In a widely anticipated move, Sean Parker, Napster founder, former Facebook president, billionaire philanthropist and Big Sur forest defiler, announced a new marijuana legalization initiative on Oct. 2—a move with the potential to throw a wrench in California’s 2016 push to legalize.
The Parker initiative would be the second big-ticket plan put forward to gather about 380,000 signatures to get legalization on the ballot. ReformCA has already sent its initiative to California attorney general Kamala Harris as it launched its signature drive. ReformCA has Howard Dean campaign guy Joe Trippi on the payroll and the support of old-guard pro-marijuana organizations like NORML, among a host of civil rights groups. ReformCA says it will spend up to $14 million in the campaign to free cannabis in the state, mostly on advertising—but the organization hasn't yet lined up any big-time donors and is relying on contributions from its 70,000-odd members.
So here's the emergent picture, hazy though it may be as details around this latest initiative shake out: ReformCA has the organizational muscle but not the cash. Sean Parker has the cash but, as yet, no sign of a field organization to ring up the signatures.
Which means that it's time to bring a pro-pot politician into the room for an intervention: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has been identified as the public official most likely to bring the competing initiatives together into a cooperative juggernaut of legalization energy by election day 2016. Let's hope. Newsom headed up a white-paper commission on marijuana legalization this year and has said he'd support an initiative, if it's the right one. ReformCA and Parker both worked to hew their initiatives with the general lay-of-land in the Newsom white paper, which emphasized issues around taxation and keeping the devil-weed from the hands of children. And, while Newsom has made public noises about not wanting to encourage a so-called "Green Rush" should California go legal, the capitalists are at the gate and the presumptive rush is already on: Judging from the slew of pro-Parker supporters who came forward this week, some are as pro-business as they are pro-marijuana.
Parker is reported to be chums with the well-heeled-himself Newsom and says he's ready to spend millions from his billions to launch his legalization initiative, which came out the gate with the support of organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance and the Sierra Club, and from tech-focused outfits like GreenRush, a California-based cannabis delivery company.
“The involvement of heavy-hitting technology and investment leaders like Sean Parker is vital to gaining the momentum necessary for a real and robust regulatory regime critical to the continued growth of California’s world-class cannabis industry,” says GreenRush CEO Paul Warsaw in an email to the Fishing Report.