The Coastal Post - April, 1996

Medical Marijuana Initiative Races To Wire

Signature Turn-In Deadline April 15th

The initiative drive for medical marijuana has picked up momentum in California, thanks to a last-minute donation of crucial financial support for paid petition gatherers.

Sponsors say they now have an excellent shot at collecting the required 432,945 valid signatures (or 730,000 in all) needed to qualify for the November ballot, given a strong volunteer signature-gathering effort.

The deadline for signature turn-in is April 15th. Petitions must be received by April 16th at: Progressive Campaign Consultants, 3303 Pico Blvd.-C, Santa Monica, CA 90405.

The 1996 medical marijuana initiative is based on last year's bill by Assemblyman John Vasconcellos, which passed the legislature, but was vetoed by Governor Wilson. It would allow patients to use, possess or cultivate marijuana for personal medical use given a physician's prescription.

Signature-gathering volunteers are urgently needed between now and April 15. For petitioning materials, contact Californians for Compassionate Use at (310) 314-4049 or California NORML at (415) 563-585.

Full-time, paid signature-gathering jobs are available through Progressive Campaign Consultants. For information, contact the local office San Francisco: 543-5638.

The initiative has been endorsed by the San Francisco Drug Abuse Advisory Board, California Nurses Association, California Legislative Council for Older Americans, Los Angeles AIDS Commission, Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, East Bay Council of Rabbis, Service Employees International Union, Orange County Register, former Senator Alan Cranston, Nobel Laureate Milton Freidman, Dr. Marcus Conant of U.C.S.F., the city councils of Oakland, San Francisco and West Hollywood, the Marin Board of Supervisors, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan, Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, and many other public figures.

California NORML Reports, March, 1996

Clinton Talks Tough As War On Pot Flounders

Amidst growing signs that the war on marijuana is failing, the Clinton administration has moved to step up the war on drugs, appointing a former general, Barry McCaffrey, as drug czar, and allocating an extra $250 million to the war on drugs.

The move is seen as yet another political sop to congressional Republicans, who have cited a recent upswing in teen marijuana use as evidence that the administration is too soft on drugs. In Congress, arch-prohibitionist Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) formed a Republican task force on drugs (from which Californians were conspicuously lacking), while the House Judiciary committee held hearings on marijuana, amidst charges that the Clinton administration has ignored the reefer menace.

In fact, the Clinton administration has presided over the toughest anti-pot laws in years. According to FBI statistics, there were a record 481,098 marijuana arrests in 1994, even though there were fewer users than a decade ago. An estimated one-sixth of all federal prisoners are marijuana offenders. In California, arrests climbed to 45,962 in 1994 up 30% from the last year of the Bush administration. Despite this fact, cannabis use has rebounded, strongly suggesting that punitive policies are failing.

Meanwhile, the evident failure of the war on pot has attracted growing press skepticism of the current marijuana laws. In a three-part, front-page series on marijuana, entitled, "Up in Smoke: Law enforcement can't cope with pots' growing appeal," (November 12, 1994), The San Jose Mercury-News reported that, according to officials in Northern California's pot-growing Emerald Triangle, "the battle to eradicate marijuana continues, but the war is lost." "I say go ahead and legalize it," stated former Humboldt county Sheriff Dave Renner, a former architect of the state's CAMP eradication program.

In a dramatic departure from right-wing "cultural conservative" prohibitionists, conservative spokesman William F. Buckley, Jr.'s National Review declared its support for drug legalization. "The War on Drugs is Lost," editorialized the magazine (February 12, 1996), "Kill It. Go for Legalization. Free Up Police, Courts. Reduce Crime.

In a ringing editorial entitled "Just Say Yes," (February 16, 1996) the Oakland Tribune expressed similar sentiments: "Legalize marijuana for everyone over 21. That alone would take 450,000 arrests out of the system."

California NORML Reports, March, 1996