Professional reformers, longtime activists, and stakeholders in the marijuana industry attended an invitation-only meeting at the Waterfront Hotel in Oakland January 9 to discuss plans for a marijuana ‘legalization’ initiative to be on the ballot in California in 2016.
The invitations came from the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (CCPR), a group led by Dale Sky Jones that was formed after the defeat of a legalization measure in 2010, and the Drug Policy Alliance, represented by lobbyist Jim Gonzales
The keynote speaker was Bill Zimmerman, a Los Angeles campaign consultant who is widely credited with masterminding the 1996 Proposition 215 campaign, which legalized marijuana for medical use in California.
Zimmerman seemed oblivious to the presence in the crowd of grassroots organizers who considered him and the Drug Policy Alliance usurpers who weakened Prop 215 and provided no help in the fight for implementation.
“I first took marijuana legalization seriously in 1995,” said Zimmerman, reading from a prepared speech, “at a meeting that George Zimmer hosted at Francesca’s Restaurant at the Oakland airport. At the time, I was not a marijuana activist, but I was an experienced ballot initiative campaign manager. So later that year, when the signature drive to qualify Proposition 215 began to collapse, I was asked to take over the campaign.” [Zimmer, who was in the audience, was then CEO of the Men’s Wearhouse. The meeting at Francesca’s was in January, ’96, according to others who were there.]