How We Lost The Momentum

From O’S News Service, September 17, 2015    So Governor Jerry Brown has presented us with a bill,  drafted at the behest of Law Enforcement and the League of Cities, that will regulate the medical marijuana industry. For Law Enforcement and corporate-funded politicians to tell us how to proceed in this area shows not just that they have a lot of gall, but that we, the people of California, have really lost the political momentum. 

When we passed Proposition 215 in 1996, the opposition was led by Law Enforcement —California Attorney General Dan Lungren  and his regiment of prosecutors; 57 of 58 District Attorneys (Terence Hallinan of San Francisco being the lone supporter); The Police Chiefs’ Association, the Police Officers, the Sheriffs, Four Star Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey and even former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop…  Also in opposition were the leading politicians: President Clinton, Candidate Dole, Governor Gray Davis, Senators Feinstein and Boxer, right on down the line.

Proposition 215 passed by a margin of 56 to 44. It was a stinging rebuke to Law Enforcement and to the politicians who had pushed War on Drugs propaganda on us all those years. It was, as they say, a strong message: marijuana is no BFD.  Get off our backs!  

How did we lose the momentum?

During the Prop 215 campaign the original leader, Dennis Peron, was replaced as campaign manager by a Santa Monica pr man named Bill Zimmerman. Replacing Peron was a demand of the enlightened billionaires who funded the signature drive in the early months of 1996. Supposedly, installing Zimmerman was a technocratic move made for the sake of efficiency and electoral success —substituting an experienced, respectable  “campaign professional” for a flamboyant gay pot dealer with a long rap sheet.  But in fact, it was a political takeover that would drastically curtail the movement’s demands.

(We were winning 60-40 in a poll taken before Zimmerman was hired in April. As the election approached, Lungren made sure that Dennis was the face of the Yes on 215 campaign by busting the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club —a major story up and down the state. Then Doonesbury defended the SFCBC, Lungren called on publishers to censor the strips, and our poll numbers, which were declining under Zimmerman, went back up.)

A month after the election Zimmerman was in Sacramento pushing for regulations. This is from a front-page story in the Bee, Dec. 4:

Bill Zimmerman, campaign manager for the initiative, said Tuesday that he generally agreed with Lungren’s approach to enforcing Proposition 215.

“I think the attorney general is correct in arguing that the initiative should be interpreted narrowly, ” Zimmerman said.

If you’re interested in the context, the following article is from the Bee editorial page November 27, 1996

 

Now that voters have passed Proposition 215, legalizing the compassionate medical use of marijuana, a new battle is under way: to decide exactly what voters meant and approved when they enacted it.

Dennis Peron, co-author of the initiative measure, recently said that since stress relief is a medical purpose, “I believe all marijuana use is medical – except for kids.” Oddly, his reading of the law is apparently shared by Gov. Pete Wilson, whose veto of a narrowly tailored bill on compassionate medical use of marijuana triggered the successful initiative. Proposition 215 “effectively legalizes the sale of marijuana, ” the governor declared.

Badly and broadly drafted, Proposition 215 easily lends itself to such radical interpretation and hysteria. But a better and more responsible reading of voters’ intentions and the measure itself comes from Californians for Medical Rights, the committee that placed the measure on the ballot and conducted the campaign for it. In guidelines issued last week, it advised that the law be interpreted narrowly, legalizing medical marijuana use for “relatively few patients, under very specific circumstances.”

“We wanted [Proposition 215] interpreted in the spirit of what the voters wanted, ” says Bill Zimmerman, campaign manager for the measure. “Others want to push the envelope. But the voters voted narrowly to approve marijuana for medical reasons, not to increase recreational use.”

The committee’s sensible guidelines advise that an individual, to possess or grow marijuana for medical use, must have a specific recommendation from his or her own physician; that the doctor must monitor the patient’s health; and that the recommendation must be kept current and relevant to the patient’s condition. That approach accords well with what voters understood when they approved the initiative.

Unfortunately, it is not dictated by the language of the measure itself. For that to happen, the Legislature must step in to clear up Proposition 215. Zimmerman notes that the measure did not contain restrictions, common in other initiatives, that make technical revisions difficult.

“We left the door open for the Legislature to supervise the implementation without a supermajority vote, ” he says. The campaign “would support legislation” to be sure the law operates in the “clear spirit” it was offered. The governor, Attorney General Dan Lungren and lawmakers ought to end their hand-wringing over Proposition 215 and take up that invitation to make the law work as voters intended – as an occasional and compassionate exception, not as a wedge to legalize marijuana.

 

  Then came this front-page piece by Dan Bernstein of the Bee’s Capitol Bureau on December 4, 1996, accompanied by a photo of Lungren.

LUNGREN WARNS ON PROP. 215 HE’LL TAKE STRICT VIEW OF MEDICAL POT LAW

While acknowledging that much uncertainty still surrounds the state’s new medical marijuana law, state Attorney General Dan Lungren declared Tuesday that it should be applied “as narrowly as possible.”

After a meeting with nearly 300 law enforcement officers from around the state, Lungren told reporters that he believes Proposition 215 would not under any circumstances protect from prosecution juveniles who use or possess marijuana or anyone who sells it.

And he said that physicians would be protected from prosecution only if they had recommended marijuana to an established patient after carefully weighing the risks and benefits of the drug.

“We think the narrowest interpretation is the most appropriate, ” Lungren said. “This doesn’t legalize marijuana. People who believe that it does ought to disabuse themselves of that notion.”

Approved last month by 56 percent of state voters, Proposition 215 provides that people who possess or grow marijuana for medical treatment recommended by a doctor are exempt from criminal marijuana laws.

