Welcome to the Hotel California


California is the weed capital of the world. There is no disputing that. The weed movement was born here, and California is still by far the largest producer state of the sticky-icky kind bud. But California is somewhat fucked legally, politically, and in our own heads. It is clear that it will take a miracle to get adult use legalization passed here through any voter initiative process in 2014.

Not for lack of trying though. Like we saw in 2012, multiple groups have chosen to file initiative language and take an unorganized and underfunded shot at the title.

“It’s déjà vu all over again” -Yogi Berra

So far we have two camps hoping to make the ballot for the 2014 election cycle. One is the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative (CCHI) aka “The Jack Herer Initiative.” The other is called the Marijuana Control, Legalization, and Revenue Act (MCLR). Both groups face serious challenges, including each other.

Th California Cannabis Hemp Initiative is the evolved work of cannabis legend, Jack Herer. The core language was written by Jack before his passing in 2010. The language was filed by Jack’s friends Buddy Duzy and Michael Jolson and they have already began gathering signatures. The challenge is to gather 504,760 valid signatures by February 24th, 2014. The group has come up short on any substantial funding for the initiative and is counting on a mostly volunteer force of signature gatherers to get it on the ballot. For the record, no initiative has made it to the ballot with just volunteer signature gatherers. It would seem that the goal here would be to gather a robust amount of signatures and hope that money comes to rescue them before the clock runs out. Impossible? No. But it is a severe long shot at best.

CCHI is certainly not a terrible initiative, but in my opinion it will not likely make the ballot; and even if by some miracle it does, it will face real challenges in getting passed. Why? Because the initiative attempts to do too much IMO. Our opposition would murder the language, which allows for any adult to grow up to 99 plants. For the record, I am down for 99 plants. I am not sure what super stoner would need 99 plants for their own “personal use” but I am certainly all for it…..the problem is that I am not MOST voters.

The picture below is a 99 plant garden. The opposition and drug warriors will scare the public with pictures like this and ask them a simple question…”Is this what you want in your neighbor’s back yard?”


Regardless of how many people support adult use legalization in California, there is still a large faction of the population that does not think large cannabis production in their neighbor’s yard is a great idea. Sorry. I wish it were different, but in this day and age it just is not. We see hundreds of communities all over the State passing ordinances banning outdoor cultivation altogether, but somehow the fact that this initiative will let every person grow 99 monster plants and ties the hands of local governments to do anything about it will just fly under the radar. It is just not likely.

It is a political nightmare, and even if it was Jack’s great idea from a time passed, it is not likely to be politically viable in an election at this time. I personally believe that Jack would have been open to reducing the plant numbers to make the initiative more likely of passing, but I have been told directly by Mikey Jolson that I “have no clue” and that I am basically “telling Jack to fuck off.”

So be it….Let the folks who carry Jack’s legacy convince you that Jack Herer would not compromise at all and that he would make no adjustments based on political calculations after seeing two states pass voter initiatives. What they do not tell you is that Jack also opposed Prop. 215 before he supported it. They also state that Jack NEVER would have supported Prop. 19 either, but Jack’s family stated differently in a letter released during the Prop. 19 campaign:

As an idealist, Jack was adverse to half measures. He originally opposed Prop 215 because it stopped at medical use only. He initially opposed Senate Bill 420 because it set limited quantities as a safe harbor. Over time, however, he came to appreciate the freedoms they created, and took pride in the role he played in inspiring those changes. Jack’s great fear about Prop 215 and SB 420 was that people would accept those limits, become complacent and stop working for full legalization. He feared we would be stuck with medical use forever.

Likewise, Jack railed against Tax Cannabis 2010, now Proposition 19, and its plan for limited legalization and local authority to tax and regulate marijuana sales to adults 21 and above. It falls far short of what he wanted. Jack ‘wanted it all,’ and Prop 19 is just a part of that dream. Unfortunately, Jack passed away before Prop 19 made the 2010 ballot; so many people think he would still oppose it. We don’t believe that, and we ask that everyone stop saying he would cling to that position as we move toward the Nov. 2 vote.

So forgive me if I do not share the opinion that Jack was so steadfast in his ways that he would not take into consideration the current political and legal climate, and possibly adjust his language to be more electable in California’s current political and legal climate. Maybe Jolson and Duzy are right. Maybe Jack would have stood his ground, regardless of the changes we have seen, as well as the backlash happening surrounding home cultivation in the State. If that is the case, I would tell Jack the same thing I told Duzy and Jolson…..They are nuts.

