A panel of unassuming men and women sat before the hushed room of avid advocates and activists in Oakland all waiting to hear the words that would ignite their motivation and shed some light on what worked in Colorado, Oregon and Washington state to get marijuana legalized. Everyone was all ears as the keywords and catchphrases flew: messaging, movements, practicality, pragmatism, policy. These are the words everyone hopes will enliven and invigorate the next successful legalization campaign in the sunny state of California.
ReformCA, a group who describes themselves as “a movement of Californians who believe the prohibition against adults who use cannabis has failed,” hosted a Post-Mortem Seminar to share some much-needed knowledge from politically-inclined industry insiders. Gathering influential figures from states that have already successfully passed initiatives to legalize cannabis, the seminar sought to serve as a sort of strategizing meeting of sorts complete with suggestions, recommendations and a few good, old fashioned Q & A sessions for good measure. ReformCA, an initiative of Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, is pushing for cannabis legalization on the 2016 ballot. Another advocacy organization, the Marijuana Policy Project, is also working toward a cannabis legalization initiative for California in 2016.
A number of names within the industry showed up at the ReformCA event to lend their expertise including Steve Fox, Jordan Wellington, Anthony Johnson, Adam Eidinger, Tamar Todd, Joe Trippi, Jim Gonzalez, Dale Sky Jones and keynote speaker Bill Zimmerman. The speakers from victorious states were able to candidly share what worked and what didn’t during their campaigns, offering insight into how to maintained a unified front, spread a useful message and ways to be as progressive as possible when crafting the language in initiatives.
Although the Golden State is known as a hotbed for some of the country’s best cannabis, recreational weed is still illegal on a local and federal level. Possessing, selling, distributing or cultivating cannabis, hash or concentrates is punishable by law and will land offenders in jail with lofty fines and a permanent record. The state does have a medical marijuana program that doesn’t have specified possession limits and allows qualifying patients to grow plants at home, but that’s not enough anymore. Californians want full legalization.
The truth is that these election milestones in legal states were years in the making with decades of support from a number of organizations, collectives and individuals who dedicated their life to the cause. Many of them spent countless hours protesting, gathering signatures, formulating strategies, perfecting the language in measures and initiatives and lobbying their local governments in order to progress the movement to the point it’s at today. Those steps got states like Colorado, Oregon and Washington to this momentous time in history and, as the various speakers shared, will carry California towards defeating marijuana prohibition once and for all.
This event was a testament to the evolution of the movement to legalize marijuana. The packed room with eager listeners all willing to learn and go forth armed with new knowledge represented just an increment of all the supporters of cannabis policy reform not only in California but across the nation. The end to prohibition is in sight and the time to build on the momentum sweeping across the globe is now.
As George Zimmer, one of the guests in attendance and former CEO for Men’s Warehouse put it, “When it comes to legalization in California, I guarantee it.”
Is cannabis legal in your state? What do you think could be done to get an initiative on the ballot and passed by the next election? Share your thoughts in the comments.