Legalizing Marijuana - A New Republican Strategy?
By Mike Rhodes
The attractive young woman says to me, "would you sign our petition to legalize marijuana?" I don’t have to think twice and say "sure, where do I sign?" That is when it got interesting. She says, "Do you have your ID with you?" "Well, yes I do, but what does that have to do with..." I say as she responds with "oh, we just have to verify your ID." Thinking that this has something to do with making sure they have valid names for a ballot initiative I comply.
As I’m filling out my name and address on the petition I notice that the young lady is filling out a very official looking form. Probably just the ballot initiative form, I think to myself. Then, she says "is it OK if I register you as a Republican?" "What?!?" I say "yes, I do mind! What are you doing?" She says that if I register Republican she will get an extra 10 cents. But, I complain, "I don’t want to re-register." She explains that this is just to update the records for the County Clerks office. I repeat that "I do not want or need to update my records." I am repeatedly told that it is OK and that they just want to update my voter registration records. She also tells me that she is working for the Republican party, being paid hourly, and that the ploy about the "10 cent bonus" was not accurate.
This Republican party employee goes on to tell me that she is there to attract people to the table that is set up in Fresno’s Courthouse Park, and that the legalize marijuana petition is just a prop. She confirmed that there is no ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. She said that the petition will be given to an elected official in Sacramento. I have my doubts about that.
At this point in the conversation, she called over her "boss" who was talking with someone a short distance away. I introduced myself as the editor of the Community Alliance newspaper and said I was interested in writing a story about the petition campaign and their registering people with the Republican party. I guess that wasn’t the right approach to get him to open up to me. The "boss" gave me no information. He even refused to give me a copy of the marijuana legalization petition I had just signed.
Later that day I called Victor Salazar, the Fresno County Clerk. Salazar said that the process sounded deceptive and that I might want to call the Secretary of State fraud investigation unit. I called the number for the fraud investigation unit repeatedly today. Apparently, nobody was in the office today and all I got was an answering machine. I will continue to call.
I also went back to Courthouse Park today to see the Republican Party project was again in full operation. They seemed to have different approaches to different groups. To white men that looked like they might be attorneys, they asked if they were registered to vote. When Latinos walked by they would throw out the legalize marijuana angle.