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California Marijuana Initiative 1974 Ex-nixon Staffer Promotes

California Marijuana Initiative 1974 Ex-nixon Staffer Promotes image California Marijuana Initiative 1974 Ex-nixon Staffer Promotes image
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The California Marijuana ni t ia tire Coalition, presenil) comprised of over 120 coördinators aetirely organized in 24 countiés, began circula t ing petitions on October I. 1973, Jora new decriminalization measure to be placed on the November, 1974. statewide ballot. To qualify, valid signatures of 325,504 registered voten must he gathered in initial and supplemental petitioning periods by mid-February, 1974 - which will then give almost ninefull months to wage the necessary media and educational campaign to show voters the wastefulness ofspending exorbitant amounts oftax monev (estimated at over SI 00 million in 1972) punishing marijuana users; the ineffectiveness of the present criminal laws in deterring marijuana use; and the orerwiielming weight of legal and medical authority in favor of decriminalization. Last y car. decriminalization of marijuana won 33.47% of the statewide vote. This year. with experienced petitioners already organized in the major countics. with uitie months for the educational campaign after making the ballot, and with a more moderate initiative emphasizing the real issue at stake -the issue of adult personal freedom ofchoice in their own private conduct - Coalition members are confident that decriminalization of marijuana can be won when California voters go to the polls in November, 19 74. The following interview is with Goréon Brownell and Sandra Kutik. organizers of the '72 and '74 California Marijuana Initiatires and members of Ainorphia. the non-profit cannabis cooperative that produces Acaputco Gold rolling papers, the proceeds of which go to egalize marijuana SUN: Would you explain how CMI will change the marijuana laws? GB: The great thing about the initiative process for a lot of people, especially for a lot of freeks and anarchists and a lot of people who are alienated from the political process, is that it is one of the few ways within the present constitutional system where the people themselves can write their own laws. What we've done in California is to write our own marijuana law. It is not the law that each of us working for the initiative thinks is the best way in which to deal with marijuana. But what we are trying to do in '74, as we tried to do in '72, is remove all criminal penal ties for the growth or use of marijuana for personal use. SUN: The initiative doesn't mention sales-that would still be a criminal offense? GB: Which is not necessarily because we want that. Certainly, the position of a lot of us is that people who sell marijuana don't belong in jail any more than people who buy it or smoke it. In California there has been a rule in the attorney general's opinión and in the opinions of other officials to the effect that you cannot legalize the sale of marijuana through the uiitiative process. We would run into constitutional conflicts and problems there. As long as sale is outlawed by the federal government and as long as there are treaty obligations prohibiting the sale and commerce of marijuana, we would involve ourselves in a lot of constitutional hassles if we tried to go with full legalization. But by simply removing the criminal penalties on processing marijuana and cultivating it for personal use, the state is not putting itself in conflict with the federal law. Sooner or later society is going to have to come to grips with the question of providing a legal source for marijuana because by the government's owii statistics it's the third most popular drug aftei alcho= hol and tobáceo in the United States today and there are close to thirty million Americans who have used marijuana, again by the government's own figures. One thing that the marijuana initiative did in California last year too was dispel the notion that marijuana reform is simply a white middle class issue. The Marijuana Initiative got proportionally more votes in the black precincts of California than it did in the white. The only areas where the marijuana initiative did exceptionally well as far as the white population goes were those areas which had large concentrations of long hairs and students. We carried almost every single college town in California. We did well in white middle class suburban areas where there was a large concentration of younger voters. But as a general rule the initiative did not do well in white blue-collar areas, and it did not do well in most white middle-class areas except in areas that had a significantly large number of people who went to college or had children who went to college. These were the upper suburban communities as opposed to working class communities or areas where people did not have young people in college. SUN: Who were the people who worked on CMI in 1972? GB: In California, one of the strongest was freeks who were otherwise alienated from the political system but they related to the marijuana initiative because marijuana was finally a political issue that was relevant to them. And the second strongest group, that may even have been stronger, was the student community. The University of California students alone probably contributed a quarter to a third of our signatures. We had students organizing their dorms, organizing their fratemities and sororities. Two other movements that we've been able to draw a lot of support from are both the gay movement and the women's movement. Because in talking about the issues of sexual conduct and abortioiis yon a re also talking about the sovereignty oí t lie individual to decide for himself or herself what is to be done with his or her lile. So a lot ot gay people. even gay people who do not sinoke dope, see marijuana in tcrins of a personal freedom issue. And a lot of women who llave been very active in the struggle for women's rights and the abortion issue, see the same fundamental question of personal freedom involved. And it has not been difficult at all in organiing people behind the marijuana initiaiive. especially freeks and students. It gets them involved in the politic a I processes where their involvement and thcir coming to the polls and their voting also benefits a lot of the other progressive and liberal issues that a lot of the more establishment politicians have been trying to get freeks and students and blacks and chícanos and other alienated segments of society to come to the polls and vote on. The experience has been that these people are not going to come to the polls unless the re is something really relevent to them to vote on, not just someone's ego-trip who happens to be running for governoi 01 for president, who niay or may not have a hearing on any of these peoples' lives, because they've seen politicians and candidatos come and go. and their effect on them hasn't generally been that good. SUN: Why don't you just lay out how it's set up and organized, what sort of an organization do you have? GB: Right now, the most important thing is qualifying for the ballot. Starting Oct. 1 . we have approximately one hundred and thirty days to collect .?2(,000 valid signatures, which means we have to collect 500,000 signatures total. So we are organiing community-based groups and committees in as many con countics and citics as possible who are responsible to circuíate petitions in their communities. ;md to in turn get other people to circuíate petitions. In San Francisco, for example, we hope to have one hundred people whom we can muil petitions to for circulation. And this process is being carried out on Village and neighborhood levéis also, where we are trying to get as as many people as possible carrying petitions who will each get, say, fifteen signatures of registered voters. GB: Last year we had one hundred and fifty thousand signatures which the state threw out as invalid because the people weren't registered, or else they couldn't read it or it was a bad address, or someone had moved. So we were fortúnate to qualify, although we just barely did as it turned out. More than a third of the signatures were invalid. SK: Which we found out is average for petition drives of any sort. The marijuana initiative in California dispelled the notion that marijuana reform is a white middle-class issue. CMI '72 got proportionally more votes in the black precincts in California than in the white."