California's Marijuana Push Is Being Run by Pros

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The marijuana legalization campaign getting underway in California is not, despite what may seem easily assumable, comprised of a bunch of potheads staring at tie-dye wall-hangs, talking dreamily about how great it would be if the government didn't exist.

That might also be happening somewhere in the Golden State, but the Tax Cannabis campaign--the organized effort to legalize and tax marijuana in California--is, actually, being led and advised by legitimate political talent. Multiple sources say Chris Lehane, the former communications operative for President Bill Clinton and press secretary for Vice President Al Gore (both in office and in the 2000 presidential run), is working on the campaign as a consultant. (I have not confirmed this with Lehane and will update if I do.) The team also includes Dan Newman, whose firm SCN Strategies consults for Sen. Barbara Boxer's (D) reelection campaign and is heading up communications for Level the Playing Field 2010, the independent-expenditure campaign against multimillionaire GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman. Strategy for the marijuana initiative is being led by Doug Linney of The Next Generation, a firm that has worked for state and local candidate campaigns, as well as major issue-advocacy drives and marijuana decriminalization/law-enforcement-prioritization efforts in California.

What this means is that the push to legalize marijuana in California is not being run by amateurs; it's being run by pros. If it fails to gain traction, it won't be for lack of political experience among its consulting strategists. If it does gain traction, that traction will be managed--in messaging, fundraising, and field/media/voter-contact operations--by people who have experience with high-profile political campaigns.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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