Category: Propositions

Recommendations on Statewide Ballot Measures

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The Peace and Freedom Party recommends:

Proposition 51, a $9 billion school bond (with $1 billion going to charter school construction), must be repaid with an additional $8.6 billion in tax-free interest. For more, see this article. Vote NO.

Proposition 52 secures funding for MediCal and services for poor people from a hospital fee and prevents the state legislature from diverting the earmarked money to the general fund. Vote YES.

Proposition 53 requires an undemocratic supermajority vote to approve revenue bonds (financed by the proceeds from the funded projects). Vote NO.

Proposition 54 looks like a Republican answer to a dispute between the two major parties about how to make the legislative process more transparent. We are sitting this out for now.

Proposition 55 extends Proposition 30, which taxes the wealthy to increase funding for education and healthcare. Prop. 55 lets the one-half cent sales tax in Prop. 30 expire at the end of 2016. Vote YES.

Proposition 56 adds a $2 a pack excise tax on cigarettes and raises taxes on e-cigarettes. This regressive tax will hurt low-income people. Vote NO.

Proposition 57 reduces sentences for many non-violent crimes and stops the practice of immediately sending juveniles to adult court. Vote YES.

Proposition 58 repeals part of Prop. 227 (1998) to restore the option of bilingual education. For more see this article. Vote YES.

Proposition 59 (advisory) requires officials to push to amend the U.S. Constitution to reverse the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” ruling. Money is not speech; corporations are not people. Vote YES.

Proposition 60 requires that actors in explicit sex scenes wear condoms on the job. This is about health and safety. Vote YES.

Proposition 61 places a limit on the amount pharmaceutical companies can charge the State for prescription drugs. For more see this article. Vote YES.

Proposition 62 abolishes the death penalty. We do not like the alternative, life without parole, and other onerous provisions of this proposition. But we can and must end the death penalty now, and counter the possibility of proposition 66 taking precedence by getting more votes. For more, see this article. Vote YES.

Proposition 63 requires retailers to report anyone who purchases any ammunition to the Department of Justice. There is already a law prohibiting possession of large capacity magazine firearms. Vote NO.

Proposition 64 legalizes marijuana and hemp in Ca. It exempts medical marijuana from some taxation and authorizes re-sentencing and destruction of records for prior marijuana convictions. For more, see this article. Vote YES.

Proposition 65 sounds like an environmental measure but is designed to reduce support for a plastic bag ban. For more see this article. Vote NO.

Proposition 66 would speed up the application of the death penalty and require inexperienced lawyers to take death penalty cases. For more see this article. Work to pass Prop. 62 and vote NO on 66.

Proposition 67 is a referendum on the plastic bag ban that was passed by the legislature to protect wildlife and prevent waste. For more see this article. Vote YES.

Proposition 64 – YES

Support the Adult Use of Marijuana Act

In 1996, California voters passed the country’s first medicinal marijuana initiative, Proposition 215. In 2010, we had the opportunity to be the first state to end cannabis prohibition for all with Proposition 19, but narrowly failed with 46% in favor. The Peace and Freedom Party, in keeping with its platform calling for legalization of marijuana from its founding in 1967, supported both these measures.

In 2010, our support of Prop. 19 focused on the role played by the forces behind prohibition: the prison-industrial complex (the prison-building industry, private prison operators, prison guards’ and police officers’ associations, prosecutors, etc.), and the “competition” (mainly alcohol companies; pharmaceutical companies have also contributed). We also mentioned those who profit from the current black- and grey-market conditions.

The standard prohibitionist forces are still quite active opposing Prop. 64, but no more needs to be said about them here; their arguments are all well-known and thoroughly refuted. There’s another line of argument that was raised against Prop. 19 and is being raised against Prop. 64: that the proposition would actually do more harm than good, and that we should reject it in favor of something better later. The misinformation generated in the course of supporting this position could contribute to the defeat of Prop. 64 as it probably did to that of Prop. 19.

The remainder of this article will attempt to briefly answer the arguments of those who oppose Prop. 64 while being for “real” legalization. A more complete refutation can be found in the following articles:

Top 10 Myths About California’s Prop 64 (With Footnotes!)

Part Two of Russ Belville’s Top 10 Myths About California’s Prop 64

The main objections can be summed up under the following themes.

“It’s not ‘real’ legalization.”

