The medical marijuana patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) stepped up its campaign this week to oppose Steve Cooley in his bid for California attorney general. Hoping to convince Californians against voting for Cooley, ASA has launched the website www.NotCooley.com to highlight the ways in which Cooley would be bad—not only for patients and their providers but also for those who are concerned about the environment, equal rights, and criminal justice issues.
"The attorney general's race is, without a doubt, the most important race for medical marijuana patients in California," said ASA executive director Steph Sherer. "Cooley already has the motivation, but we must not give him the means to broaden his attack on patients." Cooley has long fought patient advocates on the issue of medical marijuana. As Los Angeles district attorney, Cooley condoned dozens of SWAT-style raids on local dispensaries, aggressively prosecuted patients and their providers, and tried to criminalize the "sale" of medical marijuana. Advocates fear that Cooley will try to expand his agenda to the entire state. "As attorney general, Cooley could dismantle many of the gains made by patients over the past 14 years," said Sherer.
Notably, the effort to defeat Cooley on Nov. 2 has appealed not just to medical marijuana patients, but also to criminal justice, environmental, and marriage equality advocates alike. Opponents argue that Cooley's stance on a variety of issues makes him "Not Cool" for California. From his fervent support for the death penalty and Proposition 8, to his weak record on environmental justice and enforcement, Cooley has alienated much of the voter base he needs to get elected. "California's top law enforcement officer must protect the sick, the disenfranchised, and those targeted for discrimination," continued Sherer, "and Steve Cooley fails on all counts."
The race for California attorney general is closely contested, with Cooley's challenger, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, gaining in the polls. Unlike Cooley, Harris has shown consistent support for the state's medical marijuana laws and those fighting for marriage equality. On the issue of whether local medical marijuana distribution, or dispensaries, are legal under state law, the two candidates could not be more divergent. While Harris has recognized the need for dispensaries and has supported statewide regulations, Cooley by contrast has sided with the California Narcotic Officers Association (CNOA) approach that dispensaries must be "eradicated."
According to the Sacramento Bee, the race for California Attorney General is getting even more heated. The Virginia-based Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC)—a corporate front group funded by tobacco, insurance and gambling interests, and coordinated by Karl Rove— is spending $1 million in last-minute TV attack ads against Harris. On the other hand, President Obama has strongly supported and raised funds for Harris, who is the single African-American Democrat on the statewide ballot. Harris is also California's first African-American district attorney and, if she wins next week, would be the state's first female attorney general. (Americans for Safe Access, Oct. 28)