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Why I Support the Drug Policy Alliance's 2014 California Measure to Regulate and Tax Marijuana

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Legalizing marijuana in Washington and Colorado in 2012 is already having enormous national and international impact, and legalizing in Oregon and Alaska in 2014 will further fuel this fire. We are also excited by the prospect of cannabis reform this year in Washington, DC, our nation's capital and DEA's backyard. But legalizing marijuana in California in 2014 will truly be the massive earthquake that hastens the demise of national and international cannabis prohibition, and all the evils that attend this draconian racist policy.

While the Drug Policy Alliance measure in California may not fully satisfy many in our movement, it accomplishes the core of what we want: it legalizes cultivation, transportation, sale and possession of marijuana; it has a good chance of being approved by California voters; and it complies with guidelines from the U.S. Department of Justice, minimizing the very real threat of federal interference. And it means the entire west coast of the United States will have legalized marijuana in time for--and thus make it an unavoidable issue in--the 2016 presidential race. Politicians who have become experts at ducking the issue with dismissive jokes will be forced to confront and bend to popular will.

Federal policy has greenlighted state programs that legalize marijuana providing they conform to specified criteria and enforce regulations:

"The Department's guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health, and other law enforcement interests."

The DPA initiative is carefully crafted to comply within this federal safe harbor, which therefore ensures no federal interference during the campaign, as well as support from editorial boards across the state. Proposition 19 in 2010 in California was an underfunded campaign torpedoed by federal lobbying against its passage. Thanks to poll-tested drafting by DPA, federal interference will not compromise this measure in 2014.

Our movement should not let the good be the enemy of the perfect. The DPA measure contains necessary compromises, but ultimately ensures adults will not be imprisoned and have their lives and families torn apart producing, selling and possessing marijuana in conformance with state law. How many more people will go to jail in California if we wait another two years? How much longer will the house of cards of federal prohibition stand if we don't act now? If major movement funders are willing to throw down the resources required to pass marijuana reform in California in 2014 via DPA's measure, versus some other version or waiting for 2016, we should celebrate and do what we can to help make it happen.

US News and World Report recently published an article entitled "Marijuana Legalization May Win the West (and DC) in 2014." That sure has a nice ring, but "will" is so much better than "may," let's just do it!