Features & Columns

New Math

New poll shows voters support legalization and regulation
Tom Ammiano MAN ON A MISSION: A bill by Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) to legalize and tax marijuana will go in front of the State Assembly this week.

Polling numbers show that the nation's attitude toward gay marriage has shifted substantially in the wake of President Obama's "evolving" opinion that men and women should be able to marry whomever they want.

Now if only the president could talk bluntly about marijuana. And, no, we're not about to rehash his youthful days as part of the "Choom Gang" while a high schooler in Hawaii.

A survey recently released by Rasmussen Reports suggests America is ready to legalize it. A national telephone survey of likely voters showed that 56 percent of people favored legalizing and regulating marijuana, while only 36 percent were opposed. Additionally, 52 percent of people polled said they think states should be allowed to overrule the federal government on drug approval.

As it turns out, this week California legislators could tackle that very issue.

Friday is the deadline for state bills to pass out of their house of origin, and one of the 200-plus bills expected to go in front of the state Assembly is the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Control Act, otherwise known as AB 2312. Authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D–San Francisco), the bill would legalize cannabis and make it taxable similar to alcohol and cigarettes. The bill, more or less, would bring the state in line with San Jose's current protocol—aside from the pesky possession charges that still occur.

In Ammiano's bill, it would be a misdemeanor to "fraudulently use or obtain a medical marijuana identification card" as well as "produce, issue, utilize, or sell a falsified, forged, or fraudulent physician's recommendation for medical marijuana."

Basically, it would mean no McLovin can access marijuana. And yet, the chances of AB 2312 getting out of the house are uncertain.

"It's almost impossible to read the tea leaves in Sacramento these days," says Quintin Mecke, Ammiano's communications director.—JK


Bud Burns

Memorial Day Weekend wasn't kind to growers in the Bay Area. Three illicit medical marijuana operations were shut down last weekend, including a Gilroy warehouse reportedly containing about 450 plants with an estimated worth of about $1.4 million.

Vincent Kinney Jr., of Gilroy, was booked into Santa Clara County Jail after police raided his 15,000-square-foot warehouse, acting on a tip from residents.

Elsewhere in the Bay, Memorial Day saw two marijuana grow houses go up in flames. On Monday evening in Vallejo, a house containing about 300 plants was hosed down by firefighters after neighbors spotted smoke coming out of the vacant home. Around the same time, firefighters responded to a house fire in East Oakland containing about 100 plants. Neither of the harvesters has been found.

Vallejo firefighters have developed a protocol for dealing with grow house fires, which have been occurring in increasing numbers over the past year. This includes fighting fires from the outside-in to avoid booby traps set by grow operators. None of the fires have been connected with medical marijuana dispensaries.

Large home-grow operations, such as those in Oakland and Vallejo, can be prone to fires due to altered electrical systems constantly pumping energy to power high-intensity lighting, fans and other electrical equipment. Authorities suspected in both cases that the preliminary cause for the fire was due to an electrical problem.

These fires could have been prevented easily, according to a San Jose Hydroponics employee who declined to be named. "They just didn't wire it correctly," he said, "You have problems like if you use 12 gauge [wire] for 50 amps when it's only wired for 20. The wire heats that, melts the plastic off of it, and the two wires melt together.

"Most of the fires are caused by bad knowledge and bad, nonlicensed construction workers. The best way to prevent that is to have a good electrician do the wiring for you."—AK