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North Coast Democratic congressional candidates agree: Legalize pot

By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Andy Caffrey, the congressional candidate from Humboldt County who wears a black cowboy hat over the gray hair cascading down his back, has twice lit a marijuana cigarette in public to punctuate his support for legalizing pot.

Caffrey, who says he is a medical marijuana patient suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, said he would, if elected, smoke a joint on the Capitol steps and get arrested to underscore his point.

“I’ll do whatever it takes,” said Caffrey, a former Green Party and Earth First! activist.

But as colorful as it is, Caffrey’s pot advocacy affords him little separation from the field of a dozen candidates running for the North Coast seat in Congress.

The district, which runs from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border, includes the entire Emerald Triangle — Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties — where marijuana cultivation dates back to the 1970s and is an economic mainstay.

At least six of the eight Democrats and the two independents want marijuana — a crop worth an estimated $14 billion a year in California – approved for recreational use by adults.

The two Republicans are opposed to legalization, but one of them says pot penalties are excessive.

“It’s a beginning man,” said Caffrey, 54, who comes from Garberville in the marijuana heartland. “This is an extraordinary race.”

No one else has fired up a joint, as Caffrey did Thursday in Fairfax and last week in Fort Bragg, but in their own style, those who also back legalization include:

Susan Adams, a Marin County supervisor and a nurse, said the federal government’s war on marijuana has “wasted billions of taxpayers’ money.”

Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, supported marijuana decriminalization measures in 2009 and 2010. Both failed, but legalization is gaining momentum and will return to the state ballot, he said.

“Prohibition is a policy that by any measure is a failure — and can’t be fixed,” he said.

Norman Solomon, a West Marin author and activist, said legalization is a “civil liberties” issue and that pot prohibition has clogged state courts and overcrowded prisons.

Businesswoman Stacey Lawson of San Rafael, stipulated that land use and environmental regulations must accompany legalization.

Adams, Huffman, Lawson and Solomon are the leading contenders for the top two spots in the June 5 primary, and have plenty of company on the marijuana front from the other candidates.

Democrat Tiffany Renee, Petaluma’s vice mayor, said she wants marijuana added to the class of drugs that can be prescribed by a physician, which she called a “form of legalization.”

Allowing recreational use of pot could undermine the North Coast economy as cultivation is “taken over by big pharma and big tobacco,” displacing the region’s mom and pop growers, Renee said.

Larry Fritzlan, a Democrat and Mill Valley therapist who specializes in treating addiction, wants all substances made legal for adults over 18 and taxed like alcohol and tobacco, with the proceeds used to provide free treatment for drug-dependent people.

John Lewallen, a seaweed harvester from Philo with no party preference, said that prohibition enriches “outlaw growers” and promotes “criminal gangs spreading corruption and violence in many nations.”

Brooke Clarke of Ukiah, the other independent candidate and a retired Silicon Valley engineer, called the war on drugs “a catastrophe.”

“It’s a joke the way it (marijuana) is classified,” Clarke said, referring to the Controlled Substances Act, which lists marijuana in the same category as heroin, LSD and GHB, the date rape drug.

Democrat William Courtney, who describes himself as a “cannabis physician,” could not be reached for comment.

Republicans Dan Roberts and Michael Halliwell oppose legalization.

Roberts, a Tiburon securities broker, said he supports California’s medical marijuana program as the “will of the people” and — like most of the other candidates — considers the federal government’s crackdown on pot dispensaries a “misuse of resources.”

But Roberts said “more research is needed” before marijuana can be legalized.

Halliwell, a retired college professor from Cotati, also criticized the recent dispensary raids and said the war on drugs “should concentrate on drugs much more dangerous than marijuana.”

Pot penalties are excessive, Halliwell said, but he opposes legalization proposals like Proposition 19, which was rejected by 53.5 percent of California voters in 2010 but approved in Sonoma and Marin counties.

Marin Democrats who favor legalization have “Marinjuana policy,” Halliwell said, noting that 62 percent of Marin voters favored Proposition 19.

How well legalization resonates in the Emerald Triangle is open to question, as voters in all three counties opposed the measure.

Caffrey, who promoted Proposition 19, said the “heart of the resistance” in Humboldt was concern that pot prices would plummet with legalization.

A Rand Corp. study in 2010 said the retail price of marijuana would fall, likely by more than 80 percent, if pot became legal.

If the pot prohibition were lifted nationwide, Humboldt growers would prosper from a vastly expanded market and the “Humboldt brand name” synonymous with potent weed, Caffrey said.

