Napster Co-Founder Backing New Legalization Initiative in California


On Nov. 2, 2015, proponents Michael Sutton and Donald Lyman filed the Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act with the Office of the Attorney General in the state of California’s Department of Justice. As defined in the initiative’s text, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act would “consolidate and streamline regulation and taxation for both nonmedical and medical marijuana.”

According to the Associated Press, Sutton is the former president of the California Fish and Game Commission and Lyman is former head of the state health department division.

Sutton and Lyman are the officially listed proponents of the initiative; however, Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster and former president of Facebook, is also backing this legalization effort.

“I’ve been following this issue with great interest for some time. It’s very encouraging to see a vibrant community of activists, many of whom have dedicated their lives to this issue, coming together around a sensible reform based measure,” Parker said.

The AP also noted that the initiative backed by Parker has garnered support from the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project, leading national advocacy organizations, as well as the California Cannabis Industry Association and Justin Hartfield, founder of WeedMaps.

In California’s political arena, Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed three bills to reform California’s medical marijuana program, but this doesn’t mean he will support recreational marijuana. On an episode of “Meet the Press” in 2014, Brown said, “How many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation? The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together.”

While Brown might not support recreational legalization, SFGate recently reported that Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who was the chair of California’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, supports the Parker-backed initiative.

I am pleased that this thoughtful measure is aligned with the Blue Ribbon Commission’s recommendations, and presents California its best opportunity to improve the status quo by making marijuana difficult for kids to access. It is backed by the broadest coalition of supporters to date and I believe that Californians will rally behind this consensus measure, which also serves to strengthen law enforcement, respect local preferences, protect public health and public safety, and restore the environment.

While Gavin’s support is valuable, not all legalization advocates are endorsing this particular initiative.

On Nov. 3, Steve DeAngelo, Executive Director of Harborside Health Centers, issued a press release explaining why he is supporting George Mull’s initiative, the Cannabis Control and Taxation Act, instead of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

If the initiative filed today by proponents associated with Sean Parker were the only cannabis reform initiative on the ballot, I would vote for it. However, I think California can do better—and the language also filed today by longtime activist and cannabis attorney George Mull is closer to the mark. It is much shorter and easily understood, firmly closes the door to Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol, and mandates more appropriate penalties for cannabis infractions. I continue to believe our best strategy for victory in November is bringing the entire cannabis community together behind one initiative, and call on all initiative proponents to work towards that goal.

In addition to these two new initiatives, there are several other initiatives, including Reform CA, vying to get on California’s 2016 ballot in an attempt to legalize recreational cannabis.

Caroline Cahill was the Managing Editor of MJINews from June 2014 through February 2018. She earned her BA in Communications from College of Charleston and her MFA in Creative Writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. You can follow her on Twitter @CtheresaC.

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