California is the biggest marijuana legalization domino that is in play for 2016. I have had many conversations with members of the mainstream media about California, and I have said many times that many people will measure the success of the 2016 campaign by whether or not California succeeds. Several states could legalize in 2016, and while I think that even one state would be a huge victory, many others will consider it bittersweet if California fails to legalize again.
As seems to always be the case with legalization efforts in this decade, there are several efforts in California. The most high profile one to date is Reform California, which has funding and a very strong campaign team. However, there's supposed to be a long awaited announcement coming out of California tomorrow, with California billionaire Sean Parker and friends throwing their hat into the race. The initiative is reported to be backed by the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project, and WeedMaps founder Justin Hartfield who has already pledged 2 million dollars to a marijuana legalization campaign of his choosing (which it sounds like he is choosing this one).
Having a lot of money is important in politics, and this initiative will certainly have a bunch, but it's not the only thing that it will take to push this initiative over the top. It will take a very well written initiative, and a strong campaign team to ensure victory. It sounds like the initiative that is going to be announced tomorrow will have those in addition to a hefty bank account. Anything that the Drug Policy Alliance is involved with is usually very solid. The San Francisco Chroniclereceived an advanced summary of the initiative, highlights of which are below:
•People will be allowed to grow up to six plants in their home for nonmedical use, but they "have to be out of public view and secure from children." Local governments may ban outdoor home cultivation, and employers will be able to bar the use of nonmedical weed by their workers.
•It places a 15 percent excise tax on all retail sales of cannabis, both nonmedical and medical. However, medical marijuana patients won't have to pay regular sales taxes.
•It will keep in place the new state laws governing medicinal cannabis, noting that "to help get the market up and running, existing medical marijuana businesses will get priority for the new (recreational sales) licenses."
•It taxes licensed marijuana growers, based on the weight of the plants. The rates are $9.25 per ounce of marijuana flowers and $2.75 per ounce of marijuana leaves.
•It allows those convicted of marijuana crimes "that are no longer crimes or have been reduced to petition a court for penalty reductions or record expungement."
•It directs tax revenue to a newly created California Marijuana Tax Fund. The fund will give $10 million annually through 2028 to a public university in California to research and evaluate the effects of the new legalization measure. It also will give $3 million annually to the California Highway Patrol to "develop protocols and best practices to determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana."
This measure is largely based off of a report that was issued after California's Lieutenant Governor toured the state gathering input from California residents and organizations. I don't like the fact that there are still several California efforts, and I'm still hopeful that everyone can unite behind one effort. Whether or not that is this one, which will be called the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act, only time will tell. I will say though, with that campaign team and the amount of funds at their disposal, this initiative has a great chance of getting on the ballot, uniting the community, and succeeding on Election Day. What do TWB readers think?