Californians are increasingly ready to legalize weed, yet observers say it’s looking increasingly unlikely that will happen this year.
Four petitions are in the works to put legalization on the ballot in the 2014 elections. But the door may be closing on all four of them – and on legalization – for this election cycle.
Why? There are a couple of simple reasons legal pot is growing less and less likely to make the ballot, let alone become law. For one thing, of the four ballot proposals, only three have been cleared to gather signatures.
What’s more, each of those initiatives has fallen behind the deadlines suggested by the state for a successful referendum campaign. And only one of the groups has the infrastructure necessary to gather signatures en masse.
Most important, though, is the fact that none of the four groups behind these proposals has committed anything like the millions of dollars required to push a successful ballot campaign. One of the organizations, the Drug Policy Alliance, could raise the money, but its leaders haven’t yet dedicated those kinds of resources.
On top of all that, the four initiatives are wildly different, running from the conservative to the radical. None has been able to unite a deeply fractured marijuana community.
“It’s anarchy,” said Michael Jolson, who heads the campaign to put the so-called Jack Herer act on the ballot. “Our movement is so socially deformed.”
Jolson’s proposal, named after the legendary late activist, is considered the dark horse of the season, even though volunteers have gathered more signatures than those of any other campaign.
That’s because the proposal was cleared last fall, while the other two were cleared to collect signatures in February. The Jack Herer group has until late February, and as of earlier in the month, they were so far behind they re-filed their ballot language with elections officials to “reset the clock” and give themselves more time to circulate petitions.
The other two proposals, backed by Americans for Policy Reform and the Drug Policy Alliance, have until the end of June to gather signatures. But without substantial resources, it’s not clear they have much chance.
The initiative by Americans for Policy Reform, like the Jack Herer proposal, is considered a long shot. Even if it makes the ballot, it’s likely to struggle. Most Californians want to legalize, according to polls, but the initiative places no limits on possession or cultivation, leaving that to a panel stacked with marijuana advocates.
That leaves the Drug Policy Alliance referendum. Though more likely to gain the vote of middle-of-the-road Californians, it’s also more likely to irritate activists bothered by its 1-ounce limit on possession and six-plant limit on cultivation.
Amanda Reiman, California coordinator for the Alliance, said the group would decide by Feb. 14 whether to devote its full resources to legalization this year.
California marijuana proponents have a long and storied history of shooting themselves in the feet by opposing all regulations, a position that usually ends with total marijuana bans. There’s a very good chance that will happen here, with donors choosing not to back the Drug Policy Alliance because they fear the weed community will kill the proposal in the end.