Who Will Vote to Tax Cannabis in 2010?

Oft-cited poll numbers are old, mid-term voters are older. Expect a dead heat.

Now that the entire universe has focused on California’s push to legalize herb, the question remains: How many people will actually vote for it? The number one statistic referenced is a year-old Field Poll that says 56 percent of voters support legalization and taxation. But there are some problems with that.

For one, the campaign has gone global. All of California’s gubernatorial candidates have lined up against it. Two, people saying “sure” over the phone to a Field Poll is different from people actually stepping into the voting booth and revoking 70 years of prohibition. And three, the poll doesn’t adjust for 2010 voters. This year’s election has no presidential race, and such affairs bring out older, whiter, more conservative citizens. The kids stay home.

Doug Linney, an East Bay political consultant who helps run the Tax Cannabis 2010 campaign in Oakland, said the campaign did private polls last fall that account for mid-term voters. In them, the Field Poll’s result was diminished by a few points. Linney said support still exceeds 50 percent and that Tax Cannabis 2010 plans to do new polling soon.

At best, legalizing cannabis enjoys a slight edge in popularity. Tax Cannabis 2010 supporters are going to have to register to vote, and then actually vote. It will be out of character for some of them, compared to what will generally be a dedicated, elderly opposition.

The Cannabis One-Man Show

It’s poetic: Pot users are paying for their own freedom fight, one eighth of Bubba Kush at a time. The last campaign finance numbers from Sacramento on the Tax Cannabis 2010 initiative show:

Tax Cannabis 2010 has contributed $1,326,400.74 to its own campaign, sponsored by S.K. Seymour LLC, a medical cannabis provider, and Oaksterdam University, a cannabis educator. Both are run by Richard Lee of Oakland. In other words, legalization has basically been a one-man show. No other group had contributed anything through the end of the last reporting period January 31, 2010.

Since then, four other pro and anti groups have shown up as potential contributors. All these groups must file their contributions for and against the campaign again by April 30 for the period covering the first quarter of 2010 January 1 through March 31.

Tax Cannabis 2010 has said it needs maybe $10 million to $20 million more in contributions to bring in a win on November 2.

Buzzkillers Unite

Now that Tax Cannabis 2010 is going before voters on November 2, its opponents have come out of the woodwork to denounce it. Trusty standbys include John Lovell, the lobbyist for the state Police Chiefs Association, the Narcotics Officers Association, and the Peace Officers Association. Lovell also used to lobby for booze during a stint working for Gallo Winery. Go booze!

But the volunteer groups are more fun: Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana recently announced its formation, saying legalizing cannabis for personal use by adults will lead to “increased high school dropouts, gangs, crime, drugged driving, and a myriad of other social problems.” Little more than a name, a press release, and a web site, CALM cites a 2009 RAND Corporation study as its only source. But examine the study, and it concludes right up at the top “there is an insufficient amount of information available on which to base a decision [on legalization] at this time.”

Even better: the “Opposition to the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative 2010” whose web site “NipItInTheBud2010.org” asks: “Will legalizing Marijuana place our National Security at risk? We think so. … Can we afford to be this irresposnible [sic] and have a casual attitude about Marijuana in a world haunted by the lessons we have to learn each day from terror?”

Lastly, claiming the “public safety” high ground: the “Public Safety First” campaign committee to oppose Tax Cann 2010. They’ve roped in Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which seems just a tad ironic.

NorCal Growers Freak Out

The latest wrinkle in California’s legalization story comes from up north, where cannabis growers foresee economic apocalypse. If cannabis is legalized for adult use and cultivation, they say supply may increase and prices will collapse along with grower revenue, which can reach $5,000 per pound for the most potent, well-tended crops.

The Associated Press reported from the town of Redway, where Anna Hamilton, 62, a Humboldt County radio host and musician said: “The legalization of marijuana will be the single most devastating economic event in the long boom-and-bust history of Northern California.”

But some of Hamilton’s neighbors are more sanguine. They say Humboldt could become the new Napa Valley of cannabis.

The state Board of Equalization estimates cannabis prices will drop 50 percent after legalization, and demand will go up forty percent. But that 2009 study RAND study casts specific doubt on the board’s numbers. There’s just not enough real economic data to make such predictions. One thing you can count on: The rule of unintended consequences.

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