Saturday, December 4, 2010

2012 Initiative

Posted by: "Jennifer Evans"   toomuchfun33333

Fri Dec 3, 2010 5:01 pm (PST)


We have had some
really great victories this November with wins on Tax and Regulate running from
54 to 69.1% in the 9 districts where they were run. Medical marijuana also won in the 9 districts
that it was run in with winning pluralities ranging from 54.7 to 70.6%. On top of the victories with medical
marijuana for its own sake, more conservative members of the legislature, Rep.
Elizabeth Porrier, Rep. Todd Smola, Rep. Richard Ross, Rep. Jennifer Callahan,
Sen. Richard Moore, and Sen. Scott Brown (these were planned before former
state Sen. Scott Brown was elected U.S. Senator) were targeted to have PPQs in
their home districts as they have all sponsored legislation to roll back
marijuana reform. Although the issue
they all acted on was decrim and not medical marijuana, we wanted to give them
the clear message that if they wanted to work against reform, we will literally
take the battle to their doorsteps and decisively win right on their own home
turf. These are victories in areas of
the state that are not traditionally hotbeds of support for us. If other legislators work against us
sponsoring hostile legislation, we might repeat similar actions against them,
should circumstances dictate it. We will
win these in any area of the state with the support that we now have. Thanks again for all the folks that worked so
hard on these elections.

The most
immediate observation on the loss of three of the binding initiatives in other
states and victory by just a hair in Arizona is to be very, very careful of
running initiatives in a mid-term, especially with a Democrat in the
presidency. The demographics don’t
support us in such an endeavor. The
mid-terms have always been short on young voters and they are absolutely
essential to any hope of Tax and Regulate passing. The only possible exception I see to this is
medical marijuana in a liberal state (such as Mass). Question 2 in Mass. won in a perfect storm in
2008 for passage and California’s Proposition 19 lost in a perfect storm for
defeat. My opinion is that if we don’t
have T&R on the statewide ballot in 2012, we should wait until 2016,
however impatient we are to have it happen sooner.

Something we
have to guard against is assuming that our non-binding PPQ votes will again translate
to anything similar come a statewide initiative. PPQ votes are a non-contested election where
there is basically no opposition.
Opposing group(s) almost never form and spend advertising money against
them or even do press conferences against non-binding votes as they are not
seen to be a serious enough threat.
Something unusual happened in the 2007 polling that MPP did to test the
waters in preparation for the decriminalization initiative here. The initial level of support for
decriminalization among respondents was 60% and in a challenge poll taken after
all the negatives that the opposition might possibly use in their propaganda
against the measure were brought up and discussed, people were again asked
afterward if they still supported decrim and amazingly it stayed steady at
60%. I interpret that as people being
very familiar with the issue as a result of activists having it on the ballot
all over the state from 2000 to 2006.

Contrast the
experience of the Clean Elections PPQs and the later initiative they did in the
‘90’s. They did 24 PPQs in 1996 and won
by an impressive 89% average. Two years
later in 1998, they did a binding initiative, following up on their PPQ
momentum and won by 67%. A strong win
and a good strategy but there is a little warning in there. The difference between the pluralities was a
22% drop and there was no real organized opposition to the Clean Elections
initiative. It is important to realize
that these things rarely work out as they did for us in 2008.

Back in 1999,
fellow board member Jon Holmes and I spent a really interesting part of an
afternoon with a polling firm that had done work for Senators Kerry and Kennedy
and half the Massachusetts congressional delegation, as well as having just
engineered a rather impressive victory through polling, focus groups, and
strategy of the Clean Elections initiative in the previous year. They explicitly warned us of reading too much
into PPQ results as they are non-contested elections. A challenge poll is the essential tool for
determining whether an initiative should be attempted. Initial support for whatever measure should
be gauged and their rule of thumb was that that should be at least at a 65% level. Then every single argument in opposition
should be articulated and then the minimum level of support after exposure to
all the negatives should be at least 55%.
An important point they raised was that you only lose support going into
a campaign to change the status quo. It
is not about gaining votes but rather minimizing loses.

