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  1. Alfa
    OAKLAND "REGULATE AND TAX" MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION INITIATIVE GETTING UNDERWAY

    Poll Says Public Support Strong

    A group of veteran activists is aiming to make Oakland, California,
    the first place in the country to endorse legalizing the use and sale
    of marijuana, and they have polling numbers showing strong support for
    such a move. Filed with city officials Thursday, the Oakland Cannabis
    Regulation and Revenue Initiative would direct the Oakland City
    Council to establish a system of licensed, regulated marijuana sales
    in the city as soon as legally possible. While legal pot sales would
    have to await a change in state law and federal law, a second
    provision in the initiative would have an immediate effect. It directs
    the city to make personal adult use of marijuana Oakland's lowest law
    enforcement priority.

    "This would be the first time any government entity in the country
    will have called for what amounts to Amsterdam-style legalization,"
    said Dale Gieringer, California NORML (http://www.canorml.org)
    executive director and one of the board members of the Oakland Civil
    Liberties Alliance (OCLA), the newly-formed group behind the effort.
    "Twenty years ago, we were asking for decriminalization, but we're
    moving beyond that now. Even though for much of the adult population
    there is a sort of de facto decriminalization -- not that many adults
    around here actually get arrested for pot use -- that still leaves the
    black market, with all its disruptions."

    It could work in Oakland. Already picking up the nickname Oaksterdam
    for the flowering of medical marijuana dispensaries around Telegraph &
    Broadway, the city appears ready for the move, at least according to
    results from a poll commissioned by OCLA. In that survey, conducted
    last month by McGuire Research Services, 71% of Oakland votes
    supported the taxed and regulated sale of marijuana, while 75%
    supported making private adult use the lowest law enforcement priority.

    "We started with focus groups last summer to get a feel for what
    Oakland voters wanted," said Claire Lewis of Progressive
    Communications, the group hired by OCLA to get the campaign underway,
    "and the poll results coincided with our estimates based on the focus
    groups. This is a wonderful population for us," she told DRCNet. "It
    is extremely low in Republicans and high in Democrats, Greens, and
    independents. Oakland is a very progressive city hit hard by the
    federal government's war on drugs, and that's reflected in 90% saying
    the federal drug war isn't working. Oakland voters are ready to
    reevaluate what is going on."

    Focus groups, polls, and setting up initiative campaigns takes money.
    The Marijuana Policy Project (http://www.mpp.org) came through for the
    Oakland effort, Lewis said. "We got a grant in MPP's last grant cycle
    to do the poll and the start up and the petition gathering for the
    initiative," she explained. "Opinion research can be expensive, but it
    gives us a solid knowledge base. We'll use the numbers and messages
    that we found in the polling and the focus groups. We know that what
    worries Oakland voters is street crime and street dealing. Voters want
    to keep it off the streets, and they're worried about serious crime.
    They don't want to waste police resources on cannabis offenses."

    In addition to hiring Progressive Communications, OCLA has brought
    some of the Bay Area's most dedicated activists together. Along with
    California NORML's Gieringer, OCLA's board includes Oakland politico
    Joe Devries, who as former head of the city's Public Health and Safety
    Commission helped make Oakland medical marijuana-friendly; Richard
    Lee, owner of Oaksterdam landmark the Bulldog Coffee Shop, and Mikki
    Norris of the Cannabis Consumers Campaign (http://www.cannabisconsumers.org),
    which seeks to introduce normal pot-smokers to the American public.

    "This is exactly where we want to go," said Norris. "OCLA wants to tax
    and regulate the use of marijuana by adults, and the work of the
    Cannabis Consumers Campaign fits right into this. We want to get
    people to come out of the closet to allay the public's fears about
    what happens to people who smoke cannabis," she told DRCNet. "The
    long-term goal is to have equal rights in society and not be
    discriminated against, and this initiative will be a giant step in
    that direction."

