Proposition 19

Breaking news: Prop 19 passes/fails (circle one) and life goes on as usual!

By Mikal Jakubal

I’ve been working on a post-election story for a while now, but haven’t been able to get my thoughts together on it due to work, filming and the OMG-winter-is-here-and-I’m-not-ready hecticness that comes with country living. Since the Times-Standard story came out today and many people have been asking me how I feel about Prop 19, the election overall and the next steps for the film, I thought I’d do a quick update.

For those who don’t know already, I was very pro-Prop 19 and voted unequivocally “yes.” Was it the dream legalization initiative? Of course not, but I’ve been following the issue closely enough—including some of the behind-the-scenes organizing at the local and state levels—to know that it was workable and that most of the negative aspects could easily be mitigated with active, grass-roots organizing. I’ll explain that soon in a longer post.

In my opinion, the biggest election threats to the pot industry and the legalization movement—medical or otherwise—were the Humboldt District Attorney’s race and the State Attorney General’s race. Progressive, pot-tolerant Gallegos is secure as Humboldt County D.A., but as of this morning, Republican Steve Cooley is still edging-out Kamala Harris in a very close State A.G. race. Cooley has said he’ll shut down dispensaries and will probably try to do a whole lot more if elected A.G. I can only hope that all the pro-weed people who put so much energy into opposing Prop 19 also realized the greater importance of the A.G. race and convinced friends to vote Democrat on that one.

I’ve always been pro-legalization. The whole thing seems like such a ridiculous waste of time and energy for everyone and society as a whole. It was never an issue I cared that much about until the first time I smoked weed at about age 32, during my first year here in SoHum. I remember the evening well. It was at a potluck “up the hill” as we say. My first thought, after I stopped coughing, was, “now I understand ‘getting the munchies!'” The second was, “so this is what all the fuss is about?” I had expected something much stronger. The thought that billions of dollars had been spent and countless lives ruined over something so harmless cemented an already deep-seated skepticism about any moral ground the government or society would ever lay claim to.

As for the documentary, I’m still shooting, but now have the end in sight. I was up filming the election night mayhem at KMUD until after 2 a.m. On the drive home, with Prop 19 a clear failure at the polls, I realized that my film was done. Though the production work is far from finished, the story now has a logical conclusion. I’ll be shooting wrap up material and a bit of settling-in-for-winter-on-the-homesteaad footage and then probably follow up in the spring with the new planting season.

I’ll keep shooting sporadically over the next two years since a 2012 ballot initiative is virtually guaranteed and local organizing efforts will continue. There is also the possibility that the State and County governments will pass some sort of new regulations in the interim and I’ll want to keep up on that for the historical record—or the sequel.

Along with the wrap-up shooting, the next step in the film involves getting funding for post-production. I do not plan to edit ONE GOOD YEAR myself. I’ll need to raise a serious budget to be able to hire a top-notch professional editor.

I’m constantly asked when the film will be out. The answer depends on my ability to raise said budget. With a full professional budget, the film could be done by late summer 2011. If I have to raise money $20 at a time, it might take years. My tentative goal is to have it completed by late September 2011, in time for the Sundance Film Festival submission deadline. If accepted into Sundance (which is VERY competitive), it would premier there in January of 2012.

There is also the possibility that I may choose a self-distribution model and release it the minute it is done, not waiting for festival or broadcast deadlines years from now. No matter what, it is important that it be out in the world in time for the 2012 election season organizing efforts, as it will dramatically change the perception and the story of who “pot growers” are, what the values and farming lifestyle of rural pot-dependent communities are really all about and why Prop 19 was such an emotional issue for those who feared their way of life was being threatened. (More on this will also be in near-future posts. Hint: it ain’t about the money.)

Everyone—growers, legislators, economists,the DEA, RAND Corporation—has predictions about the pot economy and what will happen next, with or without Prop 19. Most of this is wild speculation, with the best of it being informed wild speculation. There is one thing and one thing only that can be predicted with any certainty: next spring, farmers in cannabis-dependent rural counties in California will plant seeds and, in October, harvest high-quality weed that will be sold to willing and happy buyers. You can put money on it—for at least a couple more years.

One Good Year on KCRW’s “To The Point” radio show

Yours truly was a featured guest on KCRW’s To The Point talk show on Monday. KCRW is a major NPR affiliate out of Santa Monica that serves much of Southern California, while To The Point is syndicated nationally to other NPR stations.

