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Drug Policy Alliance Files California Marijuana Legalization Initiative


vote for california marijuana initiativesBy Phillip Smith

A California marijuana legalization initiative backed by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) was filed Wednesday with the state attorney general’s office. But the national drug reform group said it has not yet decided whether to campaign to get it on the November 2014 ballot.

The Control, Regulate, and Tax Marijuana Act would legalize up to an ounce and four plants for people 21 and over and create a statewide system of regulated marijuana commerce. It would also impose a 25% tax on retail sales.

A year ago, in the wake of the legalization victories in Colorado and Washington, major players in the California marijuana reform movement, including California NORML, the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, the ACLU of California, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project, and late drug policy reform funder Peter Lewis’s representative, Graham Boyd, met in San Francisco and came to a tentative agreement that they would work together toward putting an initiative on the ballot in 2016.

Reluctant to risk another defeat at the ballot box like Proposition 19 in 2010, the movement heavyweights jointly decided to let other states take the lead in 2014 rather than act precipitously and potentially see the reform movement suffer a major blow with another defeat in the nation’s most populous state.

But momentum in favor of marijuana legalization was growing quickly, as evidenced by a September Gallup poll’s 58% in favor of legalization nationally and polls out of red states like Indiana, Louisiana, and Texas showing majority support. That was also the case in California, with a September Public Policy Institute of California poll showing 60% of registered voters favoring legalization and an October Tulchin poll that had support for legalization at 65% among likely voters.

Those numbers prompted some key players to reconsider, especially given that two other marijuana legalization initiatives — not vetted by the heavyweights — are already floating around. The first, the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative of 2014, the perennial effort by acolytes of the late Jack Herer, is in the signature gathering phase, but shows little sign of having the financial wherewithal to actually gather enough signatures to make the ballot. The second, the Marijuana Control, Legalization, and Regulation Act of 2014, described by its proponents as “the world’s first open source initiative,” is pending approval at the attorney general’s office after its proponents handed in its second amended version Friday.

Now DPA has stepped in with its own 2014 initiative. “The Drug Policy Alliance is the primary force behind this and primary drafter of this initiative,” said Steve Gutwillig, DPA’s deputy director of programs. “We wanted to make sure that a responsible and well-drafted initiative would be available in 2014 should a full-fledged campaign become possible. Filing this initiative is making sure that there is a viable initiative vehicle if we go forward in 2014. We think it reflects what the voters will support.”

Gutwillig emphasized that no decision to move forward had been made, but that one would be forthcoming early next year.

The clock is ticking. The deadline for gathering signatures for November 2014 is April, and given that state officials have up to 60 days to return a ballot summary and let signature gathering commence, that means the window for signature gathering could be as short as three months. With more than 500,000 valid signatures needed to make the ballot, that would be a daunting and very expensive prospect.

It may still be better to wait for 2016, said Dale Gieringer, the longtime head of California NORML.

“I don’t see that this does much for patients or consumers,” he said. “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. And it’s really late in the day.”

Gieringer pointed to language leaving the state’s medical marijuana system intact as one issue. “We would have two systems, one with a special tax, one without,” he noted. “Guess which one most people would patronize. The legislature might respond by getting rid of collectives or dispensaries. Medical marijuana regulation is the elephant in the room, and these are complicated issues that will require consultation by a lot of interest groups.”

He also counseled patience.

“People started panicking when those strong poll numbers came out in the fall and started thinking ‘Gee, this is really feasible,'” Gieringer said. “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?”

The DPA effort may not be the perfect marijuana legalization initiative — that elusive creature has yet to be spotted — but it is out there now, at least as a place holder. The other two initiatives appear unlikely to actually make the ballot, so the decisions made early next year by DPA and its allies are likely to determine if California votes on marijuana legalization next year or not.

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Johnny Green


  1. Matt McLaughlin on

    I thought there was some kind of demand for modification for drug testing>impairment measuring rather than metabolites.

  2. You have good a point when the taxes are at 300%. In the meantime, II think you are math challenged. $125 v $400. Oh well, all of a sudden the illegal weed dealers will cut their prices by 80% to undercut the legal retail business.

  3. And we interrupt your regularly scheduled program for this message from Cannabis, Herself, please stand by…..
    The program director suggests that you scratch and sniff HERE before continuing (or medicate, your choice).

