Prop. 19: More Than a Nickel Bag of Opinions

Six leading OC medical-marijuana and pot-legalization advocates leave no turn unstoned in examining the ballot initiative

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Jim Gray,
Retired OC Superior Court Judge

Perhaps the most famous drug-legalization advocate in the country who comes from a law-enforcement background, Gray spent years as a judge presiding over drug-related offenses before he came to the conclusion the war on drugs was an unqualified disaster. A former Republican, Gray ran on the Libertarian ticket for the U.S. Senate in 2004, losing to Barbara Boxer. Not surprisingly, he supports Prop. 19.

Passing Prop. 19 would send the message that we are going to regulate and control marijuana and take revenue and control away from juvenile gangs and Mexican cartels and give that power to municipalities, which will make marijuana less available to children than it is today. You can ask anyone under the age of 21, and they will tell you it’s easier for them to get marijuana than alcohol because people who sell marijuana don’t ask for identification. We will make marijuana less available.

Jim Gray
Retired OC Superior Court Judge
John Gilhooley
Jim Gray Retired OC Superior Court Judge
Jeff Byrne
Marijuana grower
President of the Orange County Director's Alliance
John Gilhooley
Jeff Byrne Marijuana grower President of the Orange County Director's Alliance

This race is going to be close, and we’re going to need every vote we can get. I believe it is one of the most important elections of my lifetime. It will sweep the country when it passes in California and will lead to the repeal of marijuana prohibition, which has been such a complete failure. I have heard from the opposition that this will be a disaster for medical marijuana, but that’s a separate issue and has nothing to do with Prop 19. That has to do with Prop. 215.

People vote for their own economic self-interest, and people in the dispensary business know full well they will lose their business. That’s fine, but it’s not a reason for others to vote against it. The key question I have not been able to answer if Prop. 19 passes is whether my two stepsons will be out of business. Why? Because they sell medical marijuana.

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Jeff Byrne,
Marijuana Grower, President of the Orange County Director’s Alliance

Byrne’s OCDA is a group of Costa Mesa dispensary owners, which includes recent Weekly cover-story subject and City Council candidate Sue Lester (see “The Cannabis Candidate,” Oct. 1). Earlier this year, the group filed a lawsuit against the city, which prohibits the operation of dispensaries, demanding Costa Mesa cease code-enforcement actions against its members. Unlike many medical-marijuana providers, Byrne says he plans to vote in favor of Prop. 19.

I know the recreational user is hiding in the closet. When they get in the voting booth, they will come out of the closet. I think it’s a poorly written law, and it’s just going to bring on the lawsuits, and we will sort it out in court. We’ll just have to plug forward. It doesn’t really change anybody’s way of doing business except for law enforcement and the way the state pulls in taxes. It won’t change my business or the way I am serving my patients, but it will put the cities in the position of having to do something to make sure it’s happening properly. I try not to worry about it because I have no control over it.

The only people who are against Prop. 19 are in the medical-marijuana industry and are scared of Philip Morris taking over. That’s the most foolish, myopic argument, and I hear it every day. If Philip Morris wanted cannabis to be legal, they’d make it legal. They sell poison that kills people and have no problem with that. They don’t care; they are too busy making millions of dollars on poison. It doesn’t make any sense to think Philip Morris wants in on this business.

Currently, my distribution is a closed-circuit deal of patients. Now, all of a sudden, will I be able to give it to anyone over 21 if I just swipe their driver’s license? That’s the kind of stuff we will sort out in court. But anybody who already wants cannabis can get cannabis today, right now, within half an hour. So it’s really about community control. This law puts it back on the cities to decide how the production and distribution of cannabis will be handled. Will it be a black market, or will it be regulated? Who knows?

In my gut, I think it’s going to be a landslide in favor of Prop. 19. I am going to vote yes and let it get sorted out in court. Let’s just push forward. It’s going to be a big mess—and a great windfall for the attorneys out there.

 

nschou@ocweekly.com

This article appeared in print as "The Pot Prop: Local pro-marijuana advocates remain divided on Proposition 19."

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