These arguments basically come down to claiming that it’s already legal enough under the status quo, and that the things that will still be illegal under Prop. 64 are somehow new. But in fact, cannabis is still illegal; all that Prop. 215 does is provide an affirmative defense. People are still in jail; people are still being stopped, searched, arrested, harassed and brutalized because a cop smelled weed; people are still being denied employment and housing behind a criminal record for pot. Once Prop. 64 passes, all that stops: People in jail for something that Prop. 64 makes legal will be able to petition for release, and people with criminal records for things that are no longer crimes will be able to have those records expunged – and the burden of proof is on the state to prove why they shouldn’t. As for the things that are still illegal, penalties are sharply reduced on almost all of them (from felonies to misdemeanors or “wobblers”, or from misdemeanors to infractions), it eliminates jail for minors entirely, and perhaps most significantly, the mere odor of cannabis will no longer serve as probable cause for a stop and search. Even without its other benefits, and even if every other objection were true, this would be enough to merit our support.

“It ‘destroys’ Prop. 215.”

The part of this that isn’t an outright lie is based on a gross misunderstanding both of what Prop. 215 is and what Prop. 64 does. The lie is easy enough to debunk: Prop. 64 explicitly protects Prop. 215 and adds new protections on top; medical patients are exempt from the limits and restrictions imposed under Prop. 64 for non-medical adult use; and medical patients are further protected from having their children taken away, for one example. What is misunderstood is, first, what Prop. 215 does – which is only to provide an affirmative defense for medical need. Prop. 215 did not provide for anyone being able to purchase or otherwise acquire cannabis other than to grow their own, or any of the other activities currently engaged in by medical card holders; those are the result of legislation and regulations enacted long after Prop. 215 passed, chiefly SB 420 and recently superseded by the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA, formerly known as MMRSA). Opponents of Prop. 64 raise objections that are more properly directed at the MCRSA, claiming that they’re fixing to defeat the MCRSA in court but that Prop. 64 will prevent that by “enshrining” it within the language of an initiative. But that doesn’t work, as the above referenced article explains.

“It hands cannabis over to big corporations like Monsanto. That’s why billionaires like Sean Parker and George Soros support it!”

Prop. 64 actually gives priority to those currently in the business for two years, and to current (from 2015) California residents until 2020, and also does not provide for licensing large grows until 2023, providing small local farmers and businesses plenty of time to get set up under the new system before ever having to face competition from large out-of-state operations. And it has strong anti-monopoly provisions; for instance, among the reasons to deny a license to a business, the first on the list is if it would “allow unreasonable restrains on competition by creation or maintenance of unlawful monopoly power.” But it doesn’t stop there; the article, and the text of the measure itself, go into much more detail. The only real objection small farmers have is that it allows for large operations at all, starting in 2023. But even then, there’s nothing that says the state has to license larger operations, and if the small growers’ concerns about the impact of such operations are valid, there would be grounds under the terms of Prop. 64 to deny such licenses. The growers’ association opposed Prop. 19; on Prop. 64, they split just about 50:50, and as an organization they are neutral. Let’s hope that the Emerald Triangle doesn’t defeat legalization this time.

Errata: Originally posted that large-grow licenses come on line in 2020. Those licenses will not become available for five years after the other licenses come on line in 2018.

“It imposes onerous taxes that go into a politician’s ‘slush fund’.”

The argument that the taxes imposed by Prop. 64 are too high is not entirely without merit. And even though it does exempt medical patients from the 7.5% state sales tax, they are still subject to the same 15% excise tax and $9.25/oz. cultivation tax as everyone else, and that’s a shame. However, it’s still a better deal than the legalization law passed by the State of Washington, for example – and even with their much-higher taxes and other negative provisions that we won’t have to suffer, the price of cannabis has gone down there as in every other state that has passed legalization. Prohibition is a much higher tax, just considering the market price of the commodity and not even considering all of the other consequences. As for where the money goes, it’s the opposite of a “slush fund,” it’s a separately maintained fund which has very clear and explicit earmarks for how much is to be spent on what in which order. This actually is one of the things we don’t like about it – we prefer all tax money go to the General Fund where it can be spent on whatever we need – but most voters prefer earmarks, and the places and amounts are what have found favor among likely voters.

Finally, and most dangerously:

“We can do better.” Momentum is on our side, there’s no reason to rush to pass this initiative, there are better options available and if we defeat Prop. 64 we’ll be in a better position to pass one of the other, superior initiatives that have been circulated.

