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Drug Policy Forum of CaliforniaDedicated to news of interest to the California drug reform community

Voters Guide to Drug Policy Reform Candidates
JUNE 2016

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Pro-reform candidates are in green; Anti-reform in red; Neutral in black.



Once again California’s presidential primary is happening too late to greatly affect the outcome of the races.

Sen. Bernie Sanders nonetheless deserves credit for being the first major presidential candidate in history to support outright legalization of marijuana. Speaking at a town hall meeting last year, Sanders declared, “It is time to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol, it is time to end the arrests of so many people and the destruction of so many lives for possessing marijuana.” He followed up by introducing the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act,” to let states regulate marijuana. Speaking to Californians, Bernie also endorsed the AUMA legalization initiative that will be on the ballot in November.

Characteristically, Hillary Clinton has taken a more cautious, though still reformist, stance. Arguing that marijuana’s current scheduling status has impeded research, she has called for its removal from Schedule One. Small though this step might seem, it represents a fundamental break from a misbegotten federal policy that reformers have been seeking to overturn for over forty years. Importantly, Clinton has also stated that the federal government shouldn’t interfere with state legalization laws like Colorado’s. Like Sanders, Clinton has voiced concern about the mass criminalization and incarceration of minorities caused by the war on drugs. Sources who have spoken to Hillary say she fully understands the need for comprehensive reform.

On the Republican side, it’s hard to know what to make of Donald Trump, whose pronouncements routinely flip all over the map. To his credit, though, Trump has strongly endorsed medical marijuana, saying he knows people who have benefitted “tremendously” from it. As for full legalization, while Trump says he’s concerned about “problems” in Colorado, he has repeatedly said that the marijuana issue should be left to the states. The one concern expressed by some observers is that Trump might appoint Gov. Chris Christie, who has called for strict enforcement of federal marijuana laws, as Attorney General. However, a growing number of more libertarian and conservative Republicans such as Ted Cruz and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher have taken a state’s rights line on marijuana. raising hopes that an end to federal marijuana prohibition is in the cards, whoever wins the presidential election.

(Democratic results: Hillary Clinton 56% - Bernie Sanders 43%)


Two Democratic candidates are leading the race for the seat of retiring Sen. Boxer. Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange County has been a consistent supporter of medical marijuana over the years. Since joining the House in 1997, she has compiled a near perfect voting record on marijuana and drug reform issues, the longest such record of any Southern California Democrat. Asked in a debate about what the she would do in Washington to reduce crime in California, she replied, “First of all, I believe that we need to get the federal government to get marijuana off of schedule one.” At times, Sanchez has a tendency to let her tongue outrace the bounds of political discretion. When interest in legalization first heated up in California, she suggested that the state explore a pilot program of legalized, regulated marijuana, but quietly retreated after getting zero support from her colleagues.

Attorney General Kamala Harris is staunchly progressive, but cautious when it comes to marijuana. As A.G., she did disappointingly little on behalf of medical marijuana, rebuffing requests to join other states in filing a rescheduling petition with the federal government. More seriously, Harris failed to speak up against the federal crackdown on dispensaries in California, despite the fact that as former District Attorney of San Francisco she should have known that the city’s dispensaries were working well and the federal charges against them were bogus. Running for re-election, Harris waved off a question about legalization with a laugh, but later said she is “not opposed” to it and even sees it as “inevitable”. Speaking recently at the Democratic convention, Harris called the war on drugs “a failure” and called for ending the federal ban on medical marijuana. Most likely Harris would vote well enough in the Senate, but her lack of leadership in the state has been troubling. The San Francisco Brownie Mary club has accordingly endorsed Sanchez.

Republicans stand little chance of making the best-of-two runoff. The leading candidates are Tom Del Beccaro, a former Republican state chairman, who personally opposes legalizing marijuana, but is willing to let states’ experiments play out for “five to ten years.” Duf Sundhiem, another former party chairman, says “Marijuana is a drug. Drugs sometimes can be helpful in medical situations, other times they can be incredibly destructive.” The most promising of the lot may be maverick Ron Unz, whose major issue is opposing bilingual education, but who is said by acquaintances to favor legalizing marijuana.

