By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
It's a legal morass, says Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California at Irvine School of Law. Proposition 19 "in no way changes federal law or the federal government's ability to enforce federal law. And California can't stop the federal government."
That means, he says, local district attorneys can still provide incriminating weed evidence to federal prosecutors: "To the extent that local prosecutors can't prosecute and can't punish people for possession, it doesn't stop local prosecutors from sharing information with the federal government."
Then there's the whole fight over money to consider, Chemerinsky says. "If local governments impose taxes [on marijuana sales], you can expect lawsuits about collecting those taxes and disputes over how much tax would be collected. Proposition 19 will create civil litigations. How many other lawsuits and prosecutions pop up is . . . unsure."
It probably depends on how much moola is at stake. And don't let anybody try to fool you. Nobody — not the analysts at Rand Corp., not the growers in Humboldt, not the lawyers in City Hall and certainly not the guys with the adding machines in Sacramento — knows how to count that incoming and outgoing cash.
By law, the California Department of Finance is supposed to crunch the numbers for every single measure on the state ballot in order to give voters a picture of just how much their vote could cost them. They've missed a few before because of the complicated nature of a particular measure. Proposition 19 presents dozens of scenarios.
"It's tough to tell how many cities and counties will participate" in allowing pot to be grown or sold commercially, says H.D. Palmer, the longtime Department of Finance spokesman and external-affairs deputy director. "I wouldn't say we whiffed on this one. We just don't know what 19 will generate. There are no hard numbers," he adds, or even a "range of numbers. There are so many variables."
The pro-19 side doesn't believe that. According to Yes on 19 activist Dale Sky Jones, pot is a $14 billion–a-year industry in California, and the state and local governments could get a windfall of up to $1.4 billion annually.
That figure doesn't take into account spin-off industries and revenue, Oaksterdam's Lee says. "If 19 should pass, the Central Valley doesn't have to approve psychotropic marijuana [containing THC that gets people high], but they could grow industrial hemp that can be used to make hundreds of items, from hemp plastic and components for cars to clothes."
The California pot scape could take years to develop, says Stephen Gutwillig, director of the Drug Policy Alliance in L.A., which wants to dismantle all laws against drugs. After all, more than 400 cities and towns and 58 county governments in California must decide if they want to legalize sales.
"Implementation will be relatively slow because the decision is up to the locals," Gutwillig says.
One recent parallel: Most California city councils — including liberal bastion Santa Monica — chose to ban the sale of medical marijuana. Cities often took years to decide to allow it, including, famously, Los Angeles.
So handing flat-out legalization powers to 400 cities and towns will "be a complicated regulatory process," Gutwillig says. "Cities first have to decide which way to go, then they have to designate a regulatory agency in each city" to take on the unusual job of running the fiscal weed scene.
A better way, according to Gutwillig, would have been to have the state of California oversee pot sales in cities and counties, in much the same way it keeps an eye on bars, and liquor and convenience stores. But that's not what the ballot measure says.
As for The Kid, his future was being decided this day in a San Fernando Valley courthouse by Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash, who has a reputation for meting out serious jail time for the same offense that might get you probation on L.A.'s Westside.
The Kid was scared. His parents were terrified. So they asked around, which is how they came to write a check for $5,000 to hire Southern California's undisputed champ of marijuana defense.
Bruce Martin Margolin, State Bar of California membership No. 39755, was born in Cleveland in the midst of World War II. By war's end, Margolin's dad, a U.S. Marines drill instructor, moved the family to California and started an ice plant and later a paint business in the San Fernando Valley.
Margolin, 69, looks like a slimmer, shorter version of Mr. French, the quintessential 1960s sitcom butler. But back in 1967, when then–LAPD Chief Ed Davis vowed to preserve law and order from the throngs of pot-smoking hippies roaming and ruling Sunset Boulevard, Margolin was a 27-year-old graduate of Southwestern School of Law. He was selling shoes at the Leeds store on the weekends — until he could get enough law clients.
That's when pot changed his life.
People were being busted by the dozens for smoking marijuana. They needed lawyers and Margolin needed clients. Margolin today has a doctor's medical-marijuana recommendation — "probably had the first one" — but he never touched the stuff back in '67. It was clear to him, though, that 20-somethings were facing hard prison time for blowing weed. And they seemed to trust Margolin.
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