Some marijuana activists oppose Prop 19

Proposition 19 would legalize the consumption of marijuana by those 21 and older as long as they were in a non-public place such as a home or in a place that held a license for on-site consumption.
Proposition 19 would legalize the consumption of marijuana by those 21 and older as long as they were in a non-public place such as a home or in a place that held a license for on-site consumption. David Buimovitch/AFP/Getty Images

California voters must decide if legalizing marijuana for recreational use is also the right thing to do.
You’d think that everyone who uses or supplies medical marijuana would say it is — and rally behind Proposition 19. Not so fast.

For some people, marijuana is recreation; for others, it’s medication. For Dragonfly De La Luz, it’s a profession.

"I’m a writer. I travel around the world. I find the best ganja. I smoke it, and I write about it for pot magazines," she explained while signing up potential marijuana patients at HempCon in Los Angeles.

HempCon — the traveling pot circus of smokers, growers and inventors — is an important business appointment for Dragonfly. And at HempCon last month in L.A., the business at hand was Prop 19. Dragonfly De La Luz says it would mean disaster for medicinal marijuana.

"We all like the idea of marijuana being legal for everyone. However, Prop 19 does not achieve this. Prop 19 actually creates more prohibitions than it eliminates. And specifically, it creates prohibitions against us medical marijuana patients," said De La Luz.

The prohibitions limit how much cannabis a patient can grow. There’s no limit now, but Prop 19 says it all must fit in a 5-foot by 5-foot space. By her calculation, that’s three to six plants.

"Many patients can’t even smoke marijuana because of respiratory issues, etc," she explained. "Using the leaves and the plant matter, they make oils, butters, creams, stuff like that. That requires a lot of plant material, way more than three to six plants."

Here’s where things get tricky. The marijuana crowd is not as uniformly pro-Prop 19 as you might think. Many who use or supply medical marijuana are convinced it opens the door to taxes and restrictions that will uproot their movement. But James Anthony — a medical cannabis attorney and Prop 19 supporter — says it won’t happen.

"It’s not clear that any of what we have built in the medical cannabis movement is explicitly permitted under the existing laws — and yet we have built it. And we will do the same under Prop 19."

"This movement will continue moving forward step by step by step until we reach the ultimate goal which is federal recognition," says Anthony, a former community prosecutor in the City of Oakland.

But Amir Daliri of the new California Cannabis Association has a different take.

"We feel that the passage of Prop 19 will set the medical cannabis industry back 15 years," Daliri says

Daliri owns the Cascade Wellness Center in Chico. He says if a city wants to ban dispensaries like his, Prop 19 will let it.

"Now who suffers from that? That’s the patients," he says. "Let’s say 90 percent of the cities in the state say, ‘Hey! We don’t want it! We want to ban it!’ you now have to travel to Oakland, or San Jose, or San Francisco to get your medicine."

The hint is that Prop 19 author Richard Lee wrote the measure to benefit his famously successful Oaksterdam medical pot center in Oakland. Give local government the power to ban dispensaries or tax personal cultivation — and you guarantee a steady stream of customers at Oaksterdam.

James Anthony — the medical cannabis attorney and Prop 19 backer — says the measure does give local government taxing authority. But he says, "no rational local government would ever attempt to tax individual cultivation of cannabis for either personal adult use or medical use. Commercial distribution, yes. They will tax that. But they are no more likely to tax cannabis grown by individuals, than they are to tax tomatoes grown by individuals. It’s simply a non-starter."

The Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova has already started down that road. It has a measure that calls for a $600-per-square-foot tax on indoor marijuana grows. So growing in that 5-foot by 5-foot space would cost $15,000 a year.

That measure, by the way, is on the same ballot as Prop 19.

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