California voters rejected legal pot at the polls in 2010, but there’s a group of advocates hopeful they can reverse that trend in time for next year.
Marijuana Legalization on The Ballot
In early August, the California Cannabis, Hemp and Health Initiative filed the California Hemp Act 2014 with the state attorney general’s office. This voter initiative would go on the November 2014 ballot and would make all growing, purchase and use of cannabis and hemp legal.
Also known as the Jack Herer Initiative after the pot activist and “Emperor of Hemp,” the ballot proposal seeks to capitalize on the momentum created by voters in Colorado and Washington, who approved legal pot last year, just two years after Californians voted it down.
The 2010 initiative failed by 700,000 votes, even though proponents outspent opponents by $3.7 million. The supporters of the Herrer Initiative say the state is ready for another go, but some pot proponents aren’t so sure.
If it gets on the ballot, the marijuana question would be decided in a midterm election, hardly high tide for voter enthusiasm. And it may simply take more than two years for Californians to change their minds, especially given the years of turmoil in the medical marijuana market there.
“We need to take a breath – because we’re California, and we’re super complicated,” Amanda Reiman, California policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, told the Sacramento Bee in February.
California Not The Best State For Legal Recreational Pot?
Many pro-weed advocates plan to hold off until 2016 for these reasons, so the 2014 initiative may lack the support it needs to get on the ballot, let alone succeed at the polls.
And there are plenty of prognosticators who don’t believe California is the ideal setting for the next fight over recreational pot. Some see Alaska as the kind of libertarian climate best suited to a legalization push.
Should pot be made legal in California, the nation’s most populous state, it’s not clear how the federal government would react. The state was the first to enact medical marijuana, and the feds have taken a particular pleasure in harassing dispensaries and growers there. The Obama administration has given no clear indication how it will treat legal cannabis regimes in Washington and Colorado, so it’s unclear whether federal law enforcement would target California for even more trouble.
To get their proposal on the ballot, the members of the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative will have to collect slightly more than 500,000 signatures within 150 days after the state attorney general prepares a title for the initiative and a summary of it for the ballot.
In addition to legalizing pot, the proposed law would protect everyone from industrial hemp farmers to medicinal collectives from punitive zoning regulations, licenses or taxes. The law would legalize both marijuana and hemp, which is currently widely used but must be imported.