Another very
important point they made was whatever one did, do not lose an initiative. It tends to really rob the momentum of the political
change effort. “Once you lose, you
really lose.”, I remember as the quote.
This may not always be totally true.
Hopefully, California will bounce back and win in 2012 but I think that
we should take this concept as generally being true in most cases and that we
should evaluate very carefully our chances of successfully running a winning
T&R initiative in 2012. No firm
decision should be made until there is a good challenge poll done here (as well
as secured funding).

I know that any
amount of serious (read national) money will not be laid out for an initiative
without one of these being done and they will be picking their own favored
pollster, most likely. An extensive one
of 600 registered voters with 20 minute interviews and careful analysis is
quite pricey (even in 1999 quotes) and is beyond any local organizational
funding. But a streamlined short (albeit
not as accurate)challenge poll might be a good idea if an inexpensive enough
one can be gotten.

I don’t think we should even think about moving past go
until we see such results and ascertain that we are standing on firm ground.

As it stands, it
looks like California and Colorado are probably going to be vacuuming up a lot
or all of the national money. It is hard to imagine enough available money
to fund initiatives in lots of states but it could become true. New funders from the high tech industry
emerged in the recent California effort.
Favorable Mass polling results broadcast to the national activist
leaders ARO listserve can only help. I
heard that the polling in Colorado had support at only 49%. I deeply respect the competency and the great
things that Colorado activists have done but think it is a poor decision to
fund a T&R initiative with such a low level of support. If Mass played out significantly higher poll
numbers, I think it would be very healthy thing for the movement for Mass to
compete with Colorado for the attention of national funders.

An important
caveat to work into consideration of whether to do an initiative is that even
if it wins, if it just wins by 51%, 52%, or somewhere in the low or mid-50’s,
there is unfortunately the great probability (or should I say certainty) that
the legislature will emasculate it.
There is not going to be any out pouring of a great love fest of
legislators with a law of this sort getting passed. My opinion on the matter may seen to be
negative to some but this is just the way that it works. The only reason that Scott Brown and some of
the aforementioned others didn’t get to inject their poison via post-Question 2
proposed legislation is that Question 2 won by a commanding 65.2%. Though, if the legislature really feels
threatened, they will even ignore a victory this large or larger. Witness the gutting of the previously
mentioned Clean Elections initiative that had won with a commanding 67%.

Irregardless of
whatever year an initiative is done, an important discussion to begin having is
the wording we want for an initiative.
Unless we establish a strong campaign, with lots of local in-state
funding to get things in place, national funders will probably generally write
up an initiative in their own wording.
If locals hope to have significant influence on the provisions, the more
we are closer to consensus among the varied activists across the state, the greater
our influence will be. Rather than have
emotional, tedious arguments back and forth, which I don’t feel generally positively
furthers the process, what I would like to see is any internal polling done by
organizations running previous T&R efforts in Alaska, Nevada, Colorado, and
California. Some of it may be difficult
to access but I see it as the productive way to start to attempt some form of
consensus for some of the important questions such as:

-18 years old vs. 21 year old legal age

-to tax, and, if so, how much?

-severity of sales to minors penalties?

-local county or city determination of policy vs. uniform
state policy

-advertising limits?

