Saturday, October 22, 2016

Roger McNamee - My First And Driving Motivation On California Proposition 64 Is About Civil Rights

Roger McNamee, musician and advocate for cannabis reform in the United States, recently shared his thoughts on California's Proposition 64 and his support for #YesOn64. Here are some of the highlights from his recent live Facebook broadcast. Scroll down to see the video. 

Roger began, "I'm here to tell you, on November 3rd, Thursday, November 3rd, Moonalice is going to be playing a concert at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, California. That's the venue owned by BobWeir of the Grateful Dead. We're going to be there on November 3rd for a Proposition 64 awareness concert. We're going to be joined at that show by Steve DeAngelo, the founder of the Harborside Health Center, which is the first, the largest, and in my opinion the best medical dispensary in the state of California. He's going to be there to answer all your questions."

He continued, "There is a tremendous campaign being waged by people who are coming out of industries like the pharmaceutical opiate industry, the hard liquor industry, for-profit prisons, and other people who are trying to protect the status quo, to keep our state from making what is a really, really, really important next step in the battle to free people from just the hell that has been the war on drugs. I want you to understand a few things. Proposition 64 is just a step. It's one in a long line. It's not perfect, but we're going to fix what's wrong with it, and it is so much better than what we have now that I want to encourage you to listen to the arguments that I want to make right now so that you can appreciate why I'm so enthusiastic about this."

It's a matter of civil rights

"My first and driving motivation on Prop 64 is about civil rights," Roger said. "I don't know if you know this, but did you realize that people of color are arrested and incarcerated for marijuana at three times not just the rate of the population but thee times the rate of usage of marijuana? Essentially the drug laws are the foundation of the new Jim Crow. This is the way that white supremacists, one of the core ways for controlling people of color. It's really horrible. It's a tremendous waste of law enforcement resources. The people who are caught in the cross-hairs of this, it's so, so hard to recover. The only way, the only way we can help them is by taking this important step to legalize cannabis in the state of California."

He added passionately, "To me, this is a civil rights issue. For me, it's not an investment opportunity. For many people it will be. My focus is, if I have anything I can do about this, I want to make sure that people of color get special advantages to come into this industry and be successful, because frankly they're the ones who've been abused by these laws all the way along, and they deserve a chance to be part of whatever success comes. Let's not kid ourselves. This is a humongous industry today. It's $50 billion. The notion that this isn't dominated by big business? It is. It's dominated by big crime. Our job is to get this into the legitimate economy so that it can help everybody."

Continuing, Roger said, "I'm sitting there going, look, you're free to vote any way you want, but if you want to vote in a way that you can feel really good about, just ask yourself the following question: How often do you get to make a vote that directly impacts the civil rights of people in our state? How often do we get to do that? I'm involved in this because I grew up in a family where civil rights was a big deal. My parents were super active in the '60s in the civil rights movement. I was raised to believe that that stuff really matters, so I'm doing everything in my power to try to fix the great wrong that has been done to people of color in the name of the war on drugs. I'm inviting all of you to join me."

Other reasons for saying #YesOn64

Roger elaborated on other reasons for saying #YesOn64, "There are lots of other reasons to do this. Let me just list a few of them. The first thing to understand is that California has a gigantic black market today, and the black market for marijuana is somewhere between $20 and $70 billion a year. The folks at Harborside would tell you somewhere between $50 and $70 billion is probably the correct number. A lot of this is in the hands of people who are growing illegally in state parks and national parks with enormous environmental consequences. None of the people who work in that industry get health insurance. They don't get social security. There is no labor protection. There was a story in The New York Times this week about people who are being abused, I mean physically abused working in that industry because everything is currently illegal. That's just wrong."

He continued, "The key thing here is that the state of California needs to accept the fact that marijuana is the largest cash crop in our state, and that having it outside the legitimate economy, it's just crazy. This is a commonsense thing that we're trying to do here. Again, it's a step along the way. Prop 64 does not do anything about bringing the black market into the legitimate economy, but it sets the basis for it. It sets the next step that essentially creates and normalizes the cannabis industry in our state. It allows a bunch of really important things to happen. The first thing that it does is that it's going to begin to create a real industry, so the folks who've labored so hard during the medical era have a chance to also address the portion of the market that is, if you will, adult use."

"Why is that important? The reason it's important is that we want this inside our economy. We want to regulate it," said Roger. "We would like to tax it, because the state needs more money for education. It needs more money for mental health care. It needs more money for infrastructure. The reality is, if you had a 10% tax on cannabis all the way through the industry and somehow you were able to get two-thirds of the black market to be part of the real economy, it would literally change the economics of the state of California dramatically. Effectively it would be as important to California as oil has been to the state of Texas. I think that would be a really, really good idea. I think in many ways marijuana is that important to the state of California. Let's make it part of the mainstream economy."

Opponents' disinformation campaign

Describing the plethora of #NoOn64 memes on social media, Roger said, "There have been a ton of complaints that this is going to be bad for smaller farmers, that it's going to create new crimes that currently aren't crimes. All of that stuff, all the stuff you've been reading on Facebook, it's coming from people who profit from the status quo, and it misses some points. There are clearly some things wrong with the bill. I think it is stupid to have misdemeanor for certain kinds of growing at home. That's nuts, but let's remember, today it's a felony. This is clearly a step in the right direction."

He continued, "Is it perfect? Not even close, but I am now working more or less full-time trying to get this done, trying to help our state get this right. I'm working with the Lieutenant Governor's Office. I'm working with other people in our state government. I'm working with people in the federal government. Why am I doing this? I'm doing this because people of color have been victimized by these laws for ages. Our state needs the tax revenues. The people who work in this industry need better protections. It's not going to go perfectly. We're going to make mistakes. We're going to fix them. We've got to do this   together."
"Here's the thing. The disinformation campaign being waged by the people who make opiate pharmaceuticals, by the people who make hard liquor, by the for-profit prison companies and all that, their disinformation campaign has caused the polling to get much tighter," said Roger. "It shouldn't be that way. This is a core part of our economy. Let's just do the right thing and treat it with the respect it deserves. Let's treat the people with respect. I want to protect small business."

Rocking the prop

Roger described the show (embedded below) of his band Moonalice in support of Prop 64, saying, "On November 3rd at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, California, Moonalice is going to be playing a show. We've invited Steve DeAngelo, the founder of the Harborside Health Center, the largest, the first dispensary in the state of California, to come and answer your questions. Come and meet Steve. Come and meet the other people from Harborside. It's going to be a fun show, but we're going to learn a lot, and we're going to bring the tribe together to do something for civil rights that we can all be incredibly proud of." 

He concluded by saying, "I will tell you, I don't pretend that Prop 64 solves the whole problem. In politics it never works that way. In politics you make small steps and you make lots of them, and you keep at it and you're determined and you fight for the right thing. If you're really lucky, you live to see the finish line. I look at all my friends in the LGBTQ community and the incredible job they did on marriage equality, and I admire them for just hanging in there and fighting the good fight. Look what's happened. They've been really successful. If we elect the right person President this year, we're going to keep all of those gains. Now is the time to do the same thing for cannabis. Join me. Vote "Yes" on Proposition 64 on November 8th."

Everyone who attends the Prop 64 awareness concert at Sweetwater Music Hall on 3 November will receive a set of 11 #yeson64 posters, including these posters by Dennis Loren, Carolyn Ferris and Wes Wilson and Wendy Wright, Moonalice artists from the Haight Street Art Center collective.

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