This is delusional. The other initiatives that Prop. 64 opponents tout have never come close to getting on the ballot, and there are no prospects that they ever will. (And those initiatives are actually worse than Prop. 64 in several of the ways opponents object to.) When California failed to pass Prop. 19 six years ago, it was a defeat for legalization efforts, but that defeat was mitigated by the facts that (1) it was the first non-medical legalization measure post-Prop. 215, (2) the uniquely unrestricted nature of Prop. 215 (which has provided a negative model for every other state’s medical initiatives ever since) and the greater influence of the Emerald Triangle growers skewed the results here, and (3) it was a non-Presidential election, with lower voter turnout and therefore skewed toward the conservative end. Failure to pass Prop. 64 in this election will not be seen as a signal that Californians want better legalization – it would be a major defeat for the entire concept of adult-use legalization and a major momentum-killer for the entire movement, while passing Prop. 64 would give that momentum a turbocharged boost not only across the U.S. but internationally as well.

Proposition 64 is not perfect, by any means. No proposition that could make it onto the California ballot, or stand a chance of passing in a state that is not as universally liberal and pot-friendly as one might imagine – Bay Area, Los Angeles and Emerald Triangle notwithstanding – could possibly satisfy the wishes and desires of cannabis consumers, producers and merchants. There are several legitimate objections, as noted here:

California NORML Guide to AUMA

But as noted, most of the real problems that exist can be fixed by further legislative work, as noted here:

Cal NORML’s Post-64 Reform Agenda

Advocates for the rights of cannabis consumers and opponents of the War on Drugs are advised to vote for Prop. 64 and to join in this work.

Proposition 58 – YES

Restore Bilingual Education

Proposition 227, passed in 1998, required that all California public school students, especially children whose native language is other than English, be taught in English-only programs. A greatly reduced number of schools continue to offer bilingual education, but the imposition of a complicated waiver process makes this option a rarity.

Proposition 58, placed on the ballot by the California State Legislature, will restore the option of bilingual education and remove the waiver requirement. Parents of English learners would be given a choice of instructional methods, including intensive English only instruction.

Proposition 62 – YES with reservations

It is important to vote yes to repeal the death penalty in California, although we are opposed to the provision to automatically impose life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

In addition to repealing the state death penalty, Prop 62 would:

  • Replace the maximum punishment for murder with life in prison without the possibility of parole.
  • Apply retroactively to those already sentenced to death.
  • Persons found guilty of murder and sentenced to life without possibility of parole must work while in prison.
  • The portion is increased of the inmates’ wages that may be applied to victim restitution.

Proposition 66 – NO

The Death Penalty Procedure Regulation Initiative changes the procedures governing state court appeals and petitions that challenge death penalty convictions and sentences. It would facilitate capital punishment.

The pro-death lobby readily admits “California’s current death penalty system is broken.” Their “solution is to mend” it with this law and order measure intended to more quickly and efficiently put those accused to death by:

Proposition 51 – NO

The Peace and Freedom Party is for full funding for public schools. We also strongly advocate for using the wealth that rightly belongs to the whole society to fund our basic needs. This $9 billion school bond (with $1 billion going to Charter School construction) must be repaid with an additional $8.6 billion in tax-free interest. Thus it creates another source of wealth for the already wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.

The use of government bonds for any purpose, no matter how important or necessary, amounts to a transfer of wealth from working tax payers to the already wealthy.

Proposition 61 – YES

The official summary about Prop. 61 states that it “Prohibits state from buying any prescription drug from a drug manufacturer at a price over lowest price paid for the drug by United States Department of Veterans Affairs.” That seems fairly clear; the state of California would get the lowest VA drug prices, and save money. This would be one small first step in reigning in high drug costs.

Proposition 65 – NO

The Carry-Out Bag Revenue Initiative redirects money collected from the sale of carry-out bags by grocery or other retail stores to a special fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board. It was placed on the ballot by the plastic bag manufacturers to turn the grocery industry and consumers against the plastic bag ban.

An existing state law, which has yet to be implemented (see Prop 67), would ban chain grocery stores and liquor/convenience stores from providing single-use plastic bags. Instead consumers would either buy a recyclable paper bag for 10¢ or bring their own reusable bags to the store. This 2014 law is supported by the conservation community because of the damage that single-use plastic bags cause the environment and because it promotes recycling. The grocery chains went along with the law because they would get to keep the 10¢ per paper bag charge, which would cover their costs and then some.

Proposition 67 – YES

The plastic Bag Ban Veto Referendum upholds the contested existing legislation that would phase out single-use plastic bags. SB 270 was passed in 2014, but has been put on hold pending this referendum.

This referendum would uphold and implement an existing state law which would: