Drugs

The Big California Marijuana Legalization Initiative is About to Roll Out

The measure most likely to qualify for the ballot and then win in November 2016 will finally officially get going.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Yellowj

The long-awaited pot legalization initiative from the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, also known as ReformCA, is about to be filed with state officials. Backers of the initiative told the LA Weekly Tuesday that language for circulation will be filed with the attorney general's office in a matter of "days."

There are a handful of legalization initiatives already filed and some already approved for signature gathering, but there is little sign that any of them have the financial and organizational resources to actually make the ballot. It takes some 365,000 valid voter signatures to qualify, a number that virtually demands paid signature gatherers at a cost that could run a million dollars or more.

The ReformCA campaign, on the other hand, has the backing of both powerful and deep-pocketed national groups as the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project, as well as major state drug reform, civil rights, and labor groups, including the California NAACP and the United Food and Commercial Workers.

ReformCA has spent more than a year drafting final language after consultations with players across the board, from marijuana consumers, growers, and advocates in a series of public meetings across the state, as well as listening to the positions of law enforcement, public health, and local officials.

Drafting was delayed this summer as ReformCA waited to digest the recommendations of pro-legalization Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom's Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, finally released in July, and again this month when the state legislature actually got around to passing comprehensive, statewide medical marijuana regulation. That required ReformCA to try to ensure that the initiative wouldn't bump up against the new regs.

"This has taken longer than we wanted," said Dale Gieringer, long-time head of California NORML, and a spokesman for ReformCA.

Details are vague at this point, although ReformCA says it intends to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol, and its seven principles provide a general idea of what the initiative is going to look like. They include legalizing personal pot possession "in limited amounts," creating tax revenues from "legal cannabis business and sales," allowing "limited personal cultivation," and allowing "adults to consume on private property where allowed," an apparent reference to cannabis social clubs.

Gieringer said we're likely to see the proposed initiative language filed twice, once so the public can review it and suggest changes, and again after changes have been incorporated.

The big one is coming. The ReformCA initiative should have the resources behind it to make the ballot, and it should have enough public—and financial—support behind it to actually pass in November 2016. Then, one-eighth of the nation will have gone green in one fell swoop.

 

Phillip Smith is editor of the AlterNet Drug Reporter and author of the Drug War Chronicle.

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