Thursday a new poll showed 65 percent of Californians support tightly regulated, legal weed. So is legalization imminent? The answer appears to be “no”.
Two groups are making hail mary passes at legalizing pot in the Nov. 2014 general election, but the most organized, well-funded group is holding off until 2016.
2016 OR BUST
On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union of California announced the formation of a blue ribbon panel to study the details of legal weed in California. Chaired by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom – who came out in support of legalization last year – the panel looks like the first bit of stage-dressing for a 2016 campaign by Californians for Cannabis Policy Reform.
“It's the first big step in the campaign for legalization in California,” said Debby Goldsberry, outreach coordinator for the Californians for Cannabis Policy Reform. “I still am keeping my fingers crossed that something incredible happens in 2014 but I think the numbers are just going to go up as we go to 2016.”
The ACLU is joining forces with the Drug Policy Alliance to legalize pot in 2016, and the group represents the largest, most well-funded and professional effort to date, Goldsberry said. The ACLU and the DPA were both instrumental in Washington and Colorado legalization, and they will be joined by another major force for legalization the Marijuana Policy Project.
The CCPR helds its first fundariser at Bill Maher's house in September, Goldsberry said, and it was a big success.
WHY NOT 2014?
But others – mainly political novices - are clamoring for more immediate action, and hoping last-minute support will snowball into a victory in 2014 instead of 2016.
The first group, the California Cannabis Hemp & Health Initiative, led by Michael Jolson and other activists has begun the monumental task of gathering 504,760 valid signatures of registered voters in 150 day with a mostly volunteer team. Most watchers believe this effort will fail. The group needs too many signatures in too short a time to succeed with volunteers, and the group lacks the funds to pay for professional signature gatherers.
Jolson said one thousand volunteers have signed up to gather signatures, and some paid signature gatherers will be used. The group has a few thousand dollars on-hand, he said and needs more donations. “People want this now.They don't want to wait until 2016.”
Once they get it sometime in December, they are likely to begin gathering signatures as well. But they also lack the funds to do so, said organize Dave Hodges, a dispensary operator in San Jose
“We've put about $50,000 into this and still have a long ways to go," he said.
Watchers say each groups needs about a $1 million to gather enough signatures. It could cost $10 million to pay for political advertising during the run-up to the election as well.
“I think it's enlightening to know that California by the largest number I have seen yet recognizes the benefits of ending marijuana prohibition,” said Oakland marijuana lawyer Robert Raich. But the efforts will fail, “unless some millionaire gives them enough money to get the signatures. Then if they did get on the ballot, somehow we'd need even more millions to run a campaign.”
Hodges also hopes last-minute support will snowball, given the latest poll numbers.
“We can't wait. We need something. And we don't like what we've seen in the past," he said. “I feel very strongly we can do it. The votes are there. We have the language. The only thing we need is money,” he said.
Sponsored by Oakland businesman Rich Lee, Propostion 19 failed 46-54 in 2010. In 2012, five different groups failed to gather enough signatures to place a legalization initiative on the ballot.
Read more about the United States' tortured history with weed at TheNug.com.