has legal cannabis. Alaska even, Washington, Oregon, they're not waiting. They will start claiming ever larger parts of that national market. 90% of the cannabis in California is grown and sent out of state. We all know that. We don't talk about it much but we know that. We don't want to lose that market. We lose 64 then what happens is we also lose ... start eroding our share of that national market"

Perfection can't be the enemy of progress

Lindsay Robinson from the Marijuana Policy Project began her talk by reinforcing what Steve had said about Prop 64 not being a “perfect law,” saying, “As Steve was saying this is not a perfect law by any means. It took many many months. Advocates were at the table, business leaders, concerned parties, patients. There was a huge group represented that tried to come together to make something that would work for California that would recognize the long and incredibly diverse history that folks in California have with the cannabis plant but also make something that could actually be passed.”

“We needed to find a middle ground between voters who live in conservative areas and growers in the Emerald Triangle,” she continued, “I think we have found that. One of the good things is that Prop 64 there are portions of it that can be voted on again in other ballot initiatives. It is the will of the people and parts of it can be changed. I think that we can't have perfection be the enemy of progress. I really do believe that this is a step forward.”

Addressing concerns

Addressing some of the concerns around Prop 64, particularly those about corporate take-over, Lindsay said, “There are going to be 19 licensing options moving forward with Prop 64. They will work on cultivation, processing, retail, testing, et cetera. One of the things that I think is really interesting is that for the first five years the law will not allow really large cultivation and it also won't allow those cultivations to be vertically integrated. I think that will help with some of the concern of really large businesses and really large monopolies forming in California. I know that is a concern for a lot of people. There is some wording in there that I think will help with that.”

With respect to what is legal under Prop 215 and new felonies, Lindsay said, “If they are right now legal under 215, they will stay legal under Prop 64. That's really important to know. No new felonies will be created.” She continued, “I think probably having a large quantity of marijuana on you, that currently you could face six months in jail if you had over an ounce. In almost anywhere in California realistically you could face six months in jail, that will not happen under Prop 64. That's really exciting.”

She stressed that sales tax would not need to be paid by medical card users saying, “There will be a new 15% sales tax on recreational or adult use marijuana. That will not apply to people who still have medical cards, they will be exempt from that sales tax.”

Regarding use of the tax fund, Lindsay said, “Annually basically we're looking at ten million dollars going to the University of California to study legalization, see its effects, understand the wide scale issues that folks are dealing with, how the regulations are working, how they're not. This is an interesting piece, 15 million dollars over five years will go to studying and creating DUI protocols. That's a huge issue right now. One that I don't think has been currently worked out in Prop 64. That's something that's going to continued to be studied and worked on. We're looking at 2 million dollars a year to medical marijuana research. That is incredible.”

She continued, “60% of the remaining money in the tax fund will go to youth prevention, education, and treatment. Environmental restoration, that's another one that's going to be receiving money from illegal grows. Hugely devastating to certain areas. There is going to be money that goes to that. There is going to be money that goes to law enforcement in helping to enforce these regulations.”
With regard to losing Prop 215 protection, Lindsay said, “Prop 64 is not going to touch the protection that folks have under 215 now. This is also incredible and super exciting. Upwards of 50 million dollars over the next five years is going to go to grants for communities that have been disenfranchised by this war on marijuana. That is bad ass so I hope that you guys are exciting about because as an activist that is really meaningful.”

Lindsay concluded by taking about the benefits of Prop 64 to veterans, saying, “One thing I think is also really exciting is that right now most veteran doctors, anyone going through the VA, they don't talk to their doctors about medical marijuana. There is a huge stigma with vets and the doctors are actually not allowed to recommend that veterans use medical marijuana. Now vets don't necessarily have to talk to their doctors about it or they can, but it will allow people who are suffering from ailments to receive medicine even if they're not necessarily getting a recommendation from their doctor. I think that's huge as well and really exciting.”

Watch the whole "Get Out The Vote" concert below:

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