I come in at about minute-twenty-nine in the program and am on and off for the next ten minutes or so till the program’s end. Listening to what I have to say here gives a good overview of the key issues facing this community at large, as well as the questions the main characters in the documentary are grappling with. So far, two of the four are staunch supporters of Prop 19, one who was wavering decided to vote yes with her mail-in ballot and I haven’t heard if the fourth has decided yet.

Below is the description from the KCRW site.

Proposition 19 on next week’s California ballot would legalize marijuana for people over 21 and allow for commercial production. Local governments, now strapped for revenue, could regulate and tax a new industry and lower their costs for law enforcement and jails. Both sides are making extravagant claims, but nobody really knows what the financial, social or medical impacts might be. The latest polls show it trailing, and the Obama Administration promises a challenge, but Prop 19 could still have a nationwide impact.

Guests:

Upcoming News 10 story on Humboldt and Prop 19 features One Good Year.

Sacramento, California ABC News 10 will be airing a half-hour special entitled “Proposition Pot” this Sunday. There were here last month interviewing various Southern Humboldt locals. They’ve got a short segment on ONE GOOD YEAR, which includes an interview with me. There is a preview story up on their website at the link above, with a short video excerpt from the longer piece.

It was amusing having them try and set up to shoot in my tiny office, but we made room. Then we went and visited a  pot patch where I filmed them filming a (face masked) grower who had agreed to talk to them.

They interviewed other locals, including blogger Kym Kemp and Tea House Collective member Liz Davidson, both of whom represented SoHum intelligently and well. It’s nice to see journalists getting beyond the superficial and sensational stories usually done about our home town. Maybe after so many years of cliche, Humboldt County has reached Peak Hype and we’ll be seeing more sophisticated reporters taking the time to find real stories.

Humboldt County Board of Supervisors Endorses Proposition 19

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 19, 2010
Contact: Charley Custer, HuMMAP 707-223-4014
Ellen Komp, CaNORML Emerald Chapter 707-223-5755
http://hummap.org

Going further than a “no position” endorsement recommendation by Supervisor Mark Lovelace, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors today voted 4-0 to endorse Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 that will be on the Nov. 2 California ballot.

Syreeta Lux, Chair of HuMMAP (Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel) spoke at the meeting, enjoining the board to, at a minimum, support 19 with reservations. Although the proposition isn’t perfect, it’s a step forward and what Humboldt’s economy needs, she said, adding “We are ready and able to help you if you let us.”

Supervisor Bonnie Neely then spoke, charging the Board to support the measure, noting that they had a history of supporting legalization. She hearkened to an August 2007 letter the Board sent to Rep. Mike Thompson asking for legalization and taxation at a federal level.

Breaking the silence afterwards, Southern Humboldt Supervisor Clif Clendendon spoke, stating, “I’m going to just say that I agree. I support Proposition 19.” Neely moved to support the proposition and Supervisor Jill Geist, who hadn’t spoke, seconded it.

“I feel proud of our Board,” Lux said. “We made some real headway today.”

The vote went 4-0 with Supervisor Smith abstaining, as he had in the 4-0 vote on the 2007 letter mentioned by Neeley.

Some Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Against Prop 19

Some Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Against Prop 19

Contrary to what some of the dispensary owners say in the article below, Prop 19 does not touch the current CA medical marijuana model. Period. And, it’s not confusing. What I don’t get about these people is that they could be so short-sighted as to their own economic interests.

Legalization of recreational use of weed will knock the bottom out of the inflated price that the dispensaries are currently getting, but it will also mean that the people in the best position to massively profit off of recreational use are those very same dispensaries, since they already have operating storefronts. Now the entire state is their customer base.

That’s why the Oakland dispensary owners are behind 19. All I can say about the anti-Prop 19 dispensaries is that they must be terrible, short-sighted business people.

Contrary to what the detractors say, legalization of recreational weed will dramatically benefit patients since they can get pot more easily and cheaply than at the dispensaries and will no longer have to go through the formality of a doctor’s recommendation—further saving them money.

Among other reasons, this is why I chose this year to make this documentary. The story just keeps getting more and more interesting by the day.

—Mikal Jakubal
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Medical pot industry split on Prop. 19

From the Sacramento Bee

By Peter Hecht
phecht@sacbee.com
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 1A

PAUL KITAGAKI JR. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Lanette Davies, owner of the Canna Care medical pot dispensary in Sacramento, seen with employee Joe Hough, has dispatched a truck to drive around the city with a sign urging a “no” vote on Proposition 19. Davies says the initiative threatens the freedom of medical pot patients.

The Canna Care medical marijuana dispensary has a truck driving around Sacramento with a sign telling people to vote “no” on the state ballot initiative that would legalize pot for recreational use.

