By Peter Hecht
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Medical marijuana advocates, decrying a federal government crackdown on dispensaries and a failure of state lawmakers to act, said Tuesday that they are drafting a 2012 ballot initiative to impose statewide oversight of California’s burgeoning medicinal cannabis trade.
The ballot push, announced at a San Francisco news conference, is being readied by groups that include the architects of 2010′s unsuccessful Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Dale Sky Jones, chancellor of Oakland’s Oaksterdam University, the cannabis trade school that became the nerve center for the Proposition 19 campaign, said recent federal enforcement actions underscored a need for an initiative dealing specifically with regulating medical marijuana.
A representative for the United Food and Commercial Workers Unions, which is organizing California cannabis workers, and Steve DeAngelo, director of California’s largest medical marijuana dispensary, said they are also working on drafting language for the potential 2012 initiative.
While they noted the framework is still to be determined, advocates said they are considering asking voters to impose a Colorado-style regulatory system, with state inspections and licensing, on medical marijuana cultivators and providers.
Jones, chairman of the Coalition for Cannabis Reform Policy, said the group hopes to build on the nearly 47 percent of voters who supported Proposition 19 to pass an initiative that would impose “a robust system of statewide regulation” for medical marijuana.
But backers will have to find funding sources other than Richard Lee, the Oaksterdam founder who contributed $1.5 million to Proposition 19. He has said he can’t afford to bankroll another ballot measure.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said the Legislature’s inaction may have stoked federal intervention by leaving local governments to scramble to decide how to regulate hundreds of medical marijuana stores that have opened in California since 2009.
“Right now, zip is happening,” Ammiano said at the San Francisco news conference that was called to protest federal actions on medical marijuana as President Barack Obama appeared at a political fundraiser in the city.
The president faced demonstrations Tuesday by anti-war activists and Occupy San Francisco protestors as well as the medical marijuana supporters.
“It’s a slap in the face for all the people who voted for Proposition 215,” the 1996 state Compassionate Use Act initiative legalizing medical marijuana use, Ammiano said. “California should not be lagging behind. We should be fighting back. Right now the state is dithering.”
Ammiano and other advocates charged that Obama’s Justice Department is launching an unfair assault on California medical marijuana providers. On Oct. 7, California’s four U.S. attorneys announced charges against dispensaries and growers, as well as financial speculators throughout the state’s medicinal pot market.
Declaring the state’s purportedly nonprofit medical marijuana trade to be “hijacked by profiteers,” federal authorities also have been threatening landlords with loss of their buildings or properties – and potential prosecution – for leasing to dispensaries or for marijuana cultivation.
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