One of four campaigns to legalize weed in California was formally cleared to begin collecting signatures for the 2014 election.
The Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act was given initial approval late last year, but California Secretary of State Debra Bowen made it official Feb. 3. Proponents of the initiative now have until June 30 to collect about 500,000 signatures from registered voters.
The proposal is one of four that would make weed legal this year. Proponents of another petition, the so-called Jack Herer act, are currently gathering signatures in advance of a late February deadline. Two other initiatives have not yet been cleared to collect signatures.
The Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act would legalize all marijuana use for adults 21 and over. In addition, it would make hemp production legal and would strengthen MMJ protections.
“It stops putting 20,000 people a year in jail in California for low-level offenses and it creates a diversion program,” said John Lee, a Silicon Valley businessman who heads Americans for Policy Reform. The advocacy group is a major sponsor of the campaign.
Lee said his group’s proposal is modeled after the laws in Colorado and Washington, where voters legalized in 2012. But it’s different, he said, with its own structure and governing body. Under this plan, the governor would appoint seven members to a Cannabis Control Commission.
“We chose to create a commission that oversees all the cannabis and hemp production and fee structure, so that they gather information for the other various departments, such as health, agriculture, consumer affairs,” Lee said.
It’s not clear whether either of the two petitions now gathering signatures will make it onto the ballot. If one does, there’s a good chance it could become law. Public support for legalization is above 50 percent in California, according to recent polls. And most voters say they’d approve it in 2014.
But that may depend largely on the proposal or proposals in front of them in November. The Jack Herer initiative would allow Californians to grow up to 99 plants and possess up to 12 pounds of weed per year. Those aren’t even medical numbers – those are trafficking numbers.
The initiative that was cleared Feb. 3, on the other hand, includes no limits on possession or cultivation. That responsibility is delegated to the Cannabis Control Commission, a board that would be stacked with marijuana advocates. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t impose a limit, or that they would impose an obscenely high one like the Jack Herer act, but it may make the package less appealing to voters in the fall.