CCPR’s Richard Lee Endorses Rival California Legal Marijuana Measure


A well-funded effort to legalize marijuana in California in 2016 just received a surprise endorsement from a key longtime movement player. has exclusively learned that Richard Lee, the founder of Oaksterdam University and the chief proponent of an earlier legalization measure that Golden State voters narrowly defeated in 2010, is endorsing the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), an effort backed by a group of Silicon Valley funders led by Napster co-founder and early Facebook investor Sean Parker.

“It’s important that we all get together to support one initiative,” Lee said in an interview.

Lee is a board member of the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (CCPR), which has been working to build support for a separate proposal through a campaign called Reform California. Despite working for years to craft a consensus measure that could earn support from the movement’s various constituencies, the group has struggled to secure the funding it would take to pay for the signature gathering needed to qualify for the ballot and for an effective campaign to win on Election Day.

“I believe a majority of the [CCPR] board is ready to endorse the Parker initiative at the next board meeting,” Lee said.

In addition to Parker, AUMA is reportedly being supported by Hyatt Hotel heirs Nick and Joby Pritzker as well as Graham Boyd, who advises the estate of late Progressive auto insurance chairman Peter B. Lewis.

Despite Lee’s call for unity, it appears that not all of CCPR’s key players are ready to line up behind the Parker-backed effort yet.

“ReformCA is the leading statewide campaign committed to working with all groups and stakeholders to ensure we have the strongest policy for our state, and the best chance to win at the ballot box next November, through a single, unified initiative,” CCPR Chairwoman Dale Sky Jones wrote in a fundraising email on November 2, just hours after media reports surfaced about the competing AUMA effort’s ballot language being filed with the state. [Bolded emphasis in original.]

Two days later, following the defeat of an investor-backed legalization measure in Ohio, Jones sent another fundraising pitch to the group’s list. “ReformCA has filed its initiative in an open, transparent process with scores of public meetings and thousands of discussions and consultations with every segment of the community,” she wrote in a message read by many recipients as drawing a comparison between the AUMA team and the group behind the failed Ohio effort, the latter of which wasn’t broadly supported within the marijuana reform community. “ReformCA remains committed to building a united movement for reform that benefits all Californians, not just ‘Big Marijuana.'”

Jones did not respond to’s request for comment about Lee’s endorsement of the AUMA effort prior to press time.

Lee, in an interview on Tuesday, said that CCPR board members are working with AUMA’s drafters to “make some improvements that we think could be made” to its language, but he wouldn’t specify which provisions in particular were sticking points.

Nate Bradley, who is also on CCPR’s board and is the executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, which endorsed AUMA on the day it was filed, said in an interview that he is “very excited” about Lee’s endorsement.

“It’s important for CCPR to join the coalition, so we can all stand in support as one unified voice,” Bradley said. “This will allow us to work together to make sure the AUMA is the best drafted initiative it can be.”

The Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project, two of the most well-funded organizations in the cannabis law reform movement, have also signed on to support AUMA. Previously the groups cooperated with CCPR’s Reform California effort as it held a series of listening sessions across the state, but they asked that their logos be removed from its website in the weeks leading up to the AUMA language being filed.

It is unknown when or whether CCPR will hold a board vote on formally endorsing the Parker effort.

Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and a CCPR board member, held out hope for unity. “One thing California has in abundance is smart, responsible reformists who have dedicated years of their lives to legalizing, regulating and controlling marijuana,” he said in an email, emphasizing he wasn’t speaking on behalf of any organization. “We’re all after the same thing and I hope we’re able to work together to achieve it.”

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)


  1. One of the big flaws with the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) are that it allows local jurisdictions (city and county governments) to ban functionally personal cultivation – whereas the Reform CA initiative, as well as the CCHI provide consumers with wider latitude for personal cultivation.

    Personal cultivation is a hinge issue because restricting who can grow cannabis effectively imposes supply (and thus pricing) restrictions. In a state where people can choose whether to grow their own OR purchase from their local retail store, prices are kept in check.

    The second big flaw in the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) is the possession limits. They are way too low. Again, turn to the Reform CA or CCHI initiatives for a much better model. Low possession limits invites the local police/sheriffs to enforce cannabis regulations and under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) the cops WILL continue to conduct raids and arrests. Not on the billionaires, of course – just on all the ordinary citizens who will be voting for this initiative.