Proposition 19 failed, in part, because it was poorly written and prompted critics to say it would lead to a “patchwork of regulation,” said Huffman, one of few state legislators who supported the measure.

But sentiment is shifting, he said, suggesting that Californians are now ready for legalization and the rest of the nation “needs to catch up.”

“I think that is the inevitable outcome,” he said.





21 Responses to “North Coast Democratic congressional candidates agree: Legalize pot”

  1. bear says:

    @karraker

    Yes, we agree?

    The point I was trying to make is that they DO have a method to test for levels of THC. It involves chewing on a paper strip and the level is based on saliva.

    Not what might be in your system from 30 days ago for inhaling at a party.

    If you think about it, there is no reason why marijuana couldn’t wind up like the wine industry. “Only the finest kind from Sonoma County?” Unless you’re from Humboldt.

    Trouble is, grower security would be a huge issue. Steal all the grapes you want and its still a pain to make wine. Steal grass and you could sell it right away.

    I would favor sales that would be strictly limited to licensed shops with age limits like alcohol and all the accompanying penalties – and taxed appropriately. License the growers too, and go after the cartel plots and anyone else.

    It would be good to get minor dope criminals out of jail, especially if they’re the victim of some “3 strikes” situation. We can’t afford that, either.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. Richard James Emory says:

    Here’s the deal. Criminalize the North Bay congressional candidates for not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time and legalized pot.

    Now there is a deal we can all smoke to.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  3. brown act Jack says:

    You think that the abolition of prohibition made the country safer

    What it did was make the manufacturers richer!

    You legalize pot and you will make the pot manufacturers rich, and the smokers will gain nothing

    Look at cigarettes, When I was a kid a cigarette was less then a penny, and now they sell for about 25cents a piece.

    So what will happen is your bong and you mix will go up in price due to profit and taxes and the small store will go under, as they bongs will be sold in the groceries and drug stores.

    Only thing I can see happening is you would no longer be able to smoke it as much as you do now.

    Might as well go opium as it has no health problems at all. Just takes all of your money away from you!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  4. ALLIANCE says:

    Between the up-side economically and not paying $50.K a year to incarcerate cannibus criminals…
    that’s lots ‘o money.

    Legalize Freedom.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  5. Canthisbe says:

    “My issue is less about getting high and more about the fact that there is no way to reasonably collect sales tax or income tax from legalizing Marijuana. It is not collected today and wont be if legal. So throw that argument out because its foolish.”

    We tax tobacco and booze and have sales taxes on just about everything and collect lots of taxes from them. Do some people skirt the taxes on these things? Absolutely.
    So should will make tobacco, booze and anything that is covered by sales taxes illegal? Of course not. So throw out the argument that we should not decriminalize marijuana and tax it because some people will evade the tax. That argument is worse than foolish.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. Bear:

    Improbable as it seems, we may partly agree on something. As a Libertarian, I say, smoke all you want, if that makes you blissful.

    My only problem is with the issue of impaired driving and boating. For driving, the BAC amount is crystal clear and easily measurable in the field. For flying, no amount of either is remotely acceptable.

    As I understand it, with THC, the only tests are present or absent, with no metric as to precisely how stoned the person tested is. Fix that problem, and all my issues with weed are gone, except my personal ones. I find the smell and taste of the stuff more annoying than four-day old socks or the last of nine cheeses in an escalating West County cheese plate.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  7. bear says:

    The main issue is stoned drivers – or operators of big machinery – like trains or planes.

    My experience over 40 years is that stoned drivers are the most paranoid drivers on the road – but not if their smoke is mixed with alcohol or other drugs.

    But it is my understanding that there is now a saliva test that can determine the time since ingestion. And if someone is driving recklessly, any cop should have the duty to pull them over and do a sobriety test.

    Measuring marijuana against texting or cell phone use while driving is an issue worthy of debate. I can’t count the number of close calls I’ve had in traffic due to folks with a cell phone implanted in their ear. Not just a question of “hands free,” but one of distraction.

    I’ve seen people WALK into glass doors while on a cell phone. In New York City, they’re apparently banning cell phone use while walking.

    It is a strange world. Funny how you can’t control everything.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  8. Over Easy says:

    @Vowel Movement

    Thank you for being honest about your use, I respect that.

    My issue is less about getting high and more about the fact that there is no way to reasonably collect sales tax or income tax from legalizing Marijuana. It is not collected today and wont be if legal. So throw that argument out because its foolish.

