“Big Tobacco,” “Pot Cartels” Behind Prop 19


The latest salvo from the “Stoners Against Legalization” who would prefer they and their bag-slinging colleagues remain criminals in the eyes of the law, is a website called  It is a shining example of the concept that one can simultaneously possess the mental capacity to create a website while lacking the intellectual ability to form coherent and logical thought.

First off, you have to take with a shaker of salt any website that posts the disclaimer:, its creators, representatives, and/or contributors (“Site”) makes no warranties of any kind (either expressed or implied) concerning the data, statistics, opinions, quotes, images, etc. (“Content”) on the Site. Further, does not warrant that transmission of the Content will not be interrupted nor does it warrant that the Content will contain no errors or be accurate.

Seems a bit C-Y-A for a site that claims to “spread the truth about Prop 19.”  Actually, the disclaimer is not really needed, because nowhere on the site will you find any data, statistics, or something that might help uncover the truth about Prop 19, like, you know, the text of Prop 19 itself.  (You can read it for yourself – the actual Prop 19 – and some layman’s analysis here.)

What you will find is Photoshopped Joe Camel and Marlboro Man ads that claims:

Vote yes to get the same 600 addictive and poisonous additives in your cannabis as we put in your tobacco!

CAMEL – For Prop 19

WARNING: A vote for Proposition 19 is a vote for the Big Tobacco takeover of cannabis production.

There is no reference to the section or paragraph in Prop 19 that allegedly cedes the entire cannabis market to Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds, nor any statistics or data to support the idea that people who could grow their own 5′x5′ ganja garden or get weed freely from their friends or become Prop 215 patients or join a Prop 215 collective would instead choose to buy schwag weed with poisonous and addictive additives.

The next page warns us about the dreaded “Cannabis Cartel”, including “cannabis millionaire Richard Lee” (you know, the guy who still scoots around on an unmotorized wheelchair as he runs Oaksterdam) who “spent $1.4 million to place Prop 19 on November’s ballot. ”  (Guess what?  Did you know it takes money, lots of it, to put a measure on the ballot in California?*)  This “cartel has close ties to Oakland’s political machine” and knows that letting California’s 478 incorporated cities decide whether to allow commercial production means that none of them will, and only Oakland will be able to sell weed, so everybody in California will have to drive to the Bay Area to buy weed from “the Cartel”.  You know, when they aren’t growing their own, getting it from friends, shopping at a dispensary, joining a collective, or buying it illegally like they do now.  And none of the other 477 California cities would feel that massive sucking sound of cannabis dollars flowing to Oakland’s tax coffers and they’d never reconsider that decision to ban commercial production and sales.

*This particular line always pisses me off.  A disabled guy works hard and builds a successful business, risking federal prosecution and really long prison sentences, then takes $1.4 million of his own money and bets it on a legalization initiative.  If it loses, that’s $1,400,000 just gone.  I have trouble spending $100 at the blackjack table, and the odds of winning are about the same as Prop 19’s chances – you can squeak out a win if you play your cards right and luck goes your way.

It only takes a read to the bottom of the page to get to the true “I Gots Mine” motivation in “cartel”-bashing:

So why should you care? After all, weed will be legal right? Wrong! Cannabis already is legal in California. All you need is a medical recommendation for no age limits, no growing limits, no big corporations, no excessive taxes, and no crackdown from the Feds. Just readily available, high quality medical cannabis.

And even without a doctor’s recommendation, possession of less than an ounce in California is NOT an arrestable offense. Considering Prop 19 only allows you to have up to an ounce, what exactly is the advantage for cannabis users? You guessed it, there is no advantage. The only advantage is for the Prop 19 Cartel.

I think the 78,514 Californians arrested in 2008 for misdemeanor marijuana possession and felony sale/manufacture of marijuana might disagree with that “Cannabis already is legal in California” sentiment.

“All you need is a medical recommendation” after all.  You just need to give money and a story (maybe even a true story) to a doctor and you’re perfectly legal.  I wonder why Stop19 doesn’t consider the existing dispensaries that charge you $15/gram or $300/ounce “an association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition“, or for that matter, the specialty doctor clinics that listen to your stories and give you a card for upwards of $100 per?

“And even without a doctor’s recommendation” possessing an ounce of marijuana, while it won’t get you arrested, will get you a misdemeanor drug conviction, and growing marijuana, any amount, will get you an arrest and a felony drug record.  The advantage with Prop 19 is your ounce isn’t a misdemeanor, it isn’t an infraction, it isn’t protected medical use, it is LEGAL, and your 5′x5′ marijuana garden is LEGAL.

