AB 473 for medical marijuana dies: Do Democrats representing the OC really HAVE to be Police-State Democrats?


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Bill Maher’s final New Rule this weekend was especially appropriate and timely to today’s story (starting at 2:10)


Episode 284 by BillMaher1956

High points, my emphases:

“Finally, new rule – Pot is the new gay marriage.  And by that, I mean it’s the next civil rights issue that needs to fall… 

“In 1988 only 10% approved of gay marriage, today it’s up to almost 60%.  So what happened?  What made gay marriage so normal so quickly?  Sure, part of it was Dancing With the Stars.  But mostly it was because gays simply demanded it.  They didn’t care that gay marriage wasn’t popular, they put it on the agenda and they made it popular…

“Now the Democrats, believe it or not, have that kind of power too.  They just don’t use it, because Democrats operate from a place of fear.  Unwilling to appear soft on crime, soft on terror, or, in Anthony Weiner’s case, soft on camera… 

“Say what you will about Republicans, they don’t chase poll numbers.  They MOVE them.  Like gays.  If Republicans were smart, they would steal marijuana from the Democrats as a freedom issue.  Of course, they’re not smart, so they won’t.  Because they’re squares living in a Reefer Madness cartoon.  A cartoon where millions of Americans are still trapped in a no-man’s land…

“…This isn’t about me.  It’s about the three-quarters of a million people who are arrested for simple possession every year.  And the fact that blacks are arrested at seven times the rate of whites.  Which is a subtle way to suppress the black vote, because 48 states limit voting rights for convicted felons.  Only two states do not, Maine and Vermont.  And Maine’s black population consists of a bear.

“Look.  We all put something in our mouth that we’re not always proud of, but that makes us happy.    Gay barriers fell when Americans realized gays are their neighbors, their friends, their family members, their co-workers.  Certainly, that must also be true of pot-heads.  We all know at least one.  In fact, I bet there’s one pot-head whom you all know…

“…At the Correspondents’ Dinner this year [the President] joked, “I remember when Buzzfeed was something I did in college around 2 AM.”  Which killed in the room, but perhaps not so funny to all the young lives ruined for doing the exact same thing HE did back in Honolulu.  A simple pot conviction can foreclose on opportunities to vote, get a job, go to college, or qualify for housing.  How can our first black president, AND our first pot-head president, be aware of that and just look the other way?“  …

Tom Ammiano’s Assembly Bill 473

This bill was no radical piece of legislation;  it was not a bill to legalize recreational pot use for example.  It would have established a Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation and Enforcement under the umbrella of the California Dept of Alcohol and Beverage Control, to monitor the supply and sales of medical cannabis, in fulfillment of us Californians’ overwhelming passage of the Compassionate Use Act in 1996.

It would have “monitored the entire supply chain, so that vulnerable medical patients are not exposed to toxic substances used by some unauthorized growers, and work to eliminate criminal involvement in the industry.  With rigorous enforcement and clear guidelines, the plan would have reassured local jurisdictions that have witnessed a confusing series of court decisions. It would have also reduced federal actions against dispensaries.”

It would not, repeat NOT, have interfered with the recent state Supreme Court decision allowing municipalities to ban dispensaries within their borders;  hence OC cities with stick-up-the-ass councils like Anaheim and Garden Grove would still be allowed to force their cancer patients to travel many miles to another town to get their prescribed medicine under this bill.

And the bill only needed a majority to pass, not the notorious 2/3.  Shoulda been a piece of cake, right, given the fact that Democrats hold a 2/3 majority, and Democrats stand for freedom, right?  I mean, the state and county party have routinely spoken out for legalization, have they not?  I mean, what Democrats would  imply that we Californian voters were WAY TOO LIBERAL back in 1996 when we overwhelmingly approved medical pot?

But sadly, the bill just barely failed in the Assembly and can only come back next year.  Even sadder, the two Democrats representing Orange County in the Assembly, Tom Daly and Sharon Quirk-Silva, were instrumental in helping to kill it.  There was a technical glitch as well, but Ammiano’s office confirmed to me that Tom’s and Sharon’s support COULD have made all the difference.

Freedom Dems vs. Police-state Dems

We generally expect the worst of Republican lawmakers, so on the rare occasion they do something good – something that helps the 99% of us, or the environment, or pushes forward any kind of FREEDOM (apart from the freedom of corporations and the rich to stomp on the rest of us) we tend to heap praise on them, as we would with a retarded child who comes up with an unexpectedly observant comment.  But we grownups who elect Democrats expect a lot MORE from THEM.

There’s this convenient self-serving myth that the Democrats who get elected in the sections of Orange County that elect Democrats HAVE NO CHOICE but to be as “conservative” or “moderate” as possible, just because – well, damn it, they’re in Orange County, aren’t they?  This “moderateness,” with former Asm. Jose Solorio and Senator Lou Correa, has generally taken the form of

  • resisting any reforms onerous to the big health insurance and pharmaceutical interests, or indeed most reforms that would cost big businesses any money to implement,
  • and pursuing policies to strengthen California’s prison-industrial complex, especially when it comes to fighting the “War on Drugs.” 