The response is always the same….”You hate Jack and want to keep people in prison.”

No asshole…..I respect the shit out of Jack and believe that in order to assure people were released from prison and that the initiative would fucking pass that Jack would have been willing to compromise his idealism for reality. If I am wrong on that, then that is okay. Since Jack is not here to debate it, the world will never know.

I liken it to Steve Jobs passing. Many say he would have never created the iPad mini because he thought 7 inch displays were too small; but when Apple began getting their ass kicked by 7 inch tablets in the marketplace, the company jumped on board and created the iPad Mini. Why? Because the company knew another thing about Jobs….he wanted to win and would adjust his model to do so. For the record, the iPad mini is slated to be the best selling tech product this holiday season.

Regardless of my opinion, or the opinion of Camp Jack, the initiative is filed and petitions are being circulated with the 99 plant allowance. This does not make it impossible to pass, but it certainly poses a much larger risk to it being passed, and gives a hell of a lot of ammunition to those who oppose cannabis freedom.

But fuck it…..Let’s just say I am nuts. That the 99 plant deal will not be an issue at all and that 51% of California would not even notice the 99 plants if CCHI makes the ballot. Let’s just imagine that it is a non-issue like Camp Jack would have you believe….How does it make the ballot?

This same camp took up this same initiative on a similar volunteer basis in 2012, and collected about 50,000 signatures, or less than 10% needed to qualify for the ballot. They have 150 days to collect 500,000 VALID signatures, which usually means you need to gather about 750,000 at least. We are 14 days into that 150 days. In order to collect 750k signatures in 150 days, it is necessary to get about 5,000 signatures per day….and that is EVERY day. It is a huge task, and it takes a lot of time, energy, and most of all MONEY. Is it possible? Yes. Do I see any signs that this group will be capable of accomplishing such a daunting task given their current structure and team? No.

I sat up late last night thinking of ways this would be possible. I want nothing more to believe that there is a path to victory somewhere in there, but even my vivid imagination could not find that answer. Unless a couple of million bucks walks in the door sooner than later to rescue the campaign, my gut feeling is that it is dead in the water.

That being said, I have a hell of a lot of respect for Michael Jolson and Buddy Duzy, regardless of our difference in opinion. I understand Jolson is pissed at my criticisms, and wants the world to know that I have “no idea what I am talking about.” That is fine….I hope he proves me wrong and makes me eat my words. I told him I would give him one pound of fire cannabis nugs if he made the ballot and another if CCHI passed. Hopefully my criticisms will drive Team Jack to get it done. I have my serious doubts, but that does not mean I am not rooting for them.

Which brings me to the next item of business…..the Marijuana Control, Legalization, and Revenue Act that was filed by Jon Lee and Dave Hodges from the SaveCannabis.org forum on Friday. The language filed was 35 pages long. We can begin there.

To make a long story short, te group began pushing their initiative plan earlier this year and posted their intentions to an industry email list and website that they created called SaveCannabis.org. The email forum began innocently enough, but soon became fodder for industry folks. Email after email from one lunatic after another filled up the inbox of activists, and eventually people lost interest. Quality dialogue and idea sharing was drowned out by ideological hyperbole and threats.

But in the chaos, the group continued to put forth its initiative language, creating a Google open source format that anyone and everyone could add to and adjust. The idea was to use a platform of inclusion to appease the idiot circus that is the cannabis movement sometimes. Many believe hat where Richard Lee failed in Prop. 19 was not letting enough people within the industry to have a voice in the process. While there may be some truth to that, the answer is certainly not entertaining every idea and pet project need in the industry and cramming language together that attempts to pay favors to  every segment of the industry to gain their support.

In June the group took to their forum and claimed “Good news is, we currently have commitments of $2.5 mil and our PAC will be filing next month!” This is a fairly impacting statement, as if true, would mean that this initiative would almost certainly make the ballot. But the key word in the statement is “commitment.” The reality is that it is hard to believe there is $2.5 million available for a project that does not even have a website up yet, and who filed nearly two weeks after the suggested deadline.

