Well, it looks like Californians are going to have to keep relying on constipation, obesity, writers cramp and a whole constellation of other ailments if they want to keep their legal marijuana coming for the next two years.
Backers of the well-financed Control, Regulate and Tax Marijuana Act, a weed legalization measure that had been aimed at this year’s ballot, decided to suspend their efforts and wait until 2016 to, ah, fire up the initiative.
Officials from the Drug Policy Alliance, which bankrolled successful 2012 efforts to legalize recreational marijuana use in Colorado and Washington, portrayed the decision as a strategic move to take advantage of the larger – and younger – turnout in a presidential election year.
That’s logical enough. With an April 18 deadline to turn in the more than 500,000 signatures needed to put the initiative on the November ballot, time was running short. And when it comes to qualifying a ballot measure, the shorter the time, the more it costs.
But there’s likely more to the decision than that. When that measure comes back in two years, expect to see a very different plan for legalization.
The proposal that California’s attorney general approved for circulation this year is likely as conservative a pro-marijuana measure as the state is likely to see.
The measure called for a 25 percent tax on all recreational sales, with the money going to schools, drug treatment, local government and environmental causes. Marijuana couldn’t be used in any public place or anyplace smoking is banned.
A maximum of four plants could be grown at any home and the plants would have to be “secure from access by a person younger than 21 years of age and not visible by normal unaided vision from a public place.”
That’s a ballot measure designed to ease the fear of voters worried about letting the drug genie loose. It’s also one put together by people who know that nearly 30 legalization measures have been approved for circulation since 1971 in California and the only two to make the ballot have been dumped at the polls.
Although there are three other legalization measures collecting signatures in California right now, the one by the Drug Policy Alliance was the only one with the clout and the cash to have a real chance of getting on the ballot. Officials of the group suggested that the inability to get all the legalization proponents to agree on one set of rules for legalized weed also played a role in their decision to delay.
The other three measures are way more lenient, with one allowing up to 12 pounds to be grown for personal use, which would make for quite a party. They also would limit the tax to a maximum of 10 percent and ban any tax on medical marijuana.
Many of the pro-marijuana blogs and magazines slammed the Drug Policy Alliance for “pandering to prohibitionists” and agreeing to far more restrictions than necessary.
“People are tired of being taxed, controlled and regulated,” one commenter said on the “Drug War Chronicle” website. “People should be able to grow this plant like the herb it is and use it in whatever way they like, just like people can grow and use grapevines without being taxed, controlled and regulated.”
But the reason the Drug Policy Alliance looked at a November ballot measure in the first place is because they say how quickly public sentiment on marijuana was changing.
A December Field Poll found that for the first time ever, a clear majority of Californians favored legalizing marijuana, with most backing controls similar to those used for alcohol.
While the greatest support came from the youngest voters, even those 65 and older split 47 percent to 47 percent on legalization.
Barring some marijuana-based disaster in Washington or Colorado or a new federal crackdown featuring the laws that already are on the books, that support is only going to grow. And as the number of pro-marijuana voters rises, the need to provide strict limits on use and possession drops.
The legalization forces have agreed to get together and work out what you might call a joint agreement for a ballot measure for 2016. It’s a safe bet that the voters who didn’t like the initiative targeted for this year are going to hate what’s likely to be on the ballot in 2016.
John Wildermuth is a longtime writer on California politics.