This process almost always exposes the Achilles Heel of marijuana reform, and that is that we are the granola of civil right movements: lots of flakes and nuts. And nothing brings the nutjobs, guanolocos (batshit crazies), and full-blown whackaloons to the surface faster than somebody else proposing marijuana legalization in their state. We reported on it extensively during Prop 19 in California; come 2012 we may have five or six states with similar “Stoners Against Legalization” battles.
If you’ve been reading the back-and-forth on Colorado’s Amendment 30 proposal in the pages of this blog, you know what I’m talking about. After a few years of covering these issues, I’ve noticed a pattern that holds true in initiative states (especially those that already have medical marijuana). It goes like this:
Somebody local, but with connections to national organizations, works with some fellow local activists and national backers to craft a legalization initiative that can pass.
Other people are free to do just the same (and say they will, sometime in 2012, because why rush it when you need to collect a few hundred thousand signatures?), and they can create whatever initiative language they like and work to get support and funding for it like anyone else.
But what happens is the former have money, influence, connections, experience, and a successful track record, and the latter do not.
So the former (let’s call them “National”, even though most of the legwork is being done by locals) does some polling, analyzes public sentiment, reviews previous initiatives, learns from past mistakes, assesses the current situations, writes drafts of legislation, runs it by attorneys who tear it apart clause by clause, re-writes and works out what they believe to be the language that best balances the absolute freedom for cannabis we’d all like versus what will pass with 50%+1 of the vote from the public, a sizable portion of which still believe marijuana is a demon gateway drug straight to heroin and causes their kids to become long haired dirty stinky slacker losers who do bong hits in the SUV and drive down I-25.
The latter (let’s call them “Locals”) then get pissed off because National has already written, vetted, and proposed their language, gotten it approved by the State, and begun collecting signatures before Locals have even stopped arguing among themselves about the basic concepts they wish to put on the ballot. Then they scream about “not being consulted”, even though National has heard many times from many different Locals in many different states most of the exact same proposals the Locals are floating. But since National didn’t knock on the door of Mr. or Ms. Self-Appointed Arbiter of Who, When, & How Initiatives Are Filed and directly ask him or her whether or not they should consider his or her plan to make all weed legal for all people all the time in any amount anywhere for any reason with no taxes, regulations, licenses, or restrictions, and all the pot prisoners set free immediately with their records expunged… Locals don’t believe they were “consulted”.
Rather than come to the realization that The Stones were right; we can’t always get what we want, the Locals will then begin attacking the National because they are proposing an initiative far more conservative than the True Cannabis Freedom™ they would like to see eventually fail with 30% of the vote. Locals are pissed, because, by God, they are the ones who’ve been to the City Council meetings and the State legislative hearings, and who are these National guys, just swooping in and proposing amendments, like every other marijuana law reform initiative that has passed (only 2010′s California Prop 19 was funded by someone / some group NOT Soros / Lewis / National Group… and it failed.)
If National actually did “consult” Locals the way Locals dream of, what would happen? Locals would propose their water-pipe-dream True Cannabis Freedom™ clauses, National would laugh them out of the room, and Locals would then go ahead and attack National anyway, not for failing to “consult” this time, but for not adopting the Local’s True Cannabis Freedom™. Locals would never accept that “consult” means “ask for advice”, not “receive marching orders”, and if their proposals were heard and not accepted, the last thing they’d do is accept that and move on, working to support the measure they’d been “consulted” on.
Or to make a long story short (too late): Locals want National to give them all the money, media, labor, and expertise to pass the initiative they want and then get the hell out of the way.
The Locals, now dissed and “marginalized” in their minds (they were already disrespected and marginal to begin with), will attack not just National, but the legalization proposal they’ve put before the voters. “It’s not true legalization!” they’ll say. “Carpetbaggers!” they’ll scream. “Trying to corner the marijuana market!” they’ll predict. Then they will actively lobby and fight AGAINST the National proposal, because, gosh, the conservative proposal of legalizing one ounce away from the home, six plants (or a 5′x5′ garden) and all the harvests in the home, and all industrial hemp just isn’t worth supporting, and all the people who’d be arrested for those amounts should continue to get arrested until Locals can pass True Cannabis Freedom™.
Another twist in this is that Locals in many cases are the grassroots activists who’ve been shepherding the current MEDICAL marijuana law and have, at numerous occasions, told National to stay out of the medical marijuana pool, lest they poison it with “legalizer” rhetoric. But now that National, with its legalization focus, comes in to attempt a legalization measure, suddenly the medical Locals are the experts to be consulted.
Note that this isn’t all “Locals”. Most of them are reasonable and work with National orgs to write the best legalization proposal that has a chance of passing. No, these “Locals” usually form their own org with an important-sounding name and title and may even be local news media contacts (thinking it’s because they’re important, not because local news loves to parade a guanoloco True Marijuana Believer in front of the camera to discredit the movement) and feel that the reasons their org doesn’t have money, influence, connections, experience, and a successful track record have nothing to do with them and everything to do with the evil machinations of the National.
You can usually identify the True Marijuana Believer type of Local. They’re the ones shouting at legislators, disrupting public meetings, leading rallies against National orgs, proposing sit-ins to disrupt National conferences, suggesting dead kids on bicycles are to blame for getting themselves hit by cars, and seriously believing a majority of voters will support ideas like 12 pounds, 99 plants, $10/ounce tax limit, total amnesty for pot prisoners, and regulations that treat cannabis less strictly than alcohol. They often put “Rev.” before their names though they’ve never attended a seminary.
I’ve seen the story unfold before and I’m seeing it unfold again. There may even be some validity to the complaint about not being consulted; I’ve seen some laws get passed by National orgs that had sections that left me scratching my head (really, MPP, medical laws that don’t allow home grow?), but in no case would I actively OPPOSE any marijuana reform measure that means fewer people imprisoned for pot. But when the complainants then attack the National orgs and actively work to subvert legalization, it’s hard for me to distinguish them from the Drug Czar’s office and it’s no surprise when they aren’t consulted.