I can’t overemphasize LEGAL.  Because even now, even as a Prop 215 patient, what you are doing is ILLEGAL (as a Prop 215 patient, you are merely exempt from arrest and prosecution).  This means you can be searched, investigated, harassed, and even arrested and prosecuted under certain circumstances.  When holding an ounce and growing a personal garden are LEGAL, all sorts of things that used to be probable cause to harass you no longer are.  The sight or smell of plants, smoke, weed, bongs, seeds, stems, etc. are no longer probable cause!

Page Three asks “Why Vote No?” and once again, the big bad “corporations” and “Big Tobacco” are coming to ruin weed!

Profit driven corporations will take over the production of cannabis and will drive out private growers. These private growers currently must compete to provided top quality cannabis. The “Walmartization” of the industry will allow corporations to control the market and dictate quality standards and prices to the consumer.

Hmm, you mean like the dealer or dispensary we’ve been buying from who charges $300 per ounce?  Who’s been dictating that price?  Because it seems to be the same no matter which dealer or dispensary you visit, even after fourteen years now of competition in the “already is legal” market among hundreds of dispensaries.

You know, I’ve been wondering, if all it takes is legalization with corporate control to stop people from growing a houseplant in their closet, why hasn’t the federal government embraced that?  Especially if they can dictate the quality.  It’s got to be cheaper than helicopters and SWAT teams and mass-produced packs of 4% THC joints would raise that kind of politically-easy “sin tax” money that government loves.

Large tobacco companies have purchased land and strain trademarks in anticipation of Prop 19 passing. These are the very same companies that pollute their tobacco products with addictive and poisonous additives. With the private growers forced out, nothing will stop tobacco companies from supplying low quality cannabis laced with additives–at any price they choose.

Uh, sure.  The Big Tobacco companies (who, by the way, don’t even own the farms upon which their tobacco is produced) who are constantly in the federal courts regarding their current legal product are going to jump right into being the primary producer of what will still be an illegal federal product.

One cool thing about these intertubes is you can actually look shit up.  Like the newspaper records of the papers in the Emerald Triangle, which you’d think would trumpet the news of big tobacco companies buying large plots of land.  Yet Google News Searches of tobacco land Mendocino, tobacco land Trinity, tobacco land Humboldt bring up no such headlines.  You can also use the US Patent & Trademark Office to look up “Acapulco Gold”, “Maui Wowie”, “Panama Red” and other “strain trademarks”, and there you’ll find a lot of “Sorry, no results found for…”

As for “nothing will stop”, Prop 19 gives localities the right to set rules and regulations for commercial production of cannabis, if they choose.  So, the city council could make all sorts of prohibitions against additives and chemicals in processing.  And again, “Big Tobacco” has to sell you something you’d want to buy rather than growing your own 5′x5′, getting it from friends, joining a collective, visiting a dispensary, or buying on the black market.  Now, if Philip Morris wants to produce a potent, organic pack of joints at a reasonable price, more power to them!

There is a handy link to the “Ten Reasons to Vote No”, which like a set of bowling pins I will knock down with the 16lb bowling ball of reason (Stop19’s silly rhetoric has infected my metaphor production…)

1. Proposition 19 isn’t really legalization. It only allows possession of up to one ounce of cannabis. Under current California law, an ounce or less of pot isn’t an arrestable offense. And soon this amount will be a simple civil infraction. Prop 19 doesn’t make any improvements to decriminalization or prop 215.

Um, how much must one be allowed to legally possess before marijuana is “really” considered legal?  Because right now, possession of any amount of cannabis is a crime.  Maybe, if the Assembly hurries with their “head ‘em off at the pass” maneuver, it becomes an infraction, which, like speeding or littering, means it is still against the law, or as we call it, “illegal”.

2. Prop 19 creates several new cannabis related crimes with extremely severe penalties. Don’t pass a joint to a 17 year old, you will be looking at a max of 7 years in state prison, seriously.

Passing a joint to 17-year-old is already a crime with a max of seven years in the state prison.  Prop 19 does create a new penalty for adults 21+ passing to someone aged 18-20, with fines and jail time.  This brings those penalties in line with giving alcohol to 18-20’s if their use leads to death or injury.

I think that’s too severe, as marijuana is safer than alcohol, and I’m not fond of caging anyone for marijuana use, period.  However, the general voting public is not there yet and one of the only two arguments opponents have are “what about the children?” (and “Marijuana Mayhem on the Freeway!”).

I find it odd that people would oppose legalization for all people aged 21 and older because it would make it tougher for adults to smoke pot with teenagers.  Odder still when you consider it would only be up to three years until all of the current 18-20’s are also legal.

3. Prop 19 is solely designed to allow large scale cannabis production by politically connected corporations. Oakland has already granted a license to the Prop 19 Cartel.

Well, other than that whole “you can have an ounce”, “you can grow a personal garden”, and “you can keep onsite the complete production from your garden” parts.  (I hate to have to tell them that their website is being hosted by, transmitted by, and was creating using hardware and software likely made by “large scale” “politically connected corporations”.)

