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Legalization Campaign Gets Reprieve

A campaign that failed to get legalization on the ballot in 2014 has been given new life, though probably not for long.

The backers of the so-called Jack Herer amendment tried to collect enough voter signatures to get their proposal on the ballot, but they came up short last month. Now they have won approval from the California Secretary of State’s office to start over again under different ballot language.

Berton Duzy
Berton Duzy, sponser of the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative

Their first effort one of four legalization initiatives for this year, all of which have been given up for dead.

The Herer amendment failed for a number of reasons. It reflected the intensely libertarian point of view of its activist namesake – a perspective many voters don’t share. The campaign lacked anything approaching real financing. And no major mainstream movement figures backed it.

When organizers submitted signatures in February, they didn’t have enough. But they petitioned the state to let them reword the language of their proposal and start again.

Their new initiative, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative Statute, is mostly the same as the original, known formally as the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative. Berton Duzy, sponsor of the earlier version, said his group is entering a “pledge drive” for the second attempt.

The odds for success are almost nil, however. Successfully collecting enough signatures to get an initiative on the statewide ballot – more than 500,000 – requires at least $3 million, and Druzy told L.A. Weekly his group only has $100,000.

“We’ll have to have a million dollars to get it done by paid professionals by April 18, the last day to qualify, to last day to turn in signatures to make it to 2014,” he said. “If we don’t raise the money, then we could still try to qualify for 2016.”

There were originally four competing legalization initiatives, but none have qualified for the 2014 ballot. Two have withdrawn from collecting signatures.

That includes the proposal by the Drug Policy Alliance, widely considered the best shot of the four. The group has deep pockets and nationwide support but decided funding was too shallow following the death of marijuana philanthropist Peter Lewis.

legalize marijuana

Only one initiative is still technically in the running beside the Jack Herer amendment: The Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act. But its organizers face the same April 18 deadline and the same lack of funding.

“We’re still looking for a miracle,” backer Dave Hodges said.

Other efforts are already underway for legalization in 2016. Odds for success should be better then, since the presidential election will bring out more of the young voters who overwhelmingly favor legal weed.

Several major players in California marijuana policy have already staked a place in that campaign, including the state’s branch of the ACLU and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on marijuanaandthelaw.com and californiamarijuanamarket.com.

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