(Results: Kamala Harris placed first with 40% and will face a run-off with Sanchez who came in second with 19%.)


Alameda County - Board of Supervisors District 05 (Castro Valley). Incumbent Sup. Nate Miley sponsored Oakland’s pioneering bill to establish regulated medical marijuana dispensaries and is currently sponsoring legislation to expand licensing in the county. His strong and consistent advocacy on behalf of patients and consumers has earned him the endorsement of the Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance and Alameda County Brownie Mary Club. (Results: Miley was re-elected with 62% of the vote).

Berkeley/Oakland - State Senate District 09 - Former Assembly member Nancy Skinner (D) is one of two leading candidates for the seat of retiring Sen. Loni Hancock. Skinner was a leading advocate for criminal justice reform on the Assembly Public Safety Committee and delivered a critical vote for Asm. Tom Ammiano’s pioneering legalization bill in 2009. Her major opponent is Democratic ex-Asm Sandre Swanson (D), who used to represent Oakland. Despite his endorsement from Rep. Barbara Lee, Swanson did nothing to support his city’s enlightened cannabis policy when it was under federal attack, and was reluctant to support state licensing of the industry due to opposition from black ministers. (Results: Nancy Skinner placed first with 48% of the vote and will face a run off with Sandre Swanson, who got 30%).

Contra Costa County - Board of Supervisors District 5: Mike Menesini, who got a medical marijuana dispensary ordinance approved when he was mayor of Martinzez, is the only one of five candidates for this seat who called for repealing the county’s ban on dispensaries and favors legalization. (Results - Mensini lost, running third with 14%).

Fresno County - Board of Supervisors District 5: Candidate Lauren Stephens takes exception to the county’s prohibitive medical marijuana policy and is urging the county to follow state law and permit medical access. (Results - Lauren Stephens lost, running 3rd with 10%)

Hayward - The Brownie Mary Democratic Club of Alameda county has endorsed Al Mendall and Matt McGrath. Both said they would support dispensaries in Hayward. (Results: Al Mendall won; Matt McGrath lost).

Lancaster/Palmdale - Assembly District 36: Democrat Darren Parker has been endorsed by the LA Brownie Mary club over incumbent Republican Tom Lackey. Also running is ex-Asm. Steve Fox, who compiled one of the worst voting records on drug reform issues of any Democrat in Sacramento. (Results: Tom Lackey and Steve Fox will be in the run-off. Parker finished 3rd).

Los Angeles County - Board of Supervisors, Dist 5. Darrelll Park is endorsed by the LA Brownie Mary Club. (Results: Darrell Park finished second and will face a run-off with Kathryn Barger).

Nevada County - Board of Supervisors, District 2: Richard Harris, a vocal opponent of the county’s Measure W ban on outdoor growing, is seeking to unseat incumbent Ed Scofield, who supports Measure W. (Results: Scofield defeated Harris 61%-39%).

Orange County - Congressional District 46. In the race to fill Loretta Sanchez’ seat, Democrat Bao Nguyen, the gay Vietnamese-American mayor of Garden Grove, supports legalizing marijuana. His two leading opponents are Democrats Lou Correa, who posted a horrible record on drug reform issues in the state legislature, and former State Senator Joe Dunn, who voted moderately but not reliably well. (Results: Correa placed first with 42%; in pre-final returns Nguyen was running slightly behind Republican Bob Peterson for the second place run-off by 13.8% to 14.6%).

San Jose - State Senate District 15: Incumbent Sen. Jim Beall has been a thoughtful supporter of medical marijuana as well as a leader on alcohol abuse issues. He faces a challenge from fellow Democrat Asm. Nora Campos, who has been reluctant to embrace marijuana and drug reform measures. (Results: Beall placed first with 49% and will face a run-off with Campos who got 26%).