Lou at least seems to be a true believer in Reefer Madness mythology, but in any case these politicians’ dependable “moderation” has kept them rolling in campaign cash from big insurance and police and prison guard unions.  Whether or not this “moderation” was necessary for them to stay in office is highly doubtful and has been questioned by myself, Chris Prevatt and many others, and disproved by Lou’s very progressive and successful predecessor Joe Dunn.  (Great Prevatt piece, by the way…)

Daly: no Dunn.

We did expect more of the same from Solorio’s hand-picked successor Tom Daly, especially given the millions poured into his campaign by powerful interests who usually back Republicans.  (Although we always love to be pleasantly surprised, and wrong!)  With some effort, I got an answer today from his legislative assistant as to why Tom voted no on AB 473, but not an answer that withstands scrutiny:  

  • The bill is “PREMATURE,” because of the “tangled legal environment” given the recent state Supreme Court decision and the Feds’ depredations.  Hello?  The bill, as mentioned above, was amended to take the former into account, and was specifically designed to address the latter.
  • The bill “MIGHT turn out to be COSTLY,” with its creation of a “Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation and Enforcement,” even though that would be paid for with fees by the businesses – Daly fears those fees might not be enough.

Call me cynical, but with all due respect those are weasel reasons, the reasons a lobbyist against a bill will hand a legislator.  Fees on an industry are a tried, trusted, and fair way to pay for the industry’s regulation.  But Mr. Daly, with votes like this, will continue to be super-funded by law enforcement, prison guards, and big Pharma.

And just think, Santa Ana, you could have had Julio Perez – a charter member of the Hemp and Cannabis Caucus – if you’d just gotten your asses out to vote last June!  :(

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We’re more disappointed that our good friend Sharon Quirk-Silva opposed the bill.   Many of us were impressed by her performance as Fullerton Councilwoman during the aftermath of the Kelly Thomas murder, when alone with Bruce Whitaker she pushed for reform and accountability, avoiding the Recall fate of their three cop-apologist colleagues.  She seemed principled and bold, like someone who might turn out to be a Freedom Democrat rather than a Police-State Democrat. 

Sharon receives Consuelo Nieto Award from the author last March, for her fearlessness, independence, and steadfast support for personal liberty.

But now, since her great surprise victory last November which got the Democrats their elusive 2/3 majority, she seems to live in fear of losing her hard-fought seat to angry Republican backlash next November.  More honest than Daly’s peeps, she describes a vote for medical marijuana as a “dangerous vote.”  She named off a couple of “dangerous votes” she’s already made recently (which I got the impression she’d rather I didn’t mention) and figures that she can only afford a certain number of “dangerous votes” before she risks her re-election and the Dems’ supermajority.

What does she (and her hyper-cautious advisers) mean by “dangerous votes?”  Apparently, votes that might anger or frighten some imaginary Republican voter in her North County district, or possibly be used in an attack mailer against her next year.  And also, somehow, she’s worried about what I might write about her here.

But this throws me into confusion – if she’s afraid of being tarred as too “liberal,” then maybe it would HELP her for this notorious liberal blogger to excoriate her for uncourageous votes.  Should I start trashing her as a Soloriesque DINO?  Maybe that would help build up her “moderate” cred!  But on the other hand, maybe it would depress the hopeful young and minority voters who poured out for her last year.  It’s all too confusing.  As usual all I can do is say what I think, and that is this:

I KNOW what scared Republicans about Sharon’s victory, and the Dems’ achievement of 2/3 in the leg.  And it was NOT that Sharon and her party would now clear the way for the regulation and institutionalization of medical marijuana.  And it was NOT that Sharon and her party would vote to give driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, or further the equality of gays.  What every terrified Republican I knew was shrieking last November was “NOW THEY’RE GONNA RAISE OUR TAXES THROUGH THE ROOF!”  So my advice to Sharon if she wants to keep her seat, and our supermajority, is just don’t vote to raise taxes.  And I’ll be the loudest blogger next year to remind everybody “SHARON QUIRK-SILVA DID NOT VOTE TO RAISE OUR TAXES!”

The reason Sharon won last November, besides the hard work of her and her team, was the growing population of young and minority voters in her district, and that trend is not reversing.  Also not reversing is the trend of greater public acceptance of marijuana, and the public’s weariness of the War on Drugs.  I don’t think she should get on the wrong side of history there, and I do think that the folks who poured out for her want to see her being a proud progressive who votes the way she believes.

But I could be totally wrong.  How about this?  If you’re in Sharon’s district give her a call at  (714) 526-7272 and let her know if you approve or disapprove of her vote against AB 473.  How do you think she should vote when a similar bill comes back next year?  Would you be more or less likely to vote for her next year if she continues to support the War on Drugs?

And Sharon and Tom should listen to Bill Maher.


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist in Orange County. Performs regularly with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem, and at regular concerts at the Huntington Beach Central Library.