Recreational Marijuana on the 2016 Ballot
With the upcoming 2016 election, many are speculating that California may be the next to state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. There are still quite a few speed bumps on the way to outright legalization, including Gov. Jerry Brown’s hesitation to allow recreational marijuana to go through while he is still in office. “We have medical marijuana, which gets very close to what they have in Colorado and Washington,” said Brown recently “I’d really like those two states to show us how it’s going to work.” After all, the legalization in Colorado and Washington is, in essence, experimental in this country, and it could be a wise decision for California to see how it pans out in both states before jumping on board. Gov. Brown’s thoughts are somewhat based on his belief that “the world is pretty dangerous [and] pretty competitive. I think we may need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day – more than some potheads might be able to put together.”
Alternatively, hesitating too long could place California at a disadvantage should recreational use be fast tracked through Congress and the federal ban lifted. It could potentially be a massive boom to the local California economy to have a jump start in the industry over less progressive states in the Union. If legalization supporters have their way, they will have a ballot initiative in the 2016 election to push forward. If successful, this could place California in a leading role as the Federal landscape begins to change.
Notable Recreational Marijuana Supporters
There are several national and regional organizations on board for legalization, both in California and otherwise, including wealthy funders like Bill Maher for 2016, John Morgan with United for Care, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), the American Civil Liberties Union, and The Law Offices of Michael E. Cindrich APC, among many others. According to polls recently released, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Californians support recreational marijuana legalization as well as almost 75 percent who believe the Federal Government will jump on board as well in the near future. In a recent popular opinion piece, The New York Times suggested “[t]he federal government should follow the growing movement in the states and repeal the ban on marijuana“
One of the most important issues that will follow legalization in California, and potentially lifting the Federal Schedule I classification, is opening the door to more academic research on the effects, both short & long-term, of recreational use. Many past studies elsewhere have found correlation between responsible use and the suggested therapeutic qualities of marijuana. However, it is incredibly difficult for universities and academics to study any of the effects while the Federal ban is still in place.
California Cannabis Hemp Initiative and the Marijuana Control, Legalization, and Revenue Act
Some of those groups are supporting two proposals for the 2016 initiative: the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative and the Marijuana Control, Legalization, and Revenue Act. Each seeks to regulate recreational marijuana in much the same way that alcohol has been regulated since the end of prohibition. Both Washington and Colorado took similar approaches in taxing and regulating marijuana. Attorney General Eric Holder recently stated the he is “cautiously optimistic” regarding the switch from medical marijuana to recreational use. In order to be successful in California, as a first step, backers will need to gather more than 504,760 signatures to see the initiative make it to the ballot.
It appears that capitalism is a big driver in the sway of national opinion: a recent study suggests that recreational marijuana use is set to balloon into an $8 Billion dollar industry by the year 2018. At this time “California remains the largest state market at $980 million, even without [marijuana] Adult Use regulations,” according to a recent study. While California was a front-runner in the medical marijuana race, being the first state to adopt medical marijuana legislation (Proposition 215) in 1996, it has fallen behind in the movement to bring recreational use to the United States. But not without trying. There was a statewide initiative in 2010 to legalize recreational use which lost by a small margin. Had it passed, California would have been the first onboard as opposed to Washington or Colorado. There was also a major push to get a recreational use initiative on the 2014 ballot which was recently abandoned. In the end, that may have been a wise move for supporters as the 2016 Presidential election will likely gather much more attention and support for the cause.
Some of the hesitation from California legislators is surely due to the difficulty enacting consistent laws across the state. Local and city policies vary wildly on the regulation of marijuana for medicinal use. However, that does not change the fact the the medical marijuana industry has been a big boost for the economy, with an estimated 100,000 jobs created already according to the California Cannabis Industry Association.