Despite polls indicating that Californians are poised to legalize pot, the state’s best shot for a marijuana measure has suddenly gone up in smoke — and that likely means the Golden State will have to wait until at least 2016 to catch up with other pot-friendly Western states.
Backers of the Control, Regulate and Tax Marijuana Act — including the Drug Policy Alliance, bankrolled by billionaires such as financier George Soros and the late Peter Lewis — said last Tuesday they will stop gathering signatures to put the measure on the ballot this year.
“We decided it was more important to do it right than to do it fast,” Stephen Gutwillig, the Drug Policy Alliance‘s deputy executive director, said Tuesday. “We ultimately came quite close but just decided we didn’t have enough of the pieces in place right now.”
Colorado and Washington have already legalized recreational pot, and a Field Poll in December reported 55 percent of Californians now support legalization — the first time in 44 years that the poll found a clear majority favoring the change. That followed other polls earlier in 2013 showing fast-growing support for legalization — which thrilled marijuana activists.
But that excitement didn’t bring unity. Besides the Drug Policy Alliance measure, two other legalization initiatives started circulating in recent months — though neither seems to have the deep pockets and grass-roots backing needed to successfully gain a position on this November’s ballot.
Proponents of the three measures were never able to come to terms over how to legalize the weed. They disagreed on how marijuana sales would be regulated, how much weed people could grow or possess, and how legalization of recreational pot would interact with California’s existing medical marijuana laws.
The group Americans for Policy Reform still hopes to make a go of its California Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act by April’s petition-signature deadline, but Dave Hodges — one of its proponents — said fundraising has been difficult, in part because the Drug Policy Alliance’s measure sucked all the air out of the room.
The campaign has raised only about $10,000 in recent weeks, and a campaign finance report shows it was about $500 in the red as of Dec. 31.
Yet Hodges, founder of San Jose’s All American Cannabis Club, said he hopes the money will start rolling in soon. He said the campaign’s short-term goal is about $3 million in order to get the measure on the ballot.
“We’re feeling really good about our chances,” he said.
Colorado and Washington voters approved their legalization measures in November 2012, and Colorado stores began selling marijuana legally to great fanfare on Jan. 1, while Washington is expected to start in June. Alaskans are expected to vote on a measure in August; advocates in Oregon hope to put a measure on November’s ballot, but fundraising has been slow.
In 2010, only 46.5 percent of Californians voted for Proposition 19, a legalization measure, even though the Field Poll at that time pegged support for legalization at 50 percent.
Federal law still bans the cultivation, sale, possession and use of marijuana, though the Obama administration last week issued new guidelines for federally regulated banks that work with marijuana-related businesses in Colorado, Washington and the 20 states — including California — where marijuana is legal for medicinal use.
Gutwillig said his coalition had thought it would be best for California not to try another legalization measure until 2016, when the presidential election would mobilize a larger, younger voter population. But, he said, polling last year showed “Californians are ready now to control marijuana in a different way; they see legalization as inevitable.”
So his group began hiring consultants, stepping up its research and drafting a measure. The group filed it with the state even before the Field Poll came out in December.
Ultimately, however, the time frame proved too short, Gutwillig said Tuesday. “If we had a couple more months, we would’ve been able to do it,” he said, noting that the coalition had lined up enough money to put the measure on the ballot but not yet enough to run the full campaign.
Yet another measure — the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative — has been circulating in recent months. Proponent Buddy Duzy, of Simi Valley, couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
Duzy in late January re-submitted the measure to the state Attorney General’s Office, essentially re-starting the clock for the measure and thus making it almost impossible to gather enough signatures by mid-April to make November’s ballot.
(Ed – in typical Ron Paul fashion, the best legal weed initiative written, CCHI, the one designed by Jack Herer, is put in last place and given the least column space. This article comes from the Josh Richman, Bay Area News Group, who did NOT know of GMO pot or wording to shield people from it)