    At the very least, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) needs to be amended to remove the ability of local jurisdictions from having ANY involvement (regulations, licensing, inspections, permits, taxes, etc.) over personal grows, and it needs to increase the amounts of personal possession significantly.

    Sad to say that the the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) is the least consumer-friendly initiative presented so far, and yet because of funding it is also the most likely to succeed.

    • Rod is on the Gas on

      Yes, yes, yes.
      Support and protection for mom and pop cultivators should never be sacrificed. We are the backbone. We’re the old-timers who comprehend the ultimate value of small-crafted batches of unadulterated cannabis. Money and taxes charged are for government employees to waste…….bad idea.

  2. Luckily in California we have other options and the #CCHI2016 crew is in full force gathering signatures, endorsements and volunteers across the state daily. Jack Herer’s “radical” vision of assuring fair and equal access to the “new trillion dollar crop’ has matured into a solid campaign with victory in their sights.

    The core issues of oligopolies and unfair taxation and regulations have now been discussed on a national level clearly with Prop 3 in Ohio…the same issues we’ve fought so long to protect against here in California. This is a community that survived 100 years of wide-scale demonetization and brutal criminalization, they deserve a break!

    The CCHI is a brilliant one page manifesto of citizen rights who are Herbalists. It protects against unfair business practices and social discrimination and offers this now famous community that has produced Cali’s #1 cash crop for many decades a reasonable path into future success. And why not? What has mega-corporation take overs taught us in the past decades? The quality and safety diminishes and profits are whisked away to far off investors. Big Agro…Big Pharma…Big Canna…all equate with devious, callous behavior from an entity that feels no personal responsibility.

    Willie Nelson is right…Big Canna is “BullShit!” Fight for your local grower and support “radical” initiatives and bills like Jack Herer’s “California Cannabis Hemp Initiative 2016”

    • I think it’s a mistake to try and protect the financial interests of those who have been profiting from the black/grey market. You may hurt the chances of passage in the short-term. Long-term, marijuana will one day be legal nationwide and harvested with tractors in Iowa. It will be worth about as much as corn by weight. That said, any initiative with a DPA stamp of approval is bound to be underwhelming due to their tendency to appeal to the opposition. Weight limits for example. If I can buy 3,987 liters of vodka there should be no limits on cannabis. I get the local discretion on cultivation to ease passage. Too many Prop 215 abuses. I would not be thrilled if my neighbor was growing a strain like “cougar piss” downwind of my front porch. Frankly, Dennis Peron & Co. did a fine job with Prop 215 which DPA was unable to water down. Ethan Nadelmann’s business model is to come in at the last minute with a big bag of Soros money and take credit for the work of others. Prop 215 was written and filed before DPA could mess it up and as a result cannabis is de facto legal in California already. If I had millions to donate to a ballot initiative I’d look to Massachusetts. DPA money will go wherever victory is assured but it’s best to keep them at arms length as long as possible.

  3. Michael Jolson on

    The California Camnabis Hemp Initiative 2016 needs your support as we are growing across the State and are in the hands of at least 300 petitioners and activists across the State.
    Response has been positively overwhelming thus far on the streets . The campaign has spread across California in just three weeks . The campaign is about emding prohibition of our number one renewable resource on Planet Earth- Cannabis Hemp.
    Don’t let the rich try and control and regulate cannabis with their excessive taxation and regulation schemes like the Sean Parker Initiative.
    We are a grassroots movement who would love your help, so please join at
    Help us totally and comprehensively end the Prohibition of Cannabis Hemp!

  4. Haywood Jeblowme on

    This initiative contains the poison pill of allowing local governments who hate mj to continue to ban personal grows, and thus harass and oppress smokers and patients. That clause is unacceptable, since most of CA is a hick paradise. To hell with this; I’ve been fighting this fight for over 40 years, and now I’d rather have nothing, and let it suck for another 4 years so people get good and mad.

    I wont be voting for this turkey unless that clause is taken out. Seriously, is this guy just trying to push us into stores in the liberal bastions of the Bay, etc?

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