Cops, Growers Unite Against Prop. 64
Commentary by R.E. Graswich
An ironic united front is emerging to challenge the well-financed campaign to legalize marijuana for adults in California — a combination of cops and cultivators.
While endorsements are still being firmed up for and against the adult-use initiative, called Prop. 64 on the November ballot, a surprising trend is developing, with law enforcement authorities and their traditional targets in the marijuana patch joining forces to express concerns about the proposed law.
Many cops and growers believe Prop. 64, backed by millions of dollars from Facebook co-founder Sean Parker, is a rich man’s hammer to smash open California’s fragmented cannabis industry for global conglomerates to flood the state with marijuana.
“It’s a for-profit play to bring the commercialization of marijuana to California,” Ventura police chief Ken Corney told the LA Weekly.
Two key arguments are emerging from the unique alliance between cops and industry insiders.
First, they believe the proposal weakens regulatory agreements worked out last fall by the governor’s office and state legislature. After weeks of negotiations involving law enforcement, growers and lawmakers, three bills were passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Brown to regulate medical cannabis — a first for California after two decades of haphazard and inconsistent regulation.
Second, opponents say Prop. 64 will open the door for global corporate interests such as big tobacco and liquor companies to move in and dominate the industry.
Supporters of adult-use marijuana, led by Parker’s money and the oratory of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, point to a five-year moratorium on permits for large operators under Prop. 64. In theory, the moratorium will allow mid-sized and smaller cannabis growers to establish their markets before the big players move into California.
And while the November initiative carries language to prohibit advertising and marketing to people under 21, skeptics both in law enforcement and the cannabis industry point to numerous well-documented campaign strategies by tobacco and spirits companies to direct their products toward youthful audiences.
Another argument made by law enforcement is that any adult who wants legal cannabis in California can get the product today — all it takes is a medical recommendation. (And even without a recommendation, the penalty for personal possession is negligible, cops note.)
Many growers and other industry insiders believe the state legislature is the appropriate place to craft new adult-use cannabis laws, not the ballot box.
Any loop holes or mistakes in Prop. 64 will have to be managed by the courts and future initiatives. The legislature can’t alter or correct voter-approved initiatives. By contrast, the legislature is currently fixing numerous minor problems with last year’s regulatory package, without the time and expense of judicial intervention or another statewide election.