Backers of the last remaining effort to legalize weed in California this year are seeking new funding to get their initiative on the ballot. They say they need $2 million, and if they fall short, legalization will be completely off the table until 2016.
“The only thing that stands in the way of legalization in 2014 is money, and it’s not a lot,” said Dave Hodges, who operates a dispensary in San Jose and is a proponent of the initiative. “It will take an additional $2 million to cover the signature gathering costs.”
Already, supporters of three other proposals have backed out of the running for this year. They include the Drug Policy Alliance and its partners, who pushed a measure that would have legalized possession of up to an ounce of weed and cultivation of as many as four plants at home.
That plan was widely considered the most likely to make its way to the ballot, and the most likely to win over voters in November. That’s both because its terms appealed to centrists and because the alliance has the greatest access to financing of any legalization group active in California this year.
But much of that funding came from the late benefactor Peter Lewis, a billionaire businessman who gave large amounts to cannabis causes. When he died, the dollars dried up and the proposal’s prospects became much less certain. The Drug Policy Alliance and its partners finally abandoned the effort in February.
Another campaign, the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative, would have made it legal for adults to possess a whopping 12 pounds of marijuana each year and grow up to 99 plants. The latest chapter in a perennial effort to honor the late activist Jack Herer, it was never given goods odds, and ultimately backers couldn’t collect the voter signatures needed to put the question on the ballot.
A fourth petition, which was never cleared to gather signatures, is also dead in the water. That effort, headed by longtime weed advocate Ed Rosenthal, was filed in December and has yet to be cleared for signature gathering. In any event, it doesn’t have the financial support necessary to make the ballot.
That leaves only the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act (MCLRA), a proposal offered by Americans for Policy Reform, a California pro-cannabis group. They began circulating petitions in February and have until April 18 to collect more than 500,000 valid voter signatures.
“We know it can be done,” Hodges said. “The last time legalization was on the ballot the signature gathering firm collected all the signatures needed in about two weeks. If we can raise the money needed in the next three weeks, we can ensure Californian voters have a chance to make their decision in 2014.”
Under the MCLRA, California residents over the age of 21 would be allowed to grow up to 12 plants, six flowering at any given time, and the commercial industry would be regulated by the state, like alcohol. Possession limits would presumably be set by a state marijuana commission stacked with weed-friendly members.
It remains to be seen whether Hodges and other MCLRA supporters can raise a substantial amount of money in a short period of time – or whether $2 million is nearly enough to push the proposal onto the ballot. But most experts have already written off legalization in California for 2014, so it will be an uphill climb.