George Mull, a lawyer for several Northern California pot shops, is fighting Proposition 19 on claims it threatens protections put in place for medical pot users with the 1996 passage of California’s medical marijuana law.

And a Humboldt County dispensary operator complains that the new pot measure simply isn’t needed. “They say they’re legalizing marijuana,” said Stephen Gasparas, who runs the iCenter pot dispensary in Arcata. “It’s already legal. All they’re doing is taxing it.”

California’s landmark initiative to legalize marijuana use for adults over 21 and permit local governments to tax retail pot sales is backed – and bankrolled – by leaders in California’s medical cannabis movement.

And yet some of its more stubborn opposition comes from a vocal segment of the same community who worry their dispensary operations may be negatively affected.

“I’m against this because I feel patients have been sold a bill of goods that is going to take their freedom away,” said Lanette Davies, who runs Canna Care.

Another opponent, Don Johnson, who operates the Unity Non-Profit Collective in Sacramento, said he worries about contradictions between California’s medical marijuana law and Proposition 19.

For example, Johnson’s marijuana store can legally serve an 18-year-old who has a physician’s recommendation. He wonders how that squares with Proposition 19, which restricts recreational pot use to people over 21.

“It seems to me there will be a double rule on the books,” Johnson said. “It’s mass confusion.”

Proposition 19 supporters say they are puzzled over the opposition and argue the initiative will protect tens of thousands of Californians from arrest and generate a windfall in taxes.

In Sacramento, for example, voters will consider a companion measure to Proposition 19 that would levy a 2 to 4 percent gross receipts tax on existing medical pot dispensaries and a 5 to 10 percent tax on new retail pot outlets.

“Proposition 19 will have zero, zilch, nada impact on the current legal rights granted to patients, caregivers, doctors, collectives and cooperatives under California’s existing medical cannabis laws,” said Dan Newman, a spokesman for the Yes on 19 campaign.

But Mull, a Sacramento attorney, said he believes the initiative will undercut ongoing legal fights in numerous cities on behalf of pot shops.

Some 140 California cities ban marijuana dispensaries. Pot shops argue they have a right to operate under the state’s 1996 medical marijuana law and follow-up legislation from the state. Mull says Proposition 19 provisions that authorize cities to tax, regulate – and also ban – retail pot shops could empower cities to target medical pot outlets.

“They (cities) basically are expressly given a right they are claiming – that local governments can control things within their borders, notwithstanding Proposition 215,” Mull claimed. “All of the things that I have been arguing for in court, I lose.”

The nation’s leading medical marijuana advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access, is taking no position on Proposition 19. But Don Duncan, the organization’s California director, said the group does not think the initiative would undercut the rights of medical users.

Proposition 19 has been funded largely by Oakland marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee, operator of the city’s Coffee Shop Blue Sky dispensary and a marijuana trade school, Oaksterdam University.

It also has gotten financial support from a major Bay Area dispensary, Berkeley Patient’s Group Inc., and political backing from Steve DeAngelo, executive director of Harborside Health Center, an Oakland outlet billed as the largest dispensary in the world. DeAngelo, who initially thought this was the wrong year to put the measure on the ballot, now strongly advocates its passage.

“If it wins, you’re going to see a major shift in the political dynamic for cannabis,” DeAngelo said. “And I think politicians who thought there was a downside to supporting cannabis will receive a wake-up call.”

Harborside, a nonprofit network that handles $26 million in marijuana transactions annually, may be well-equipped to convert into a retail operation that serves both medical and recreational users.

“I don’t think there is any reason we wouldn’t be able to serve any qualified person who wants to purchase cannabis providing the city of Oakland licenses us to do so,” DeAngelo said.

Still, Yamileth Bolanos, a cancer survivor who runs the Purelife Alternative Wellness Center in Los Angeles, has mixed feelings.

Bolanos plans to vote “yes” on 19. But she worries legalizing recreational pot could create shortages of high quality marijuana for medical needs and stir a frenzy in cities trying to figure out the new law.

“They can’t even get medical marijuana right,” Bolanos said. “How are they going to open up these places for recreational use? Is it just going to be bedlam?”

Facebook Censors Pot Ads

Facebook Censors Pot Ads

This from the FireDogLake blog:

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After our ads with the Just Say Now logo of a marijuana leaf ran more than 38 million times, Facebook flip-flopped and banned all images of marijuana from its ads.”

Given that marijuana is a legal plant to grow and use for medicinal purposes in many states and given that medical and recreational use is on the ballot in other states, this can only be considered political censorship. Facebook has always been prudish, but this crosses over into political.