    To hide behind the farce of medical benefits and tax revenue as a rationalization for legalization is simply dishonest.

    If you cant legalize it on the merits of getting high then it should remain illegal.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  9. Canthisbe says:

    “Support for Pot Legalization Crosses 50 Percent, With 56 Percent of Americans Now In Favor of Treating it Like Booze”

    http://reason.com/blog/2012/05/22/support-for-marijuana-legalization-cross

    To misquote somebody, “Who wants to be the last person to die in the War of Drugs?”

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  10. Brad says:

    North coast politicians want pot legalized so they can have more dopes vote for them. That is if the pot heads aren’t too lazy to vote or remember what day it is.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 8

  11. Marc says:

    Most people choose to ignore history and cannot learn from the past. Just look how well alcohol Prohibition worked! The crime and the gangs were all here until it went legal. At lease Marijuana has medicinal purposes and taxing it would bring in money instead of our nation spending our money fighting it and filling our jails.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  12. Vowel Movement says:

    Over Easy… Whether you want to admit it or not, there are some very real and valid medicinal uses for marijuana… that’s not to say that the vast majority of those who use it, myself included, do so for no other reason than to get high… to unwind… disconnect… alter, etc. It’s use isn’t all that different than a couple of cold beers after work (insert marijuana users don’t work joke here).

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  13. Over Easy says:

    Frankly this is a very bad idea that will cost more than it saves.

    Let’s start at the top, Marijuana is no miracle cure, calling it that is being dishonest. People like to get high so lets just call it what it is, getting high.

    Currently growers are going to great lengths to not get caught growing, so what makes you think they would not continue to do so to avoid paying sales tax or income tax?

    Growers are criminals pure and simple, they produce illegal substances and avoid paying sales tax or income tax. It is foolish to think else wise

    So what this REALLY boils down to is allowing people to legally get high using marijuana, because the rest of the argument is invalid.

    It is why they call it dope.

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 12

  14. MM says:

    @ Steve Guy,

    I understand that most of the pot grown here is sold elsewhere. I’m not suggesting it only be legal in Sonoma County. I’m saying it should be legal nation wide. If that ever became a reality, there simply would not be enough money in it for the drug cartels.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 4

  15. Steveguy says:

    I am all for legalization, but if you think that it will stop clandestine forest grows you are deluded.

    That pot goes elsewhere, whether SoCal or Chicago or St Louis or New York City. Just being real here.

    So, if you own land, be green and use green ammo boxes like Keep It Simple says.

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 6

  16. Keep It Simple says:

    Make pot legal but legalize my right to carry firearms and automatic weapons to protect myself from drug growers and users who want to use my land to grow the garbage and threaten me and my family.

    I will only use ammo in green boxes if you insist, just to keep it green.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 4

  17. Jim Bennett says:

    It’s been said that through sales tax and commercial applications, legalization could greatly improve our economy.

    If it possible to do so without fascist colution?
    You know, picking winners and losers.

    I have a crazy idea.
    keep the playing field level so ALL growers can compete.

    Tax base. Freedom of choice. Medicinal benefits for some. Commerce. Maintain a ‘cottage’ industry. Don’t really see a bad side.

    That is if you like a free society.

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 4

  18. mm says:

    Legalize it…. Tax it…. Regulate it…

    I don’t want to see people on the streets smoking pot. It should be legal for those 21 and over. It should be done at home or specially designated clubs.

    We have a real and growing problem with violent Mexican Cartels growing and processing pot in our wooded areas. State parks, private and public land are all in play. These people are violent, and ruthless. They will do anything to protect their cash crop.

    Make pot legal. They will stop growing on our land.

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 6

  19. Canthisbe says:

    And most of the crime connected with pot is because pot is illegal. Turn on the History Channel and learn about the Prohibition and Al Capone. And if pot was legal the police would lose millions of $$$ that they get from forfeitures that they use to buy police toys like SWAT outfits and Corvettes for their high school drug education programs.

    Thumb up 20 Thumb down 7

  20. Kirstin says:

    Whether pot is legalized or not, there are health dangers to smoking it, and those cannot be ignored. Here are a few resources on those dangers:

    http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana

    http://smoking.ygoy.com/dangers-of-smoking-marijuana/

    http://www.acde.org/common/Marijana.htm

    http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/evidence99/marijuana/Health_1.html

    Marijuana is not harmless, despite what some would have us believe.

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 15

  21. Every police chief I’ve asked about legalization pot, all of them were much more worried about the crime connected with pot than the pot itself.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

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