From decriminalized marijuana to medical marijuana, California had been a leader in the cannabis movement. As Colorado and soon Washington begin to light up legal cannabis for the first time since before the 1930s, California stoners must be scratching their heads, wondering, “What’s up with the Cali?”
California would have been the first to legalize had they passed Proposition 19 on the 2010 ballot. Fifty-three percent of the public voted no and 46.6 percent yes, more than who voted for Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman but a clear shortfall.
Ironically, much of the buzzkill from Proposition 19 came from the medical marijuana community itself, with medical pot dispensaries, Northern California growers and ordinarily pro pot proponents such as Dennis Peron coming out against it.
As Stephen Gasparas, manager of the iCenter pot dispensary in Arcata, told the Sacramento Bee, “They say they’re legalizing marijuana. It’s already legal. All they’re doing is taxing it.” Even without a medical script, cannabis use is still only an infraction in California, no worse than a $100 parking ticket.
“The cover of the book looked nice, but it didn’t read very well,” said Roger Salazar, spokesman for the Prop. 19 opposition, in an interview with the Huffington Post.
Yet when the joint crumbles, you reroll. Four petitions to fully legalize cannabis in California were approved for signature circulation this month by the California Secretary of State, according to the LA Weekly, although two have since agreed to withdraw their petitions until the 2016 election. One of the remaining bills is being sponsored by Americans for Policy Reform and backed by San Jose pot shop operator Dave Hodges. The other, the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative 2014, received approval to gather signatures last fall, but resubmitted their language last month.
And the state Attorney General’s office has said at least two of the three measures competing for the November 2014 ballot would be good for California:
“Reduced costs in the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually to state and local governments related to enforcing certain marijuana-related offenses, handling the related criminal cases in the court system, and incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders.
Potential net additional tax revenues in the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually related to the production and sale of marijuana, a portion of which is required to be spent on education, health care, public safety, drug abuse education and treatment, and the regulation of commercial marijuana activities.”
Any proposed ballot measure will need to gather 504,760 signatures by May 23 in order to appear on the 2014 ballot.
If a proposal to legalize cannabis is put to a vote this time, voters might just roll with it. In a California Field Poll last year, voters by a 54 to 43 percent margin leaned in favor of legalizing and regulating cannabis beyond medical use with regulations similar to alcohol.
California cannabis tourism may be late to the tour bus, but the engines are revving. Cross mind boggling weather with a dash of legal tourism tax dollars, and you might just see the spirit of Jack Herer smiling down from the sun as it sets over the Bay.