The list of initiatives vying to put legal weed on the state ballot in November continues to grow. This month the office of the California secretary of state announced it had cleared backers of a third petition to begin gathering signatures.
The Drug Policy Alliance, which is behind a proposal known as the Control, Regulate and Tax Marijuana Act, was given a green light in early February to collect signatures. Earlier, similar go-ahead was given to the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act, a proposal by Americans for Policy Reform.
A third petition, known as the Jack Herer act, was cleared in the fall, and its backers have been gathering voter signatures ever since. A fourth initiative, the Cannabis Policy Reform Act, still awaits approval from state officials.
The Drug Policy Alliance has resubmitted its ballot language after “slight revisions based on outside input,” said the group’s deputy executive director, Stephen Gutwillig. That could extend the deadline for collecting signatures, which are now due at the end of June.
Gutwillig said the improved language should be re-approved so signature gathering can begin in med-February.
Organizers behind the Jack Herer petition took the same step last month in an effort to stave off a February deadline. Referenda supporters must gather valid signatures from about 500,000 registered voters, and the Jack Herer signatures were due Feb. 24.
“We’re coming up short on our Feb. 24 deadline,” said co-organizer Berton Duzy. The group wants to “reset the clock” and extend the deadline to April 18, he said.
There are risks, however. A later deadline removes the option for a hand recount of signatures, and backers must present at least 110 percent of the number of signatures needed (about 560,000). Random sampling is used to validate enough signatures to determine if the overall collection is valid.
“You can buy extra time if you can get over 110 percent of what you need,” Duzy said. “They will do a sample count, and if it comes up 110 percent, they qualify you without a full count, which takes an extra two months. Otherwise it’s a 2016 thing for us.”
Indeed, it’s not clear any of the four ballot proposals will make it before voters in the fall election. The Jack Herer proposal is fairly radical, allowing Californians to grow up to 99 plants and possess up to 12 pounds of marijuana each year. So is the initiative sponsored by Americans for Policy Reform, which delegates possession limits to a state board stacked with cannabis advocates.
That could explain some of the difficulty gathering signatures.
So could the fact that, so far, none of the campaigns has any serious financial backing. The Drug Policy Alliance is considered the big kid on the block, but the group hasn’t committed to making an all-out push for legalization this year.
If one of the petitions does make its way to the ballot, it stands a good chance. Polls show most Californians want to legalize – and would vote to do so in 2014.