So could legalized pot keep California from closing parks and cutting school funding in the state's current budget crunch? Folks at the Marijuana Policy Project say yes -- and they've launched a statewide ad campaign today to reach Gov.Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers in California as they wrestle this week over the yawning $26 billion-plus deficit.
Controversy has followed the ads even before they hit the airwaves: they were rejected by the NBC affiliate in the San Francisco Bay Area, and by ABC affiliates in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The fear among some broadcasters: they appear to advocate drug use.
But perhaps that's because such ads are a first in California, says Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project, who predicts they're going to "catch people's attention. It's something nobody's come out and said in such a straightforward manner on TV before. I think there's gonna be some interest and it'll help the conversation along.''
The spot will be seen on cable news outlets including CNN, CNN Headline News, MSNBC and CNBC in the state's major media markets as well as on broadcast stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento, MPP says.
They star "an actual California marijuana consumer," Nadene Herndon of Fair Oaks, near Sacramento, who says that "the governor and legislators are ignoring millions of Californians who want to pay taxes. We're marijuana consumers. Instead of being treated like criminals for using a substance safer than alcohol, we want to pay our fair share."
The spot can be viewed online.
Aaron Smith, the Marijuna Policy Project's director, said he is "astonished that three major California TV stations chose to censor a discussion that Governor Schwarzenegger has said our state should have on an issue supported by 56 percent of voters, according to the Field poll.''
"The 2 million Californians who use marijuana in a given month deserve to have their voices heard,'' he said. "And their tax dollars should help solve the fiscal emergency that threatens our schools, police and parks."
MPP says it has more than 27,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, and ranks as the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. "MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol,'' the organization says.
With the debut of the spots, MPP's Bruce Mirken also talked with Chronicle reporter Richard Procter today about the ads.
Here's the Q&A:
Q: Why are you willing to spend money on this ad when the governor has said no to tax increases?
A: "Obviously, given the nature of things this year there's no guarantees about anything. But we thought it was very important to have the conversation -- and the fact is that there are a considerable number of people who are regular marijuana consumers who are happy to be taxed. Given the budget situation, shouldn't we be talking about that? I don't think anyone believes that the budget problems or the marijuana issue will go away this year, but this can be a part of the solution.''
Q: Does (the Marijunana Policy Project) speak for all marijuana users, medical or otherwise? The ad makes it seem like that's the case.
A: "We're talking about marijuana consumers in general. We certainly don't claim to speak for everybody, but there is a large body of folks out there who would be willing to bear their share of the cost of keeping the state running.''
Q: How would marijuana be taxed?
A: "It could be done any number of ways, we're not locked into any particular number or method. I don't think there would be any objection to a regular, garden variety sales tax. (Government officials) says they seized over $11 billion worth of marijuana last year. Obviously that number isn't exact, but if it's close, just a 9% sales tax would be about a billion dollars worth of revenue. Nobody denies this is a very large business, and to leave it outside the system is just demented.''
Q:Will this work?
A: "Ask me in about a week."
Posted By: Carla Marinucci
July 8, 2009
San Francisco Chronicle
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New ad says pot smokers "happy to be taxed'' -- can they help with CA's budget crunch