Earlier this year, the California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee voted 4-3 to approve a bill that would have legalized marijuana. However, because the bill did not have time to move forward in the current legislative session, it died. The bill’s author, Tom Ammiano, was going to reintroduce the bill in the upcoming session, but now he doesn’t have to. I’m sure many of you know by now (or if you don’t, pay attention) that California has gathered signatures in hopes of putting an initiative on the November ballot that would legalize marijuana. It seems simple right? Get enough signatures, it gets on the ballot, it passes by an overwhelming majority, and the war has been won for stoners everywhere, as it will create a wave of momentum that will sweep across the nation. Not so fast. I’m going to go step by step to show marijuana fans how this battle is just beginning.
Step 1 — Get the signatures
In order to get on the ballot, supporters need to turn in 433,971 valid signatures. On January 28th, 2010 supporters turned in 700,000 signatures. These signatures need to be validated by the California Secretary of State’s office. If someone is not a registered voter, is a convicted felon, or an out of state tourist or student, etc., their signature is not valid. In most signature gathering campaigns, roughly 5 to 10 percent of signatures are not valid. Believe that the State and marijuana opponents will be scrutinizing each and every signature, which was anticipated by the initiative’s chief proponent, Oakland marijuana legend Richard Lee. This can be seen by the fact that he hired a professional signature gathering firm to ensure accuracy. I have no doubt that there will be enough valid signatures to get on the ballot in November.
Step 2 — Getting the votes in November
To many readers, this step seems really easy. After all, EVERYONE wants marijuana to be legal, right? Let’s assume that this is true (which I will explain why it’s not in a minute), and there are droves of people just waiting to vote for this thing. How many stoners consistently vote?? Be honest! I have never seen a valid statistic, but I’m sure the numbers are very disappointing. I can picture readers saying to themselves ‘if weed was involved, I would be way more likely to get involved in the political process.’ This is the fourth attempt at marijuana legalization in California this year alone, where were you guys on the last three attempts??? This isn’t anything new, EVERY year citizens try to get legalization in EVERY state. Some states gather minimal signatures, some get 700,000. Every state has more than enough marijuana consumers to get it passed, but it never happens because most stoners are not politically active. My point is this; if you think that marijuana fans alone are enough to win this thing, you will be very disappointed when November rolls around.
Victory seems even more uncertain when you look at the data. A Poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times last April found that 56% of voters in the state want to make pot legal and tax it (see attached story). I’m sure before you guys read that, you were certain the number was probably 80% or higher. Now consider the fact that no negative campaign attack ads have been seen yet. I have over 100 upper level political science college credits. If there’s one thing that I retained from my poly sci classes, it’s that NEGATIVE ADS WORK. These ads don’t have to tell the truth, they don’t have to follow logical reasoning, their goal is to literally brainwash potential voters into voting for whoever spent the most money.
There is going to be A LOT of opposition to this initiative, and the enemy list is a ‘who’s who’ of wealthy political activists. Starbucks funds anti marijuana groups, as does everyone in the alcohol and tobacco industry, in addition to law enforcement, the Mormon church, other churches, parent groups, teacher associations, health and auto insurance companies, etc. There will even be opposition from within the marijuana community. Richard Lee has forked over 1 million dollars to support this initiative, but will other dispensary owners do the same? If marijuana were legal, and you could grow it yourself, how would that benefit lower and mid-level dispensary owners that are reaping the benefits of a medical marijuana system that would disappear once legalization happened? Obviously, it would put them out of business. Richard Lee has made millions and millions of dollars and could easily adapt his business model to keep the funds flowing, but other dispensary owners would see this as a threat to their lively hoods, and will fight it on the down low. All of these separate groups will band together and pay whatever it takes to kill this bill. Can billions of dollars brainwash 6% of people in California to vote the other way? Because according to the poll I talked about earlier, that’s all it would take. Scary stuff when you really think about it.
Step 3 — Implementing the Initiative
I really hope I didn’t put the kybosh on your dreams in Step 2. Believe it or not, I have full confidence that stoners will ‘Rock the Vote’ in November, so long as there are people like me that will point out the bullshit propaganda that will come from the other side. But even if it gets passed, the fight is still far from over. JUST BECAUSE VOTERS APPROVE SOMETHING AT THE BALLOT, IT DOESN’T MEAN THAT IT BECOMES LAW. There are many bills that are passed and are never funded (such as medical marijuana in D.C. for several years), or they are instantly challenged in court. While they are being challenged in court, many bills are not implemented because the rulemaking process is never allowed to begin. For an example, Californians can look at Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage. Voters approved it in 2008, and it was a smooth transition to law right? Wrong. It is being challenged in court as we speak, and if it stands the test of time, I would be extremely surprised.
Before you think that this process is stupid, and should be thrown out, just remember the days before Civil Rights legislation was passed at the federal level. Before 1964, states passed all kinds of messed up laws, which were approved by voters, which resulted in tremendous suffering for minorities. Once they were challenged in Court, they were determined to be unconstitutional. You have to take the good with the bad. Considering marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, I highly doubt California can pass this initiative without some asshole in the federal government or within California challenging it. When state laws are in conflict with federal laws, it goes directly to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has 7 out of 9 justices that were appointed by very conservative Republican Presidents, so which way do you think they would vote? The only option left would be for California to claim state sovereignty, and refuse to follow federal mandates. I don’t worry about that part, because that’s what Californians do best!
The moral of the story here is TO GET POLITICALLY ACTIVE! DON’T JUST SIT BY YOUR GRAVITY BONG AND DREAM OF THE DAY YOU CAN GROW YOUR OWN PLANTS LEGALLY. GET OFF YOUR ASS, BRING AS MANY FRIENDS AS YOU CAN TO THE VOTING BOOTH IN NOVEMBER, AND MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD. YOU WANTED THIS DAY TO COME, AND IT IS FINALLY HERE. THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO PROVE EVERY CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN WRONG, AND ROCK THE VOTE!!!!!!! Also, if you happen to see Richard Lee, give him a HUGE hug for me. That guy is so kick ass, and has done so much for this movement that every stoner in America should have a picture of him in their living room. I bow to you Mr. Richard Lee, you are the greatest American patriot in the US today!