Money Is the Only Problem Stopping the Legalization of Marijuana

Originally appearing here. There is one problem stopping the full implementation of medical cannabis laws and the legalization of cannabis nationwide, and it is not the Drug Enforcement Administration. It is money. Budget issues were a key part of the decision the legalize cannabis in Colorado and Washington, rather than in California. Voters in all three States showed nearly identical support for reforming these laws. None were a sure win, but each stood a chance, if voters could be educated and advocates coordinated. But, the combined budgets of Colorado and Washington equaled the total expense of winning California, and with limited funds, the choice was easy. Core organizers, groups, and funders joined forces in Co and WA to end cannabis prohibition in those States. Good news is, solidifying those two wins will makes the job easier (and less expensive) in all States that follow. Cannabis law reform in California comes with a hefty price tag. It will cost more than $10 million dollars for a statewide initiative and $2 million more to lobby the General Assembly for workable medical cannabis regulations. Surely, if advocates invest heavily in grassroots and professional lobby efforts now, they could end cannabis prohibition at the State level. This is the more cost effective path to legalization, way less expensive than an initiative. Oregon has a strong chance of legalizing cannabis, too. The cost there is around $3 million dollars, riding on the coattails of a reform initiative that garnered 46.6% of the vote this November. A better-written initiative and a well-run campaign will sweep the Oregon ballot. At a combined $15 million dollars, that would be money well spent to legalize marijuana on the West Coast. Advocates want to add more medical marijuana states, maybe Ohio, Arkansas, Illinois, and Indiana. This adds $20 million dollars to the budget, making grand total, thus far, $35 million dollars. At the federal level, the pharmaceutical lobby has spent $2.3 billion dollars since 1989, and the private prison industry spends about $45 million a year. Cannabis reform groups have only spent a fraction of that amount, likely less than $500,000 a year on federal lobbying efforts. Reformers must invest in grassroots and professional lobby efforts to reach Congress, whose votes could end cannabis prohibition. By managing a professional lobby campaign, right now, they might even convince President Obama and Attorney General Holder to reschedule cannabis. This is most direct and least expensive path to cannabis legalization. But, this campaign will cost millions of dollars, especially if condensed over a short period of time. Add $10 million dollars to the budget for federal lobbying. And, include another $5 million dollars for legal funds to fight forfeitures and mandatory minimum cases. Grand total: $50 million dollars to end cannabis prohibition. This seems like a lot at first glance. But, “if each cannabis user would just donate a dollar, pot would be legal by now.” This has been a frequent reverie amongst activists, repeated countless times since the 1970’s. In fact, it is nearly unfathomable that, with more than 20 million regular users, marijuana is not legal already. All those people buy cannabis regularly, surely they can chip in to end prohibition. Well, pot lovers, it is time to pay up. The final push to legalize cannabis is underway, and donations from users are essential. Let’s do the math. With 1975 as the guideline year, inflation has turned one dollar into $4.20. After all, 1975 was a stellar year for reformers. Glaucoma sufferer Robert Randall received the first medical marijuana from the feds, the Alaska Supreme Court determined cannabis use was constitutionally legal, and Ohio decriminalized cannabis for adults. NORML was in full swing (still is), and “a dollar a pot smoker” was their office mantra. If the 20 million regular cannabis users donated $4.20 by the end of 2012, advocates would have $85 million dollars to end the war on cannabis. That leaves an extra $35 million dollars to make sure the laws get implemented. Philanthropists and celebrities like Bill Maher would jump on board, matching with their funds, connections, and enthusiasm. After all, from a financial standpoint, we would get this money back fast. Richard Branson pointed out recently on CNN that the U.S. would make about $46 billion dollars annually taxing cannabis. Imagine all the profit generating cannabis businesses and nonprofit groups will be created to develop this large of a tax base. The time to donate is now. Here is a list of groups, in my opinion, most likely to end cannabis prohibition. Send them, or some organization like them, $4.20 today. If you have not donated before, figure out the accumulated amount you owe, and send it to a legalize cannabis group today. If you can donate