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January 11-17, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

About the Benjamins

OK, suddenly the Dow breaks 11,000 and digital music has its richest week in history. But what's the true barometer of a genuine economic recovery? It's got to be the San Jose mayor's race. Now, the official filing date for candidate war chests as of the end of the year isn't for another couple of weeks. But you know how Fly is always rubbing its front legs together excitedly about this kind of thing. So we did an early poll of mayoral fundraising booty, and came up with some serious ka-ching. Chuck Reed had been pegged as the campaign-contribution front-runner, and he says even he's surprised by the $104,000 he'll be declaring to the city clerk, considering the season only opened officially on Dec. 8. "I'm delighted," says Reed. "From a standing start, you figure it would be reasonable to raise 50 or 60 [thousand] in that time frame, with the holidays and everything." Don't count Dave Cortese out on the fundraising front, either. Insiders suspected his tally would be far below Reed's, but though Cortese doesn't have a final figure, he estimates his magic number is "right around the six-figure level." Cindy Chavez's campaign had not responded to an inquiry as of presstime.

Legal Pot In Limbo

So much for Prop. 215 as a medical-marijuana magic bullet. After the Supreme Court ruled in June that state law doesn't protect prescription-pot users from federal drug prosecution, advocates in cities statewide have seen their progress stall—and the prognosis is not good. Just ask Jim Lohse, who is trying to organize a patient cooperative in Santa Clara County, where there are virtually no legitimate channels to get medical marijuana. Lohse recently met with San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis to see if he could work with the department in the hopes of keeping things clean. Davis, apparently, wasn't open to the idea, and he says he isn't even sure if state law on the subject is still valid after this summer's Supreme Court decision. "My attitude is that we need to wait and see what the federal government is going to do," the top cop told Fly. That approach doesn't sit well with Dale Gieringer, head of the statewide medical cannabis group California NORML. "When local police do that, they're trying to cop out of their responsibility and play the anti-drug game," he said. "State officials are supposed to enforce state law." But doesn't the real responsibility fall on City Hall? Gieringer says dozens of local governments have passed moratoriums on pot distribution efforts in the past six months. Federal raids have started to pick up after a lull in 2004 and 2005, during which time California encouraged patient collectives with S.B. 420. In December, the feds clamped down on a popular San Francisco dispensary just before the city began the process of licensing over 30 cannabis clubs. Meanwhile, San Jose officials have been very quiet on the issue. "Everyone is wondering how to handle this," said Davis, pointing to need for City Council to come forward. David Vossbrink, spokesman for Mayor Ron Gonzales said the council hasn't dealt with medical marijuana because it simply "hasn't come up." But while local leaders turn their heads the other way, South Bay advocates are growing more frustrated. "What are we supposed to do?" asked Mara, a five-year medical marijuana patient who asked not to give her full name. "They're running in circles with this."

Same Bias, Different Day?

California's NAACP took another step this week to solidify its alliance with the advocates of same-sex marriage in the state. Already, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People took heat last spring after advocating A.B. 19, San Francisco Assemblyman Mark Leno's gay marriage bill that failed, then re-emerged as another bill that passed, and which was finally vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenengger in the fall. California NAACP prez Alice Huffman went against the conventional wisdom of a Pew poll that indicated 60 percent of African Americans were opposed to same-sex marriage, making her California chapter the first NAACP chapter in the country to support the initiative. "We're not always going to be always on the same page," says Silicon Valley NAACP prez Rick Callender of the rift about the issue within the black community. "This isn't an issue of black or white. The NAACP is a civil rights organization, and when I took my pledge and oath, I took my pledge and oath to fight for civil rights." Now, Huffman's NAACP has filed a brief supporting six same-sex marriage cases—all spurred from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's Valentine's Day marriage ceremonies in 2004—that have made their way to the California Court of Appeal. The NAACP's brief, solicited by the National Center of Lesbian Rights, is certainly creative. Written by Oakland attorney Jon Eisenberg, who seems to be steadily grooming a reputation for himself for jumping into "hot button" social and political issues (Eisenberg was also involved in the headline-grabbing Terri Schiavo right-to-die case), the brief plays a clever word game by replacing phrases like "interracial marriage" with phrases like "same-sex marriage" in the opposing opinions of two California Supreme Court justices who, in 1948, ruled on the legality of interracial marriage in the state. The same tactic is employed with two opposing views in the 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage—the point being, of course, to demonstrate that those who argue against same-sex marriage today sound a lot like those who argued against interracial marriage in the middle of the last century. "I was struck by the obvious parallels to the ban on same-sex marriage," Eisenberg told Fly in reference to the California 1948 interracial marriage case. "I decided to try an exercise in redrafting the ... opinions ... as if they dealt with same-sex marriage rather than interracial marriage. It seemed to work quite nicely as a piece of advocacy."

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