-etc, etc, etc,…

Not everything
should be determined by polling for sure.
For instance, even if it brought support up a bit, I don’t support
intensely egregious sentencing for sales to minors a la MPP’s Nevada T&R
wording. There are various principals
that we have that we will want respected and all sorts of technical
considerations and legalities but let’s start the discussion with polling. A good project for the Mass Cann initiative working
group is to obtain and assemble any polling possible on these questions to

Something that is
a lot more important now than even in 2008, is the need for an adequate budget
for the campaign. The opposition didn’t
take us as seriously as they should have in 2008. I really think we seriously surprised a lot
of the established order with our big win.
That was certainly to our benefit then but they will not be asleep at
the switch this time, mind you. In
addition to all the free advertising they get when the DA’s hold their press
conferences, I would be surprised if the opposition did not come up with paid
advertising this time. How surprised
should we all be when an ad featuring a uniformed cop is played on TV over and
over, warning of the explosion in usage by elementary school kids that awaits
should such a law get passed. Other DA’s
will join Middlesex DA Leone ‘s claims such a 1000 joints from an ounce (sounds
something biblical as Jesus feeding the masses from one loaf) and the violent
crime orgy that has spiraled out of control since the passage of Question
2. The Boston Herald will yield the
front page unquestioningly to the most sensationalist charges of the most
paranoid of the DAs and hype it up in the style that they excel at. Hear me clear – they will play dirty. A less than sufficient advertising budget is
political suicide and will hurt our long standing effort. Let’s tread carefully. Steve Epstein talks about a budget of over
1.5 million and I firmly agree with him.

Something that
hasn’t been discussed at all, that Mass Cann is uniquely able to pull off and
that would be a first in the country and a great political move, is to plan some
type concert tour of town greens across the state, bringing awareness to young
potential voters about the initiative that would be on the ballot. The polling on T&R is different than what
we are used to with all our work on decrim and medical. Here are the statistics from Gallup polling
in California:

18 to
29 year olds: 61% support

30 to
49 year olds: 49% support

50 to
64 year olds: 43% support

Unlike the other issues we have been working on, we could do
an excellent job bring in the over 30 crowd but lose the election, even
expressly from doing such a thing. This
issue entails a get out the vote strategy very different from before and we
need to adapt readily if we are to win.
Let’s go!

A concert in the
town park and campus quad tour. Tables
and people with clipboards and voter registration forms would be at each
rally. More progressive radio stations
could sponsor pot legalization concert/rallies.
Wimpier radio stations could be persuaded to sponsor voter registration
concerts. You could have a tour across
the state that would really whip up the enthusiasm. Getting the youth vote mobilized is key to
getting T&R passed. I think Mass
Cann has really talented with people who could do a really good job organizing
something of the sort. Whether an
initiative happens in 2012 or 2016, or whenever, I don’t think it is too early
to form a subcommittee to explore this idea further at Saturday’s meeting. It would also just be a lot of fun and would
make a great film to inspire folks in other states to do something similar.

We don’t
know, at this point, whether T&R or medical will be funded in 2012 at this
point. Let’s plan for the possibility as
much as possible but be fluid in our tactics.
If it does not work out for whatever reason, we are perfectly capable of
organizing more local elections which will only build a stronger base of
support for the eventual initiative.

One final
thought, Proposition 19 could have been a lot closer to passing this time with
more support with Latinos. That
demographic had 60% opposition to T&R in California. While we are no where even close to close to
California’s percentage of Hispanic voters, we do have a rising percentage of
that population in Massachusetts. There
has never been any outreach at all by the movement in Massachusetts to them
that I am aware of. The only city in Massachusetts
that voted against Question 2 was the very Hispanic city of Lawrence. That should be a wake up call to us. A great project for a subcommittee in Mass
Cann to form around would be issuing press releases in Spanish and having
people available to do interviews with instate Spanish language television and
radio. A former board member and Jamaica
Plain resident, who is very active in pressing Rep. Sanchez to support medical
marijuana is a former long time resident of Costa Rica and speaks fluent Spanish,
would probably help. Who else speaks
fluent Spanish out there? Let’s have
appropriate interviews arranged across state the next time native Columbian and
national medical marijuana spokeswoman Elvy Musikka comes to town.

Sorry not be able
to make it tomorrow. Have a good and productive meeting.

John Leonard

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