The Fringe and Mary Jane 11/14/12

California steps out of the light of history

A Fringe Analtainment

By now nearly everyone knows that the first state to fully challenge the federal government on the states’ rights issue of marijuana legalization was not California, but Colorado and Washington who both essentially legalized marijuana on election day.

There was a time not long ago when California was a mighty place.  The economy was world class and the state was often not afraid to lead the rest of the nation.  Sixteen years ago Californians passed 215 which was a breakthrough; in 2010 they declined to lead any further.  In my view, the reason California was not the first to legalize cannabis is that the state is no longer a leader.  It’s an also ran behind Colorado and Washington.

To be fair, the dynamics were different in Colorado and Washington than in California in 2010 when Prop 19 failed.  California broke ground by making cannabis available to sick people in 1996; seventeen other states now have some laws to allow people access to medical marijuana.  However, California also attracted the most federal attention, by being first, and by being intractable.

Some think that the reason the feds haven’t gone after Colorado’s streamlined medical marijuana system is that they haven’t really been successful in California, and Colorado learned from California’s mistakes.  Medical marijuana in Colorado is more organized, and the state makes a clear profit.  The dispensaries didn’t evolve in the haphazard way they did in California.

The illegal growers and medical dispensaries teamed with anti- legalization conservatives to defeat Prop 19 in California. A different situation developed in Colorado and Washing where legalization advocates were joined by Tea Party supporters. Tea Party interest is not ganja per se in most instances, it’s the desire to rip states’ rights back from the federal government.  Indeed, the New American, seen by many as “old school conservative” featured Colorado and Washington legalization, and the medical marijuana initiative that passed in Massachusetts, as blows against the over-extension of federal powers.

The New Americans don’t agree with using cannabis, which they somehow construe as a “moral” issue (like infidelity?), but there is a general agreement that the feds need to acknowledge that they legally have no right to control drugs in the states.  The NA consider legalizing the Holy Herb on par with refusing Obamacare, which several states did.

Another significant difference is federal government reaction.  The feds had been cracking down in California hitting medical cannabis outlets and grows and threatening local politicians with arrest if they facilitated medical cannabis production and distribution.  Colorado in particular has been noteworthy because of the lack of federal bullying.  While some say it is because Colorado’s law is more complete and concise, others believe Obama didn’t want to risk backlash before the election.  It’s clear that Obama swiftly took a number of actions after the election which he hesitated to prior to the election.

It’s also possible the initiatives in Washington and Colorado were better constructed than Prop 19 was in 2010.  A 2012 legalization failed in pot-friendly Oregon because the measure was badly written.  However, a well written measure slated at first in California for 2012 was not on the ballot; it’s now slated for 2014.  The reasons the “Regulate Marijuana Like Wine” measure was withdrawn are given as: 1.  A power-play between pro-legalization, the powerful medical cannabis dispensaries, and behind the scenes illegal growers; 2.  The violence of Obama Administration crackdowns on medical cannabis in the state; 3. The recentness of the failure of Prop 19.  The measure should be on the 2014 ballot, probably competing with confusingly similar measures.

Will the Obama administration crack down on Colorado and Washington?  Will it lead to civil war?  It seems a trivial reason to start a war, to someone who’s never heard of Archduke Ferdinand.

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