Just two months after filing title language for a ballot initiative legalizing limited amounts of cannabis with the state, the Drug Policy Alliance says they will not be moving forward with their California proposal in 2014. According to one spokesman for the campaign, 2014 was a “trial run or dress rehearsal for 2016”.
And they aren’t alone. Longtime activist Ed Rosenthal says he’s no longer pursuing his ballot measure any longer either.
If passed, the bill would have allowed adults 21 and up to cultivate up to six plants in their homes, possess up to an ounce at a time in public and created a state-regulated recreational cannabis industry. Sales would have been taxed at 25 percent, with money going toward education, drug and alcohol treatment programs as well as reforestation of forest lands stripped by illegal grow operations.
The group would have had to turn in signatures by April 18, and Drug Policy Alliance director Ethan Nadelmann says that is too soon. Instead, the group says they will go for the California ballot in 2016.
The move isn’t a surprise, as DPA leaders said back in December that 2014 may have been pushing the time table too quickly. They feared voters were still burned out from the failed Proposition 19 in 2010. They also said that focusing their efforts in other states was a better use of time and money, especially with the support in California already spread across other initiatives. These campaigns don’t come cheap, with the failed Proposition 19 costing in the ballpark of $4.2 million.
Those other states include Alaska and Oregon, according to DPA’s Stephen Gutwillig, who tells the LA Weekly that those two states alone will “keep the momentum going”.
“The fact that we have three initiatives proposed for 2014 shows a relative lack of unity and a lack of adequate consultation among the various groups,” Dale Gieringer, the longtime head of California NORML said in December. “And it’s really late in the day. People started panicking when those strong poll numbers came out in the fall and started thinking ‘Gee, this is really feasible. But it was so late in the day that people couldn’t really get together and plan and vet to come up with a well-conceived plan. This is a stab in the dark, especially until we see how Colorado and Washington play out, especially the tax and regulate part. How is this going to work in the marketplace? Will people patronize highly taxed marijuana shops or not?”
There are two remaining ballot initiatives possible for this year, but even their supporters admit they are a long shot 2014. According to Dave Hodges, an LA dispensary owner and backer of the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act, the group has about $500,000 of campaign money – about one-sixth of what it takes these days to run even a bare-bones ballot initiative campaign. At this point, they’re hoping for a miracle financier to drop from the sky.
“At this point we’re trying to raise $3 million to get on the ballot,” Hodges tells the LA Weekly. “We’re actually really, really encouraged now that DPA is dropping out. Ed [Rosenthal] is dropping out. CCHI is not even a viable option at this point. MCLR is the only the viable option for getting it done. That’s a daunting goal if you’re looking at $25 donations. But it only takes one person who believes in this to write a few-million-dollar check and we’ve got this done.”
Even longtime cannabis activist Ed Rosenthal, who has also said he’s dropping his proposed 2014 initiative, says there’s little hope for 2014 at this point.
“Neither initiative left [the MCLR or the CCHI]has either the money or the volunteers to get signatures,” he said. “So it’s over. It’s okay though. In 2016 you have a stronger demographic. You get a more liberal electorate in presidential years. I’m looking forward to legalization in California.”