My opinion about the language is that it is WAY overdone. I am not sure if anyone on Team SaveCannabis has ever done petitioning before, but I am very interested to see what the petition booklet ends up looking like. In the State of California, the entire language must be on each petition booklet, as well as the State issued summary above each signature panel and on the front. Even on a legal size in the smallest possible font, I am betting the booklet will have to be 16-20 pages long. The paper itself will be a burden to those who have to carry it and get signatures. Printing will be a mint too….

But that is all logistics. It can be  done for sure, and it sounds like it will. So here we will have a SECOND Marijuana Legalization Initiative Statute circulating. Whatever could go wrong here?

The main issue with the document is that it is riddled with complex solutions to irrelevant problems. It attempts to answer the questions of yesterday, without any vision of tomorrow. The language painfully attempts to make everyone happy by including this provision or that handout; but in the end it is just a mess.

I also have my doubts about funding and campaign viability. It is uncertain how the group plans on rolling this thing out. The language was filed by a small contingency of industry players and it was announced there would be a press conference. At the time of writing this I have seen zero press stories, and only one email from the proponents put out yesterday stating:

      The “Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act” (MCLR) was filed Friday in Sacramento for the November 2014 California ballot. The MCLR is the culmination of efforts that began and were developed over the last year primarily through input directly from members of the SaveCannabis.org forum.
      The eventual outreach beyond the forum to all Californians has culminated in an exceptional Initiative. This document meets several important criteria in being inclusive, structurally defensible and designed to address the most areas possible as defined within the current State and Federal guidelines and agendas.
      The Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act was developed by suggestions from thousands. Hundreds reviewed and edited the content. Dozens analyzed the legal and legislative requirements. It is an effort by the people for the people. And those people – all of us – are ready to vote for reform.
      My personal thanks to this forum and all those who have followed and participated in this great beginning. Thanks in particular for your patience in waiting to hear the latest news. The process of filing is complex and time consuming. The full text of the MCLR and a message from Dave Hodges will be posted shortly.

The latest version of the language I saw can be found here: MCLR ver 6_0_clean

I will just say that the initial roll out of this effort has left a lot to be desired and makes me question if the effort is serious at all. There has been a lot of time and energy put into the project, so we will see if it has legs. My initial thought is that it does not, but I am happy to be wrong on this one as well.

What I do know is that we again are disorganized and divided; and will likely fall short in 2014.

But this is what has become of the California cannabis landscape. Because of the pure size of the State, it is often just unmanageable. A lot of the bigger names are hedging their bets for 2016, as the big money players have made it clear they are waiting until then.

I do not see the world waiting though. I think cannabis legalization will move rapidly, and that November of 2016 is jut too far away.

Here is how I see it going down in Cali and maybe I will be wrong…only time will tell.

  • Early 2014…..CA Legislature passes medical regs a lot like AB604, but probably a little more stringent to get the last few votes they need. 
  • 2014….Colorado and Washington begin implementing adult use with success.
  • 2014 Election: Nothing happens in California but another smaller state may pull off a legalization measure.
  • Jan 1, 2015: Cali medical regs go into place and people will have tobe licensed to be a part of the industry.
  • Early 2015….another State (maybe Maine or Rode Island) pass adult use through their Legislature
  • Late 2015-Early 2016: California Legislature evolves medical regulations and passes adult use. 
  • Election November 2016: Folks who chose to sit on their hands are stuck with a “good enough” model from the State and will not justify spending the money to try and change a program people are already pretty used to.

I wish I had a better projection. I love California. This is my home.

But as I continue to read the writing on the wall, I am discouraged by a lot of what I see here. It is not a matter of being fractured, or splintered. That is to be expected. The problem is that there is no real problem for a lot of folks here. Weed is damn near legal and is a huge part of the culture. It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks, especially when the dogs have it pretty fucking good. So there is not a lot of motivation for real change. Not from the cannabis community, or from the opposition.

But change will come and we will not likely control our own destiny. Or maybe I am just a crazy person and everything will be super groovy. Who the fuck knows any more? Cali continues to make my head spin, and not just from the dank weed either.

Mirrors on the ceiling…..Pink champagne on ice.


6 thoughts on “Welcome to the Hotel California”

  1. Quick note: I’m proud to have been able to call Jack my friend, mentor, and teacher. Every one of us who knew and worked closely with Jack before he became an icon, from time to time had to tell him to fuck off. So you’re in good company.

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