Capitol Alert

DEA pot decision reverberates in California legalization campaign

5 things you need to know about the California marijuana proposition

California was the first state to allow medical marijuana. Now, two decades later, voters are expected to be asked whether to legalize recreational use of the drug. The legalization measure headed for the statewide November ballot is the product o
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California was the first state to allow medical marijuana. Now, two decades later, voters are expected to be asked whether to legalize recreational use of the drug. The legalization measure headed for the statewide November ballot is the product o

The Obama administration’s decision Thursday to keep marijuana classified among the nation’s most dangerous drugs divided campaign operatives in California’s cannabis legalization debate.

Wayne Johnson, campaign consultant for No on Proposition 64, said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has again validated the opposition’s deeply held skepticism about legalizing marijuana.

“This decision is a stark contrast to the push by the big players in the marijuana industry who wrote Prop 64 and are now spending millions of dollars rushing this flawed measure to the ballot in order to capture the California market,” Johnson said.

Proponents of Proposition 64, the fall ballot initiative to legitimize marijuana for adults 21 and older, said the DEA’s determination underscores why the measure remains critical and why California must “fill the vacuum left by federal regulatory inertia.”

“We do agree with federal regulators that more independent scientific and clinical research is desperately needed, which is why Proposition 64 invests millions of new dollars into California-based research on marijuana’s medical and non-medical benefits, as well as enforceable traffic safety standards,” Proposition 64 spokesman Jason Kinney said.

Retaining marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug means it has no medical value, despite more than half of the states approving its use for medicine. It’s unclear how much of a long-term factor the government’s classification decision will have in the mufti-million dollar fight to bring pot out of the shadows, because medical marijuana has not been central to the debate.

Instead, those favoring legalization have keyed in on the failures of marijuana prohibition and the uneven enforcement on communities of color. Critics have pounded away at the prospect of profit-driven marijuana companies becoming the next Big Tobacco.

Both sides of the legalization campaign are scheduled to appear Friday in a Sacramento courthouse, where a judge will hear dueling lawsuits challenging the official ballot arguments.

Proponents want the judge to reject or order amendments to a number of arguments against Proposition 64, including what they believe is a false contention that children would be exposed to advertisements promoting marijuana gummy candy and brownies.

Opponents say it specifically contemplates TV advertising and are pushing for the deletion of language asserting “Federal law prohibits it!”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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