Law Enforcement and SAM Fight the Inevitable in California
Legalization activists in California have obtained enough signatures to put legalization in California on the ballot this November. They easily passed the required number of signatories. Proposition 64 or the proposed Adult Use of Marijuana Act includes a 15% excise tax on all recreational cannabis sold which would translate into a billion dollars in revenue for the impoverished state. Proposition 64 is supported by a long list of prominent organizations, politicians, professors, and citizens. The initiative is well-placed to succeed. However, law enforcement organizations in California are opposing the initiative and have formed the Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies in order to oppose legalization in California.
The coalition is primarily composed of groups who make money arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people for cannabis offences. Police, district attorneys, and prison organizations are over-represented in the coalition. A report published by the Intercept in May 2016 revealed that over half the money raised by the coalition has come from law enforcement and prison guard organizations. The coalition has raised $159,150. The pro-legalization forces have raised $6.5 million.
The law enforcement coalition has now been joined by SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), the anti-cannabis organization. SAM was founded by Patrick Kennedy (son of Senator Edward Kennedy), Kevin Sabat (an Obama drug policy advisor), and David Frum (conservative journalist and son of Barbara Frum). SAM has raised over two million dollars towards fighting legalization. They indicate that although they intend to spread the money around the bulk of it will go towards fighting legalization in California.
SAM advocates for extensive drug treatment for all cannabis users while ignoring the dangers of alcohol and opioid drug use. In 2006 Patrick Kennedy had a public alcohol-opioid fueled car crash, despite his own experiences with alcohol and opioids he has made it his mission to oppose cannabis. Patrick Kennedy’s family made a vast fortune selling alcohol. There is a SAM Canada. Pamela McColl, on behalf of SAM Canada has said cannabis is “not a soft drug.” She advised that the normalization of cannabis use is one of the lurking dangers of legalization. She is in favour of stigmatizing cannabis users. The SAM Canada web site mentions no advisory board or board of directors. Under the tab ‘Partners,’ there is listed only one person or group, “Parents Opposed to Pot.”
In California legalization is currently polling at 67% in favour. Legalization is inevitable, not just in California, but all over the world. However, as with all progressive movements, there are those who oppose the forward march of progress. The prohibition of cannabis was good to the cops and the private jails. For law enforcement and the prison industry, legalization will mean the end of a golden age. For Patrick Kennedy, perhaps he can spend some time and money on more pressing matters such as the role alcohol and opioids play in today’s society.
-Paul Lewin, @PaulLewinLawyer