San Francisco is ground zero for the revitalized legalization effort in California, as a national cannabis advocacy organization began raising funds for a campaign that they hope would result in the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state. One of the most hotly-debated political issues in recent years, the recreational marijuana use issue is expected to be a major point of contention in the presidential elections in 2016.
The organization behind the effort, Marijuana Policy Project, submitted a registration for a cannabis legalization campaign committee with the secretary of state’s office in California. The registration signified the committee’s intention to begin accepting contributions and utilizing them for a marijuana legalization initiative on the state vote to be held on November 2016. This measure is similar to those passed in Colorado and Washington on 2012, which effectively made marijuana legal for all adults over the age of 21.
That California is only now beginning to tackle the total legalization issue is ironic, considering that the state has been at the forefront of medical marijuana legalization since the 1990s. California also produces more marijuana than any other state, and is in fact the largest producer of unregulated medical marijuana in the country. For the state to be one of the 21 others that merely allow the medical–but not recreational–use of marijuana, is therefore a fairly odd twist in the natural marijuana issue. Marijuana is still currently illegal under federal law.
The roots of legalization run deep in California. For many legalization proponents, prohibition has had a severely detrimental effect on the state. Rob Kampla, Executive Director of Marijuana Policy Project said that prohibition has been a largely “ineffective, wasteful and counterproductive” effort, citing the need for a “more responsible approach” to the cannabis issue. For Kampia, it would make more sense to regulate and tax cannabis in the same manner applied to alcohol.
It wouldn’t be the first time that recreational marijuana use would come up for a vote in California. In 2010, voters in the state rejected an initiative that sought to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Called Proposition 19, that particular measure was the first in the United States to seek the legalization of recreational marijuana use.
The medical marijuana initiative was also the first of its kind, although unlike the recreational marijuana bill, the medical marijuana bill was passed in 1996. Some of the most opposed to Proposition 19 were the law enforcement and government sectors, black-market growers, and surprisingly medical marijuana users.
In the upcoming campaign, many observers expect a less-divided vote. Mason Tvert, spokesman of Marijuana Policy Project said that based on the organization’s experience in Colorado, legalization supporters would build a broad-based coalition in the two years leading up to the vote. Tvert also expressed optimism over presenting the issue during the presidential elections, when a higher number of voters is expected.
More than just legalizing marijuana for recreational use in California, the measure is expected to have far-reaching implications for the state of marijuana’s legality in the country. If the measure is passed in California–and all indications are that they will–the federal government will almost definitely have to re-examine their policy on prohibition.