4. Most legal experts agree that Prop 19 is poorly written and will leave police and judges to enforce it at their discretion. For example, consuming cannabis would be illegal in the same “space” as a minor. Police and judges are free to interpret the word “space” to mean the same room, house, or entire apartment complex.

These “experts”, who go unnamed and uncounted on the site, are certainly not “most”.  I suppose police and judges could interpret “space” to mean “The Cosmos” as well… and then actual legal experts will take them to court and have them laughed out of the room.  I’m not as good with the crystal ball, but here’s what I know now: if police catch you consuming cannabis in any “space” now, whether minors are present or not, you will get a criminal record.

5. There is no need to rush into a law that will be difficult to change. There are better full legalization laws, including one set to be on the ballot in 2012.

I’m sure the thousands who get arrested for possession and growing over the next two years will enjoy reading this point from prison.

It’s nice to talk about “better full legalization laws” that are “set to be on the ballot in 2012″, but there are two realities at work: (a) can you get it on the ballot? and (b) can it pass?  These “full legalizers” (a.k.a. the “Tomato Model”) have been pushing these ideas since the Eighties.  But 2010’s Prop 19 is the first initiative since 1972’s Prop 19 to legalize marijuana to actually make the ballot.

Now if “full legalization” was on the ballot, with its 99 plants and 12 pounds of bud defined as “personal”, complete amnesty for cannabis prisoners, destruction of all cannabis criminal records past and present, limitation on taxes at $10 per ounce, no penalties for use by minors, and no limits on religious or medical use, well, I’ll be glad to vote for it.  I don’t think you can convince me that 50%+1 of California voters would go for it, though.

6. Prop 19 will lead to the walmartization of the cannabis industry. And unfortunately, this will result in lower quality and fixed prices. Limited competition and government control will allow large scale growers to determine prices and dictate quality standards (or lack thereof).

Because the large scale growers would prefer to sell a low-quality product at a high price.  That’s how these people think business works.

7. Local governments will control the taxation, production, and distribution of cannabis. This is a touchy political issue; most local politicians won’t risk a backlash by allowing dispensaries in their city. This means many people will have to travel long distances or break the law to purchase cannabis.

You mean, like now?  No matter how much a city hates cannabis, you’ll still have the right to possess an ounce, grow your own, or become a Prop 215 patient and possess and grow a lot more and shop at dispensaries.

8. Prop 19 will likely supersede prop 215, adversely affecting medical cannabis users by dictating grow size, possession amount, patient to patient sales, and location of use.

Citations, please.  As I debunked in an earlier post, Prop 19 contains direct exceptions for Prop 215 patients.  Something can’t supersede something else that it makes an exception for!  It is logically untenable.  You cannot construct the logic diagram that says Prop 19 makes an exception for Prop 215, therefore Prop 215 is null and void, unless you’re M.C. Escher.

9. Unbiased cannabis activists do NOT support Prop 19. This includes the late Jack Herer and the co-author of prop 215, Dennis Peron.

Hmm, how is Dennis Peron, who has business interests in dispensaries and a “Prop 215 hotel” not also a dreaded “cannabis millionaire” and part of a “Cannabis Cartel”?  How is it that every cannabis activist – the vast majority, actually – who supports Prop 19 is biased?

As for the late Jack Herer, I was there for that last speech and my friends attended to him with CPR backstage at Hempstalk during his eventually-fatal heart attack, so I get a bit irritated when his ghost is dragged into this debate.  Jack was an idealist and held furious hatred for the government over cannabis prohibition.

And as much as I loved the guy and admired his lifetime of work, he did not get a legalization measure for all adults on the ballot in 2010.  Richard Lee did.  Nowhere in Jack’s final speech did he say “Vote no on Prop 19!”.  He said he didn’t want to give “the federal government one fucking dime in tax money”, and if you get the whole context, he talks about legalization and “that’s what we’re going to do in California”.

10. The federal government has decided to not prosecute medical cannabis users. This will not be the case if Prop 19 passes. Many people believe that the passage of Prop 19 will bring an aggressive response from the feds, perhaps putting medical users at risk of losing access to medicine.

You might want to ask the people in federal trials over medical cannabis what they think of this point.  Nobody can predict what the feds will do, but similar predictions were made in 1996 regarding Prop 215.  While there have been aggressive responses by the feds, didn’t you just tell us that “cannabis already is legal” under Prop 215?

