California has cleared the way for pot proponents to gather signatures so they can put legalization on the ballot in 2014.
Secretary of State Debra Bowen has authorized the backers of a legalization petition to begin collecting the 504,760 signatures they will need to certify the legalization question for next year’s election. They have until Feb. 24, 2014 to do so.
Another Legalization Attempt
The Cannabis Hemp Initiative 2014, also known as the Jack Herer Initiative, would make all aspects of pot legal – industrial hemp, medical cannabis and recreational marijuana. It is the latest in a series of legalization attempts dating to the early 1990s.
This time the effort is spearheaded by two activists, Berton Duzy, a 58-year-old contractor from Simi Valley, and Michael Jolson, a 45-year-old medical marijuana proponent. They say they have a core group of about 15 volunteers and a statewide network of about 500.
“I’m optimistic because of the enthusiasm we’re getting from people who want this legalized,” Duzy told KTVU News of Oakland.
It’s anyone’s guess which way the winds will be blowing in California next November. A similar effort to legalize weed failed in 2010 by 700,000 votes, even though the pro-pot side outspent their opponents by almost $4 million.
Many activists are concerned it’s one election too soon to ask voters the same question again, especially since 2014 isn’t a presidential election. Midterm ballots typically have lower turnout, most notably among the young voters who tend to support legal weed.
At the same time, California remains a political shooting gallery for pro- and anti-marijuana forces, while federal and local law enforcement continue to crack down on dispensaries that continue to try to operate under the 1996 medical cannabis law. That creates an image of chaos and lawlessness that may not appeal to voters.
An Optimistic Approach To Legalization
But there are other forces working in the opposite direction. Voters in Washington State and Colorado legalized weed last year, and the trend is expected to spread – with California considered a likely next step.
In response to these developments, the Justice Department announced in late August that it won’t interfere with states that legalize as long as they enforce rigid regulations that meet certain federal goals, such as keeping pot away from children. It also won’t prosecute dispensaries as long as they conform to state laws.
Duzy and Jolson said they hope to have as many as 3,000 volunteers working to gather signatures, including professional signature gatherers if they can find funding. They don’t have the backing of the full marijuana community, since they opted not to wait for 2016 as most wanted to do. But they said they believe they can succeed.
“We honestly feel this plant can help transform and sustain mankind,” Jolson told KTVU. “Put it to the people and let the people decide.”