Proponents of California Cannabis Hemp Initiative 2014 may have a long way to go before they can see their measure implemented.
The initiative, which proposes to legalize cannabis hemp for industrial, medical and recreational uses, is in the early stages of the ballot process. The activists behind it are planning to begin collecting signatures in May, several months ahead of the deadline to file with the state for a shot at the November 2014 ballot.
“We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback, and the cannabis movement is a really sophisticated and advanced movement that has a hard time getting on the same page,” said Santa Cruz-based activist Michael Jolson. “A group of us want to wait until 2016 because they feel in 2016 they’re going to get more young people to vote for a pot initiative.”
Jack Pitney, a politics and government professor at Claremont McKenna College, said the initiative would have better odds at passing during the 2016 presidential election. Part of the problem with proposing the initiative during a midterm election is the voter demographics, he said.
“Midterm elections tend to be older and more conservative,” he said.
“In 2012, the initiative in other states benefited from a younger and more liberal electorate – people who came out for Obama.”
The group attempted to get a similar initiative on the November 2012 ballot but was unable to collect the necessary amount of signatures.
The legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado and Washington during the November 2012 election created a tidal shift in cannabis policy in America, Jolson said.
“The general consensus seems to be that we can actually win in 2014 because the people are ahead of it, even the government,” he said. “All these states throughout America are looking at taxing commercial sales and recreational use.”
The proponents of legalizing marijuana also face the problem that all uses of the drug are illegal under federal law.
“As those states run into complications of implementation and facing off against the feds, it’s an open question whether other states will follow their lead,” said Douglas Johnson, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna. “Ultimately, the Obama administration has made it clear they will continue to enforce federal laws and will not be backing off state measures. These are largely symbolic wins until the feds change the law.”
“Making the ballot in California is almost solely a question of money,” he said. “If they can raise the $2 million to $3 million it takes to get on the ballot, then they’ll make it. If not, they won’t. “
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