I wonder what would happen if the anti-Proposition 19 forces wanted to use their logo in a Facebook ad campaign? Here’s their logo http://bit.ly/9jDqIY

I wonder if they’ll decide to censor profile pictures next.

What Do You Think Is Gonna Happen?

By Mikal Jakubal

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I ran into an old grower friend today, someone who has been a homesteader for decades, and asked him what he thought was going to happen with legalization and the economy and culture here. “I hope it all leaves me alone for one more year,” was his unhesitating reply. Then, more thoughtfully he said, “I’m looking forward to the clearing-out. See who is here for the lifestyle and way of life. It’ll get rid of the weak-hearts. The extravagance and greed gets to me.”

I asked him how he thought the vote would go in November. “I think most people that have a vested interest will vote against it. They’re worried about their income.”

These are common sentiments you’ll hear talking to people here. Mostly, no one really knows what is going to happen, with or without the passage of Proposition 19 in the November election.

What do YOU think is going to happen? Post your comments here.

Feds Scrutinizing Oakland’s New Pot Laws

By Mikal Jakubal

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An article in San Francisco’s The Bay Citizen describes recent contact between the Drug Enforcement Administration and Oakland city officials regarding their recently-passed marijuana-growing regulations. The new rules would permit four indoor warehouse mega-grows, the biggest of them being capable of producing over fifty pounds of dried weed per day.  It was a question that many people had been asking, not just about Oakland, but about Proposition 19 and local ordinances like the one HuMMAP has proposed for Humboldt County.

I get asked all the time what I think the Feds will do if Prop 19 passes and if something like HuMMAP’s ordinance is adopted in Humboldt County. That ordinance would allow everyone to pay a modest license fee and grow a boat-load of weed for sale to the recreational market. I’ve always thought the DEA wouldn’t really do anything. The fact that they are looking at Oakland’s ordinance (and probably neighboring Berkeley’s proposed ordinance as well) and with the recent raid on Mendocino County’s first permitted grow site under the Sheriff’s new plan suggests that they may try some last-ditch intimidation tactics. I’d put my money on them taking a less jack-booted approach, though. Instead, they may threaten to withhold Federal highway or school funds or something along those lines until California rescinds recreational pot use.

If it passes in the first place. The threat of Federal intervention is no reason to vote against Prop 19. Pass the law first, then let’s see what happens.

Interestingly enough, Oakland’s own city attorney has expressed doubts about the legality of the new ordinance. From what I understand of the currently-legal “medical marijuana model”—a mix of laws, court decisions and guidelines—the Oakland mega-grows are pushing the limits waaaaay out past what even the most liberal interpretation of the model would allow. I suspect that they see the recreational writing on the wall and want to be out ahead of the curve in terms of both profiting from it and controlling it. I suspect that if Prop 19 passes, Oakland will simply modify the permit system to allow recreational sales from the few currently permitted dispensaries and grow warehouses. Individuals will still be able to freely possess one ounce and grow a 5′ x 5′ garden, but anything else would be tightly controlled by the city.

It’s a sign of the times that Humboldt, once ground zero for the marijuana wars, is barely worth a half-hearted skirmish anymore. I’m sure everyone here is fine with that. If Oakland wants mega-grows, let them take the heat that comes with it.

Recreational Marijuana Ordinance Proposed For Humboldt County

The Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel (HuMMAP) has posted a draft ordinance written by CA NORML‘s Ellen Komp. It would set recreational marijuana policy for the County should Proposition 19 pass in November. On a quick read, the proposal seems sane, clear and workable. It establishes a set of licenses and fees for various aspects of the cannabis industry in Humboldt County.

For example, a home grower license would cost $2500 and allow you to grow and sell weed right from your home. You could potentially have a roadside farm stand, as many rural people already do, selling flowers, corn, eggs and bud. Something tells me that the honor system used by many farm stands might not work so well with that one.

For $500 one would be able to get a cultivation license and for an extra $50 permit, the licensed cultivator could sell at certified farmers markets—but no more than 50 lbs/year. Even if the price dropped to $500/lb, that $500 fee seems like a pretty good deal!

This all makes me wonder about alternative ways to finance post-production of this documentary if Prop 19 passes. Maybe I could get growers to donate weed to the project and then get some kind of a license to offer it as a premium with pre-purchase of a DVD? That doesn’t seem permissible in the current proposal, but maybe I should propose an artist funding amendment of some sort. Hmmm… (I’m kidding here. Well, mostly.)