The measure specifies several illnesses that would be covered – including cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and arthritis – but also leaves the door open to legal use for “any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.”

Lungren said it would be up to the courts to interpret that section of the law, but he added, “It would be our view that it (marijuana) would not be available for acne, hangnails, stress or arthritis.”

Since its passage, the law has generated much consternation and confusion among law enforcement officers. Although Lungren said he was unaware of any marijuana cases that had not been filed because of the new law, he said there are at least two cases in which marijuana defendants have invoked Proposition 215 as a defense to possession charges. The cases are pending.

Lungren acknowledged that several key enforcement issues remain to be resolved, including the maximum quantity of marijuana that a patient could possess and whether police officers should be able to uproot plants when a suspect contends that the plants are being grown for medical use.

The Republican attorney general, who campaigned strongly against Proposition 215, also said that the federal government has yet to advise his office how it plans to resolve the conflicts between state and federal laws.

Federal drug laws allow physicians to prescribe marinol, which contains the active ingredient in marijuana. But marijuana itself can’t be prescribed nor possessed for medical purposes under federal law.

“While we should hope for help, and continue to press for federal action, it is probably not coming – or at least, it is not coming soon, ” Lungren said.

While acknowledging that much uncertainty still surrounds the state’s new medical marijuana law, state Attorney General Dan Lungren declared Tuesday that it should be applied “as narrowly as possible.”

After a meeting with nearly 300 law enforcement officers from around the state, Lungren told reporters that he believes Proposition 215 would not under any circumstances protect from prosecution juveniles who use or possess marijuana or anyone who sells it.

And he said that physicians would be protected from prosecution only if they had recommended marijuana to an established patient after carefully weighing the risks and benefits of the drug.

“We think the narrowest interpretation is the most appropriate, ” Lungren said. “This doesn’t legalize marijuana. People who believe that it does ought to disabuse themselves of that notion.”

Approved last month by 56 percent of state voters, Proposition 215 provides that people who possess or grow marijuana for medical treatment recommended by a doctor are exempt from criminal marijuana laws.

The measure specifies several illnesses that would be covered – including cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and arthritis – but also leaves the door open to legal use for “any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.”

Lungren said it would be up to the courts to interpret that section of the law, but he added, “It would be our view that it (marijuana) would not be available for acne, hangnails, stress or arthritis.”

Since its passage, the law has generated much consternation and confusion among law enforcement officers. Although Lungren said he was unaware of any marijuana cases that had not been filed because of the new law, he said there are at least two cases in which marijuana defendants have invoked Proposition 215 as a defense to possession charges. The cases are pending.

Lungren acknowledged that several key enforcement issues remain to be resolved, including the maximum quantity of marijuana that a patient could possess and whether police officers should be able to uproot plants when a suspect contends that the plants are being grown for medical use.

The Republican attorney general, who campaigned strongly against Proposition 215, also said that the federal government has yet to advise his office how it plans to resolve the conflicts between state and federal laws.

Federal drug laws allow physicians to prescribe marinol, which contains the active ingredient in marijuana. But marijuana itself can’t be prescribed nor possessed for medical purposes under federal law.

“While we should hope for help, and continue to press for federal action, it is probably not coming – or at least, it is not coming soon, ” Lungren said.

White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey has bemoaned the passage of Proposition 215. But he has refused to comment on whether the federal government will challenge the law in court or will move to prosecute doctors who recommend marijuana to their patients.

Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully said local law enforcement agencies are forming a “working group” to iron out protocols for prosecuting marijuana cases under the law. But she said she generally supported Lungren’s approach of taking a hard line on marijuana sales and use by juveniles.

“We’ve pretty much . . . decided it’s going to be business as usual for now, ” Scully said. “We’re interested in seeing that seriously ill and terminally ill patients can get relief from marijuana when a doctor recommends it. But there are so many loopholes that we want to make sure that (the law) doesn’t aid or enhance illegal use of marijuana.”

Bill Zimmerman, campaign manager for the initiative, said Tuesday that he generally agreed with Lungren’s approach to enforcing Proposition 215.

“I think the attorney general is correct in arguing that the initiative should be interpreted narrowly, ” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman agreed that the new law doesn’t protect anyone selling marijuana and said many patients will have to obtain it through the “black market” until the state establishes a legal distribution system.

But Zimmerman took exception to Lungren’s contention that juveniles could not rely on the law for protection from prosecution.

“I don’t think it makes sense from the viewpoint of a 13-year-old with terminal cancer, ” he said.

In addition to removing Dennis Peron from a leadership role, agents of the Enlightened Billionaires dissed and marginalized Dennis’s key ally, Tod Mikuriya, MD. The Soros-funded reformers would not include Mikuriya as a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit protecting California doctors from prosecution —even though Mikuriya  was the doctor Drug Czar McCaffrey threatened by name. And they wouldn’t support Tod’s detailed proposal for an audit that would confirm that every agency in the state was complying with the new law. Tod wanted acts of non-compliance to bring negative publicity and suits from a lawyer and interns dedicated to implementing the new law. 

 The audit would have given us back the political momentum. It would have put the cops and bureaucrats on the defensive, which is where they belonged after Prop 215 passed, given the fact that they —Child Protective Services, Probation, et al, were enforcing marijuana prohibition and should have been made to change their protocols promptly to allow medical use.  Tod  knew the victory in California had to be consolidated and that the “coven” led by Lungren would resist and sabotage implementation.  But Nadelzimm went tritzing off to other states with weaker initiatives, and there was no funding for Tod’s audit idea or his defense when the med board moved against him at the urging of spiteful Law Enforcers.