An Open Letter to Letitia Pepper, Prop 19 Critic from Mike Gray of Common Sense for Drug Policy

September 19, 2010 in Legalization

An Open Letter to Letitia Pepper, Prop 19 Critic

Dear Letitia,

A few days ago you and I debated Prop 19 at the HempCon, and while I understand your concerns about the initiative, I believe you’ve missed the point.

First, we agree on a couple of key arguments:

1. Patients with serious conditions like yourself should be allowed to grow whatever they need.

2. Taxing patients for essential medications is outrageous.

But suppose you and I and our fellow marijuana users sat down together and wrote a perfect legalization intiative…   It would never get past the voters. We’ve tried that before and we don’t have time for another pointless exercise.

Prop 19 was not intended to be perfect. It was carefully crafted to calm the fears of the soccer moms and ordinary voters that we have to win over if we are ever going to get rid of this outrageous prohibition.

It’s important to remember that revolutionary intiatives are never perfected in their intial incarnation. You pass what you can and once the voters realize that the sky isn’t falling, you improve it step by step with subsequent amendments. That’s exactly what we did with Prop215.

As I said at HempCon, the first version of Social Security did not include our Black brothers and sisters for purely political reasons. They had to be added later.

And that’s how you get progressive laws on the books. It may be messy but that’s democracy.

It’s essential for all of us to understand that Prop 19 is a game changer. Once it’s on the books, the whole wretched War on Drugs will lose its underpinning. If “Marihuana” is no longer the “Devil Weed” in the State of California, it will quickly spread to the other states just as medical use did after Prop 215.

And when that happens, the federal government will not be able to justify spending $70 billion a year to crack down on the remaining ONE PERCENT of the population that uses hard drugs.

When we pass Prop 19 on November 2, the first amendment we must push through is amnesty for all prisoners now serving sentences under the old prohibition laws, and pardons for those with convictions on their records.

Then we can pass a law to eliminate taxes for medical use.

And then we can move to adjust the restrictions on sales, personal use –  and lower the age limit to 18 so that U.S. soldiers with PTSD don’t lose their benefits from a drug bust.

While I appreciate your concern that Big Tobacco will stage a corporate takeover of the marijuana business, that’s simply not possible. Phillip Morris can’t compete with individual growers. Tobacco cigarettes are a different game altogether. It’s very hard to grow your own tobacco and cure it, prepare it, and roll 20 or 30 cigarettes a day, but Granny can grow her own reefer in a window box. And she only needs to roll 30 joints a month. The only way Big Tobacco can get between her and her garden is if the price is so low and the quality so superior that it’s not worth the trouble to grow your own. And that’s not an attractive corporate business model.

Finally, we are faced with a very real danger that we could lose everything. If Prop 19 fails and Steve Cooley becomes our newAttorney General in November, all the work that you and ASA and the rest of us have done to protect patients may go down the drain. Cooley is an old-school lawman who believes marijuana has no medical use, damages your brain, and should be totally outlawed everywhere.

Dispensaries will be closed all over the state and even patients like yourself will be exposed to constant harrassment because he’s on a mission to make the state “drug free.” He may be nuts but he’s running neck and neck with Camilla Harris.

So the train has left the station. Please get on board and help us pass Prop 19.

I’ll be happy to debate this issue with you and anyone else in private or in public anywhere, any time.

Mike Gray

Chairman, Common Sense for Drug Policy

Gray is the author of “Drug Crazy: How We Got Into This Mess and How We Can Get Out” – avialable free on line at