2016 ‘Control, Regulate and Tax’ Initiative Filed

By O’Shaughnessy’s News Service October 4 

Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, was elated when the “Control, Regulate and Tax Cannabis Act of 2016” was filed with the Attorney General  on Friday October 2. (None dare call it “legalization,” except among themselves.)  Gieringer was heavily involved in the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, which drafted the measure. An interview extract follows:

DG: It was filed at 4:22 p.m. This is a first filing. Then public review for a few days. Then we refile. Then we need to get $1.6 million together to start the petition campaign. Then legislative hearings. Then the campaign and the election. 

O’S: How will the initiative interact with the package of bills now on Brown’s desk?

DG: It doesn’t repeal the medical marijuana regulations (which don’t take effect till 2017) because we didn’t want to deprecate the legislature’s hard work.  But it has fewer obnoxious restrictions. Anyone in the business will want to go with this new licensing regime.

O’S: Why might Brown not sign the bills?  

DG: I would be surprised if he doesn’t. His office took an active role in the drafting. He hasn’t gotten around to bill signing yet.

O’S: What kinds of taxes will be imposed? 

DG:  Two dollars per square foot of canopy production tax on commercial growers.  Fifteen dollars per ounce on all marijuana —a “production tax” assessed at the point where the farmer sells his product. If he sells to a manufacturer,  the manufacturer will pay the tax. For those who grow under 500 pounfd, the production tax is $5/ounce. 

O’S: Will patients be taxed?

DG: The cultivation and production taxes apply to both medical and non-medical cannabis.  At the store, everybody except for patients on Medi-Cal will pay a 5% retail tax that is designated for local governments. The initiative voids existing local taxes on marijuana. Non-medical users will pay another retail tax of 5% that goes to the state, plus a 5% surtax on concentrates and edibles. Patients have been asking to get out of the sales tax. We really couldn’t do it with so many patients out there, not all of them so needy.  Besides which, local governments could use a tax incentive to permit medical cannabis dispensaries.  

O’S: Are there precedents for taxing medicine in California? 

DG: Over-the-counter drugs and herbal medicines are taxed. Interestingly, If you buy ginger at the herb store it’s taxed as an herbal medicine;  if you buy it at the grocery, it’s not taxed because it’s food.

O’S: Does the initiative have any implications for Under-21s?

DG: It does. First, possession of an oz by 18-21s, while illegal, would be subject to a maximum $100 fine.  The fine for illegal possession in other instances is $500. Secondly, the “sharing” of cannabis by an adult with an 18-21 would also be subject to a maximum $100 fine. In contrast, sales to minors under 18 is a wobbler, with possible felony penalties.

O’S: Was the term “legalization” ever considered for the title?

DG: Never.  All the political gurus think it’s too loaded. The text of the initiative should be available later today (Sunday, Oct 4) or Monday for sure through ReformCA.com.

Exclusive to O’Shaughnessy’s!   A commentary on pending marijuana law reforms from two credible authorities. 

From another source we learn that the Drug Policy Alliance pulled out of the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform about two months ago. A DPA lawyer had drafted an initiative that was full of irrelevant injunctions. Ever since hedge-fund billionaire George Soros stopped funding them, their influence has dwindled. DPA came close to lining up another major backer, an investor/philanthropist named Sean Parker, but he had second thoughts. 

DPA is still talking big. The LA Weekly reported October 2:

“The Drug Policy Alliance, one of the biggest players in marijuana politics, might go its own way. It’s preparing its own language for circulation that could be filed later this month if DPA principals aren’t happy with other initiatives being prepared, L.A. Weekly has learned.

“‘We want to have a plan B option that’s ready to go in case [another] initiative doesn’t represent and uphold the values and principles,'” says Lynne Lyman, the DPA’s California director. ‘We’re most concerned about a case where it doesn’t move forward.'”

Each of Ms. Lyman’s sentences is mealy-mouthed and hollow.  In case what doesn’t move forward? What values and principles does DPA cherish that might not be upheld by CCPR? Like the automatic DUI based on blood levels of cannabinoids  that they imposed on the citizens of Washington State? 

 A little less than a year ago in the Anderson Valley Advertiser and Counterpunch we reported on a 2016-initiative planning session at which a Santa Monica flack named Bill Zimmerman —the keynote speaker— declared that only the Drug Policy Alliance was capable of drafting and managing the campaign for a legalization measure. Dale Sky Jones, Dale Gieringer and other grassroots organizers who’d been working with the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform were kind of appalled. The story was laid out for O’Shaughnessy’s, where it won’t run because it’s outdated. We’re posting it now for history’s sake. Here’s a timely snippet:

Zimmerman warned that “new players with their own money” might back initiatives, resulting in more than one making the ballot. This would be “disastrous,” he claimed.

“Our opponents would jump at the chance to advertise our disagreements…”