Santa Barbara / SLO - Congressional Dist. 24: Several candidates are vying for the seat being vacated by Lois Capps, who is retiring. Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal has the support of Capps and the Democratic party; he voted on 1/19 to allow existing cultivation in Santa Barbara county, and also expressed that he wanted to allow delivery. Top Republican candidate Katcho Achadjian has a rotten voting record on marijuana issues. Independent candidate John Uebersax of Californians for Higher Education Reform is pro-legalization. (Results: Carbajal placed first with 33% of the vote and will likely face Republican Justin Fareed, who was running second with 21% in a close contest with Achadjian at 19%).



Measure A - 10% Marijuana dispensary tax. (Results: passed with 82% of the vote).

Butte County

No on Measure G - “Right to Farm” [NOT] – This measure would exclude marijuana from the county’s Right to Farm ordinance, which protects farmers from nuisance complaints for noise, dust, smells, etc. Anti-pot proponents say the ordinance is needed because the state has declared marijuana as an agricultural crop under MMRSA. (Results: Measure G passed with 59.5% of the vote)

No on Measure H – Restrictions on Cultivation - This measure would re-affirm a restrictive cultivation ordinance passed in March. Cultivation on parcels of ½ acre or less would be limited to 50 square feet, in a detached structure no larger the 120 sq feet. Persons on more than five acres may cultivate up to 50 square feet per doctor’s recommendation. Butte County has been especially aggressive imposing fines on cultivation violators. (Results: Measure H passed with 58.5% of the vote)


Measure C would approve a 10% tax on recreational marijuana sales, in the event that adult use is legalized this November. Davis currently has no marijuana outlets, and no plans to allow them. (Results: Measure C was approved by 78%-22%)

Nevada County

No on Measure W. This measure would reaffirm a controversial January vote by the Board of Supervisors banning outdoor growing in the county. If Measure W fails, the Board has promised to re-consider the ban. (Results: Measure W failed by 42%-58%)

Yuba County

Yes on Measure A. This measure, sponsored by Citizens for Solvency, would overturn the county’s ban outdoor growing and permit up to six outdoor plants on properties less than an acre and up to 60 on parcels of 20 acres or more. (Results: Measure A failed by 35%-65%.)

Yes on Measure B, sponsored by the Committee for Safe Patient Access to Medical Cannabis, would authorize the county to license up to four medical marijuana dispensaries. (Results: Measure B failed by 42%-58%)

Sacramento (city)

Measure Y would impose a 5% gross receipts tax on commercial marijuana cultivation, and manufacturing with revenues directed to at-risk youth services. A two-thirds majority is required for passage. (Results: Measure Y failed with 65% of the vote, just short of the 2/3 majority required)

San Jose
Measure C was placed on the ballot last year in a petition campaign by a coalition seeking to overturn the city’s restrictive policy on marijuana dispensaries. Since being put on the ballot, a new city government has begun to reconsider policy and state MMRSA regulations have come into effect, making the measure less relevant. Measure C would eliminate the city’s limit of 16 dispensaries, loosen zoning restrictions and buffer zones, and lower fines for violations to $100 from $2,500 to $50,000. (Results: Measure C failed with 35% of the vote)

Sierra County
Yes on Measure A: This measure, sponsored by the Sierra Growers Assoc., would advise the board of supervisors to develop "sensible regulations" aligned with MMRSA for regulating medical marijuana. No opposition ballot argument filed. The analysis stated that a yes vote was in favor of allowing commercial marijuana activities. (Results: Measure A failed by 38% - 62%).

Siskiyou County
No on Measure T (code enforcement) - Establishes an enforcement process specific to marijuana cultivation, with a 5-day abatement notice. It also requires a county license to cultivate, and prohibits mobile delivery of marijuana to patients in the county. (Results: Measure T passed with 63.6% of the vote)
No on Measure U (cultivation limits)The county currently allows six mature plants on parcels under one acre, up to 24 plants on 20 acres or larger. Measure U would prohibit more than 12 plants on any parcel. It also completely ban outdoor cultivation and requires all cultivation to be conducted indoors in an accessory structure built to specified standards.

(Results: Measure U passed with 62.4% of the vote)