more, do so, as this is not the time to be cheap. Many of these groups are 501c3 nonprofits, so your end of year donation will be tax deductible. The list is not totally inclusive, so make sure to add your favorite group when you forward this to your friends and family. They all need to donate. Donate to one of these groups today: Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) – This group is led with competence and style, attracting an “A” list of advisors and spokespersons like Richard Branson, Deepak Chopra, Sting, and donors including George Soros. They have joined forces with local organizers on nearly every successful initiative effort, thus far, and take center stage in the efforts to end the War on Drugs, once and for all. Your money will be well spent at DPA, assured by their four star Charity Nagivator rating. Check out the website, and donate today. Cal NORML – The California chapter of the National Organization for the reform of marijuana laws is a standout group. (Author’s note: I am a board member at Cal NORML) For more than 25 years, they have organized advocates, educated lawmakers, sponsored research, and maintained a network of chapters around the state. They are the go-to group for people who are busted for pot in California, fielding calls and assisting concerned users. Cal NORML is sponsoring a statewide activist conference in late January, where the future of legal cannabis in California will be determined. Check out the conference website, get your ticket, and donate to Cal NORML. United Food and Commercial Workers Union Medical Cannabis and Hemp Division – When UFCW union organizer Dan Rush sets a goal, nothing will stop him. Lucky for cannabis advocates, his passion is the cannabis industry and its workers. Since founding this division, UFCW organizers and union members have worked tirelessly around the country to protect and implement cannabis laws. Their work helped keep dispensaries open in San Jose and Los Angeles, and now, you can join as an Associate Member at UFCW. There is no group more solid in this effort then UFCW. Find out how to join at Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) – This nonprofit group is truly visionary. Founded by Rick Doblin, they are the Burning Man of nonprofits. Merging ancient healing wisdom and the psychedelic experience with the finest minds in science and culture, MAPS has created a magical group. Their roots are in research. They have funded major investigations into the use of psychedelics for treating PTSD, studied the effectiveness of vaporizers, and are working to end NIDA’s monopoly on the supply of research grade cannabis. They also host mind-blowing conferences and social events, keeping the culture alive. Donating to MAPS is highly recommended. There are a few special groups to mention. High Times Magazine – While not a nonprofit organization, High Times has done more for the cannabis culture than any other organization or company. Whether they are s
howing people how to cultivate cannabis, spreading the news about products and businesses, or reporting on industry news, their goal has always remained the same: to legalize cannabis and preserve the cannabis culture. Tri-cornered hats off to High Times! Buy a subscription today, and your dollars will go to a publication fighting hard for the rights of cannabis users. Canna Community Solutions – This small, local group in San Jose, CA, has a lot of heart. Founded by Mara McWilliams founded, their mission is to help integrate the cannabis industry into communities by consistently donating resources to local neighborhoods hardest hit. This is the second year of their holiday food drive, with record participation from local cannabis businesses and other companies. Like cannabis advocate Diane Fornbacher did for hurricane Sandy victims earlier this year, Mara won’t rest until every family in her community has food, clothes, and gifts during this winter season. Find them on facebook, and organize the effort in your community. As Mara says, “We cannot just be a good neighbor, we need to be the best neighbor on the street.” Short list of other groups that need your donation now: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Green Aid Voter Power Oregon Americans for Safe Access Students for Sensible Drug Policy Marijuana Policy Project Patients Out of Time Forfeiture Endangers American Rights Families Against Mandatory Minimums Drug Sense The Human Solution Americans for Forfeiture Reforms DRC Net National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Local NORML Groups like Tulsa NORML SF Gate writes about the legalization of marijuana, highlighting how a variety of organizations, including the Drug Policy Alliance, NORML, MAPS, High Times Magazine, and others are working toward changing how the public feels about marijuana through social campaigns, research initiatives, and educational efforts.