California may be the next state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced a voter initiative was cleared to gather signatures today.
In order to get the initiative on the ballots for next year’s elections, supporters of the initiative need to collect more than half a million signatures in the next 150 days—more specifically, 504,760. That might sound like a tall order, but it is quite likely, given past efforts to legalize marijuana in California.
Supporters will have to collect an average of just over 3,365 signatures a day until the deadline in late February. Again, that might seem like a lot, but spread over the entirety of California, with its population of 38.04 million (more than 3 million people more than the entire population of Canada), getting enough signatures is not really that unrealistic of a challenge.
Perhaps the most controversial matter contained within the initiative is the decriminalization of growing and selling marijuana. While the initiative sets out to tax and license commercial sale of pot, and establish guidelines for driving under the influence, it seems there is little to stop someone from growing, selling, and possessing marijuana without the proposed license.
With Colorado and Washington passing legislation for recreational marijuana use recently, there is renewed fervor among advocates in the Golden State to pass their own set of recreational marijuana laws. Combined with the recent announcement by the White House that it would grant states passing such laws more autonomy as far as the enforcement of federal law, provided that “strict regulatory schemes” exist, it very well may be that the federal laws will change in the near future, too.
As many already know, California has a checkered history regarding marijuana laws in California and federal marijuana laws. Despite being approved for medical use years ago, the number of licensed dispensaries was drastically reduced, due in part to DEA raids and other federal scrutiny.
So, what is with the sudden change?
Michael Jolson, one of the initiative’s two proponents, believes it is the new momentum created by other states across the country. This, of course, then begs the question as to what happens if that momentum does not continue. Is this reprieve then suddenly revoked? As the current federal marijuana law exists now, this leniency could very well disappear with the next administration in the White House.
If that was to happen, then states who had passed recreational marijuana laws, like those in Colorado and Washington, would be forced into the same predicament that many medical marijuana dispensaries faced. Indeed, it provides an incentive to continue an underground black market, with licensed marijuana businesses requiring records to be kept as part of heavy regulation. In other words, the DEA knows exactly where to go and who to hit if the next administration is not so tolerant to marijuana and decides to put its foot down.
Until federal law is changed, state marijuana laws are still little more than a gamble. Until then, is it really worth it? Why?
Let us know what you think in the comments section below!