Press Release  | 06/29/2004

Oakland Cannabis Initiative Qualified by Registrar of Voters for the November Ballot

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If Passed, Oakland Will Be on Record as Approving the Taxation and Regulation of Cannabis for Adults
By Shifting Police Priority, Initiative Would Free Tax Dollars for Vital Services

Today, the Alameda county Registrar of Voters qualified the Oakland Cannabis Initiative for the November presidential election, one of the last two hurdles it must jump in order to be added to the ballot. In two weeks, the initiative, proposed by the Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance, will be presented to the Oakland City Council to be placed on the November ballot.

"The measure would ultimately have the city tax and regulate the private adult use of cannabis in Oakland for people 21 and over," said Joe DeVries, the field director for county Supervisor Nate Miley and member of the Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance. "It would help us keep cannabis under control, keep the city from wasting law-enforcement resources on it and keep cannabis out of the hands of children."

According to a January 2004 opinion poll, 75% of Oakland resident respondents want the enforcement of private, adult cannabis offenses to be the lowest priority for law enforcement, and 70% answered yes to the question "Shall the City of Oakland tax and regulate marijuana for adult use to keep it off the streets, away from children, and raise revenue for the City, as soon as possible under state law."

"The whole federal drug war has been a joke at best," said East Oakland Councilwoman Desley Brooks, who supports the initiative. "People realize that it just doesn't work and we need to look to some other solutions. In the neighborhoods I represent, we would much rather see resources spent on fighting violent crime and providing economic development opportunities."

If passed by voters, this initiative would instruct the city to tax and regulate the private adult use of cannabis as soon as possible under state law, which in turn would generate much needed revenue for vital city services. Until the state allows such a system, the initiative requires city police to treat the private adult use of cannabis as their lowest law enforcement priority.

"It's important to choose our battles, and the war on marijuana is another sign of the government's poor choice of targets," said Judith K. Appel, director of the Drug Policy Alliance's Office for Legal Affairs, located in Oakland. "For the first time ever, a city-- Oakland-- is gearing up to send a clear message that marijuana should be treated like alcohol, with the revenues redirected toward much needed city services like schools and housing."

"Our current marijuana policies have utterly failed," said Bruce Mirken, communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more U.S. high school students currently smoke marijuana than cigarettes -- which is no surprise, since prohibition guarantees that marijuana sellers are unlicensed and completely unregulated. Taxing and regulating marijuana simply makes sense."

The Campaign has received dozens of contributions from local supporters, including business owners and private individuals. Also, several elected officials have already endorsed the measure, including: City Council members Nancy Nadel and Desley Brooks, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, County Supervisor Keith Carson and Oakland School Board Member Dan Siegel. The Washington D.C. Based Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance, both of which helped in the funding of the poll and the drafting of the language of the initiative, matched this local support.

More information about the initiative can be found at Joe DeVries at (510) 504-7021 or Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384

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