    "We've been crafting the language of this right up to the last
    minute," said Gieringer, "and we set out some parameters. It doesn't
    apply to kids, there would be licensing for smoking facilities, there
    would be no advertising on media like billboards and TV. We think
    Oaklanders are going to be very receptive," he said. "It also directs
    city lobbyists to lobby for changes in state law that would allow the
    city to regulate and tax marijuana sales."

    The campaign will hit hard on crime and public safety issues, Norris
    said. "Oakland has serious problems with street crime and murders and
    kids being exposed. We are offering a solution that would channel some
    of the street dealing into legitimate businesses that could be held
    accountable for problems. In the focus groups, a lot of people were
    really bothered by the street dealing."

    The prospect of tax revenues could also prove seductive to social
    service-starved Oakland voters. "This is arguably the largest cash
    crop in the state and it's completely untaxed," Gieringer pointed out.
    "Revenue considerations are very important, and only with full-scale
    regulation can you tap into those dollars. This could raise real tax
    money for the city."

    With the state of California suffering record deficits and ripple
    effects hitting cities and counties across the state, it may not be
    just Oakland voters who get interested. "We can offer at least some
    sort of solution to the budget crisis," said Norris. "That could get a
    lot of attention. People across the state are concerned that we're
    wasting money going after nonviolent offenders and they see a revenue
    stream just waiting to be tapped into. The cities and counties are
    hurting, and we have a solution: Tax us!"

    While OCLA concedes that state law must change for the initiative to
    take effect, it argues that the ramifications of a November victory
    could be large. "There would definitely be a change in the local
    political climate," said Gieringer. "Politicians would begin to
    understand that this is a safe issue. And it could also instigate
    change elsewhere, similar to what happened with medical marijuana.
    That got started with a local initiative, Proposition P in San
    Francisco in 1991, then it went on to Santa Cruz and other cities and
    counties, then the state legislature got interested and passed a bill,
    only to see it vetoed by Governor Davis. We could follow a similar
    trajectory, though hopefully without a veto."

    City officials now have 15 days to review the initiative and provide
    it with a title and voters' summary. After that, the signature
    gathering begins. If all goes well for OCLA, voters in Oakland will
    get to decide on legalization of marijuana -- in principle, at least
    -- in November.

Comments

  1. Johan73
    [IMGR=white]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=9482&stc=1&d=1246623541[/IMGR]A different kind of green could help the cash-strapped city of Oakland get out of the red.

    Oakland's marijuana clubs rang up nearly $20 million in sales last year and pot club operators are lining up behind the idea of a marijuana tax.

    "This measure imposes a 1.8 percent gross receipts tax on the four licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in Oakland," dispensary operator Steve DeAngelo said.

    If it passes, Oakland would be the first city in the country to directly tax marijuana sales -- and there is not an ounce of controversy surrounding it.

    Club operators like Richard Lee actually lobbied to put the tax on the ballot.

    "We do see it as one more step toward legitimizing the cannabis industry," Lee said.

    Dispensaries now pay a $1.20 in city taxes for very $1,000 in pot sold. The new law would raise that tax to $18.

    But marijuana sales appear to be recession proof and club operators say they can afford the new tax.

    "The market for cannabis is so strong that we'll be able to absorb the cost," Lee said.

    The marijuana tax could generate at least $400,000 annually. The Oakland City Council is banking on that tax and three other measures passing this July. If they do not, Oakland faces millions more in local cuts.

    Lawyer James Anthony wrote the tax law on behalf of the dispensaries.

    "It's really about local government and local needs and providing access to medicine for patients in a way that works for the community and for the city," Anthony said.

    For Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, it is about saving jobs in dire economic times.

    "That means five or six police officers depending on how senior they are and how much they're paid," Kaplan said.

    The clubs that could be paying more, say there is no plan to pass the added expense on to the customers.

    "We want to demonstrate to our neighbors that we are good citizens; citizens pay taxes, criminals don't," DeAngelo said.

    The marijuana tax is one of four measures on the Oakland ballot next month.

    Tuesday, June 30, 2009 | 7:27 PM
    By Cecilia Vega - East Bay News

    [noparse]http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local/east_bay&id=6892574[/noparse]
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