The feds aggressive responses to Prop 215 almost always involve local and state law enforcement who, under Prop 19, would have no crime to prosecute.  Thus, you’re asking us to believe the feds who couldn’t stop “legality” for 10% of California’s cannabis consumers under Prop 215 will somehow successfully stop actual legality for 100% of California’s adult cannabis consumers?  With a massive deficit and bills working through the House and Senate to overhaul the federal criminal justice system?  And somehow, the Holder Promise of not using scarce federal resources against lawful users of state authorized medical marijuana wouldn’t apply to using scarce federal resources against lawful users of state authorized recreational marijuana?

Another page asks “How Will Prop 19 Affect Me?”

• Are you age 18-20? You will not be allowed to consume cannabis legally under Prop 19. Currently, all you need is a medical recommendation to do so.

Bullshit.  Any person with a medical recommendation will still be able to use medical marijuana.  Including 18-20s and even younger with parental supervision.  And if you are 18-20 and healthy, you’ll be legal in up to three years.

• Do you interact with anyone under age of 21? You will be looking at up to 6 months in jail for passing them a joint. (If the person is under 18 you will be looking at up to 7 years in prison.)

Are there a whole lot of adults hanging out with teenagers in California?  Sure, there’s that bubble of college seniors 21 and over and undergrads who are younger, but after that, where is the big demand for all ages smokeouts?

• Do you live in the same “space” and a minor? (Space could mean anything from the same house to an entire apartment complex.) You will not be allowed to consume cannabis.

Yeah, and as I wrote above, “space” could be “The Cosmos” as well.  Are we really trying to sabotage legalization for all adults because some of them want to chief a joint around a six-year-old?

• Do you grow cannabis with a doctor recommendation? Prop 19 will likely be interpreted by law enforcement and judges to limit your grow space to 5?x5?.

Bullshit.  Prop 19 allows adults to cultivate a 5′x5′ garden, but does not repeal Prop 215, so if you’re medical, you can still grow what you grow.  Also, cities are allowed to grant you larger personal grow spaces if they choose.

• Do you provide your extra medical cannabis to dispensaries? It will be a crime to do so if Prop 19 passes. In addition, large Oakland growers and tobacco companies will take control of the market and push you out.

Do you sell your extra weed to dispensaries with little oversight, regulation, and no taxation?  Guess what?  Your easy weed-dealer sleep-til-noon lifestyle is about to be extinct and you’ll have to join the rest of us who have careers that require oversight, regulation, and taxation.  But it will not be a “crime” – you’ll just have to follow the rules and laws other businesses follow.

• Do you currently have to use your medical cannabis anywhere but home? Prop 19 will prevent patients from using their medicine anywhere in pubic. Which for many people with illnesses is not always possible.

Smoking cannabis in public is already a crime (Cal H&S Code 11362.79 – “Nothing in this article shall authorize a qualified patient or person with an identification card to engage in the smoking of medical marijuana … In any place where smoking is prohibited by law,” and you can find the list of such very public places here), though I think “pubic” use is OK (if a little kinky).

• Do you sell your extra medical cannabis to other medical patients? Prop 19 will make this practice illegal. Even if you are only selling it to cover your growing cost.

Do you sell you extra home-brewed beers to your friends without a liquor license?  Do you sell your homebaked brownies at a bake sale without a proper kitchen and food handlers’ permit?  Those practices are illegal, too.  Any sales between non patients are already illegal and many people believe if you’re going to call it “medicine”, it ought to be a little better controlled than homebaked brownies at the bake sale.

• Do you currently enjoy the use of cannabis free from Government interference? Not only will the Government impose excessive taxes under Prop 19, but the federal government will likely respond with unprecedented action against California cannabis users. “The federal Controlled Substances Act makes it a felony to grow or sell cannabis. California can repeal its own marijuana laws, leaving enforcement to the feds. But it can’t legalize a federal felony. Therefore, any grower or seller paying California taxes on marijuana sales or filing pot-related California regulatory paperwork would be confessing, in writing, to multiple federal crimes.”

You can take that entire quoted paragraph and apply it to anyone paying taxes or filling out paperwork with regard to Prop 215, too.  And “the Government” here isn’t the feds or the state, but 478 individual cities in California, subject to the whims of city councils who depend on local votes.  Those who overtax or stand in the way of commercial sales in places where cannabis is popular will be voted out of office.

There’s so much more and so little time, but briefly:

“Expert Analysis” consists of a quote from Dennis Peron, conjecture that Jack Herer specifically opposed Prop 19 when he was speaking about resisting taxation by the US Government, and a Los Angeles attorney with ties to dispensaries who is “holding out for a law that doesn’t totally suck.”

“Hype vs. Reality” is a series of strawmen and demonization of the “cartels” and psychic predictions about what the feds will do, all of which are already debunked above or easily answered with “but that’s already a crime now”.

And that’s all the time I have today to, once again, beat it into the thick skulls of a tiny minority of cannabis consumers who may actually be tricked into voting against their own best interests that we’re talking about the first LEGALIZATION bill in California in 38 years!


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