Marijuana and Tax Measures Vie for California 2016 Ballot

by on November 2, 2015 · 1 comment

in California, Civil Rights, Election, Environment, Health, History, Life Events, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Politics

legalizeBy Doug Porter

As we come down the stretch into the final year before the 2016 general election, there are competing interests backing ballot measures seeking to legalize recreational marijuana use and increase taxes on upper-income earners in California.

The downside in this situation is the possibility of enough confused voters rejecting the choices on the ballot on both issues. And you can bank on opponents of legalization and tax increases will do their best to sow doubt and confusion.

Divisions in the pro-pot camp led to the defeat of Proposition 19 in 2010, despite not having a competing measure on the ballot and polling showing voters favoring legalized marijuana. Advocates for tax increases in 2012 were divided between competing propositions, but a strong effort on the part of organized labor gave Proposition 30 the votes needed to win.

Billionaires vs Cannabis Activists

Although there are at least ten versions of pro-legalization measures circulating, right now there are only a few groups with the potential access to resources to mount a statewide signature gathering campaign.

Reform California, generally representative of long time California activists, is circulating language legalizing possession of an ounce of pot and personal cultivation of 100 square feet of marijuana for adult recreational use. Its approach proposes a tiered taxation system on cultivation, distribution and sales and requires voter approval for local bans on marijuana dispensaries and businesses.

The Drug Policy Action is a national group affiliated with the Drug Policy Alliance, funded by philanthropist George Soros. They were involved in successful legalization initiatives in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Washington DC. Their ideas differ on language concerning marijuana industry and cultivation rules, anti-discrimination protections for users of medical marijuana.

And then there are the big money people. Former Facebook president Sean Parker has taken matters into his own hands and is organizing other potential big donors.

According to the Sacramento Bee, they’ve hired political consultant Gale Kaufman and the law firm Olson Hagel & Fishburn to draft a 2016 initiative and lead the marijuana legalization effort.

The word is they’re working on an initiative appealing to a broader audience than constituencies of marijuana advocacy or business interests. This move comes in the wake of a report by a Commission on Marijuana Policy headed by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said he was hopeful it would influence authors of marijuana legalization measures.

From the Bee:

In the cannabis community, the Parker effort is considered the most likely to reach the ballot due to its financial clout alone. Marijuana advocacy groups such as Reform California and the Drug Policy Alliance, which until now have been pursuing initiatives of their own, are uncertain over what influence – if any – they will have on the 2016 measure.

Besides Parker, a billionaire tech executive who co-founded the file-sharing music service Napster, other likely initiative investors include wealthy heirs to the Hyatt hotel chain and Progressive insurance, according to multiple sources.

Previously, Justin Hartfield, an Irvine venture capitalist who founded Weedmaps Media, a website and mobile app that guides consumers to marijuana dispensaries, put up $1 million on April 20 for a separate committee backing legalization efforts. Hartfield also donated another $1 million to support marijuana-friendly political candidates.

Sacramento Bee reporter Christopher Cadelago pointed out the absurdity of the present situation:

With the 2016 election drawing near, no fewer than 17 proposals have been submitted for consideration, with at least 10 already receiving the cursory title and summary from the Attorney General’s Office. Aides to Kamala Harris have estimated the cost to prepare the measures for signature gathering at $8,500 apiece.

That puts the running tab to taxpayers at $85,000, plus whatever untold sums the Department of Finance and Legislative Analyst’s Office spends to draft its perfunctory fiscal analysis. The attorney general is set to spend another $60,000 just for the remaining seven measures slotted for consideration.

That’s enough to buy Phish tickets for the entire town of Garberville, with plenty left over for snacks.

Tax The Rich. But How?

tax the richAlso coming up on the 2016 ballot are constitutional amendment initiatives (which require more signatures to make the ballot than garden variety measures) backed by labor groups.

Both groups seek voter approval to extend Prop. 30 taxes on the wealthy to (mostly) help fund the state’s schools.

The California Teachers Association is supporting a measure calling for raising $7.7 billion in taxes on the wealthy. K-14 school funding would receive $4.2 billion, the rest into the state’s general fund.

The Service Employees International Union/United Health Workers, along with California Hospitals and Common Sense Kids Action, are also seeking to raise taxes on wealthy individuals making over $300,000 a year, indexed for inflation, with an additional hit on so-called “super-earners,” couples who jointly earn between $2-10 million annually.

The SEIU/UHW measure breaks out $4.5 billion of the funds for K-14 education, $4 billion for health care, $1 billion for pre-K/child care and $500 million for high education.

Both groups will be circulating petitions seeking 600,000 signatures during the first few months of 2016.


This is an excerpt from Doug Porter’s column at our associates at San Diego Free Press.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Bearded OBcean November 2, 2015 at 10:23 am

Why do you suppose it will only be opponents of legalizing grass and raising taxes who will try to sow doubt among voters instead of both sides?


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