    Good old Cali, the toker’s dream
    Famous and infamous, or so it would seem
    The first in medical, a hero to all
    Legends not myths, a true Stoner’s Ball

    But now what is this?
    A gray lining, I see
    All these people fighting
    over a plant, over me?
    All this attention might go to my head
    (Or maybe it was account of that bowl, instead)
    But please keep in mind, there is only one goal
    One reason, one direction, and forward we go

    Equality and freedom
    Be it plant, fruit, or seed
    But especially for me, for I’m just a Weed
    Well, that’s what they call me
    and how could I mind?
    The name doesn’t matter,
    it’s the medicine that’s divine

    So I speak to you now
    with Mother Nature’s consent
    It’s really not wise to circumvent
    Do not forget the reasons you fight
    To free me from my bonds, to release me from my plight

    And in the end, of this I am sure
    Mother Nature will win out, for I am a cure
    Don’t treat me like I’m bad, like some kind of sin
    For that is surely how the other side will win

    End transmission

  4. “(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, it is lawful under state and local law, and shall
    not be a violation of state or local law, for persons twenty-one years of age or older to:

    (1) Possess, use, process, transport, purchase, obtain, smoke, ingest, or give away to a person
    twenty-one years of age or older one ounce or less of marijuana other than concentrated
    cannabis, or one-eighth of an ounce or less of concentrated cannabis.”

    “(h) Permit local governments to ban or limit the number of marijuana-related businesses in their
    own jurisdictions.”

    “(2) Possess, grow, or process four or fewer mary·uana plants and the mary·uana produced by the
    plants, provided that:

    (A) The plants and any marijuana produced by the plants in excess of one ounce are kept at the
    person’s home or other private residence, or upon the grounds of that home or private residence,
    and are secure from access by a person younger than twenty-one years of age, and are not
    visible by normal unaided vision from a public place; and

    (B) Not more than four plants may be possessed, grown, or processed at a single home or private
    residence, or upon the grounds of that home or private residence, at one time.”

    “(b) Nothing in this section shall be construed or interpreted to permit:

    (5) The manufacture of concentrated cannabis by chemical extraction or chemical synthesis,
    unless done pursuant to a license issued under Division 10 of the Business and Professions


    What a JOKE “legalization” bill, with joke provisions! We Californians will be sure to expose this phony, restrictive, semi-prohibitionist initiative for what it is : a FARCE! We will be sure to vote NO at the ballot box! Not impressed at all!


  6. We can debate whether marijuana is good or bad, should be illegal or legal, etc. But one thing we don’t need to debate is price. Legal weed in Colorado costs $100 – $150 / oz. Illegal weed in NY costs $400 /oz. Add the 25% tax you are at about 1/3 the cost of illegal weed. Retail legalization is still not here. With commoditization, legal prices of weed will move to $80 /oz or lower, so with taxes, top shelf weed will be 1/4 of the price as illegal black market weed. This is irrefutable fact, not opinion. This does not even account for the different ways in which THC will be available – walking into a store and being able to choose from a dozen strains, as well as edibles and concentrated oil. How are you gonna get that on the black market? Not to mention you can legally have 6 plants, so with a little effort, your weed will cost will be under $10 / oz. to grow-your-own. BTW, a pack of cigarettes is around $10 in NYC, gasoline is 25% with all the taxes, so other items have high taxes too. I, and absolutely everyone I know, are willing to pay a little dough into the State’s kitty to encourage legalization. I disagree strongly with your comments about naivete or craziness.

  7. The over taxing will ensure the black market thrives. There are a lot of greedy growers in cali that are motivated by greed instead of compassion, It is going to change someday. Goodbye Scumboldt growers

  8. “It would also impose a 25% tax on retail sales.”

    “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?””

    I’m starting to believe a lot of front runners in this movement are naive, crazy people. What other items are taxed this ridiculously high? How do they think they’re going to shrink the black markets with these crazy taxes and limits? Colorado and (especially) Washington are already being patronized for their tax rates before their shops are even opening. Before these guys propose another “super-tax” initiative in arguably the most liberal marijuana state in the nation, lets see how Colorado and Washington do with their restrictive legalization attempts. When people are shown how crazy these prices and limits are, they’re going to be much more wary at the ballots.

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