December 9, 2013

2014 or 2016 Better for CA Marijuana Legalization Bid?

Supporters of a marijuana legalization initiative in California are still weighing whether to aim for next year’s ballot or wait until 2016, highlighting the vigorous debate within cannabis circles over the best time to campaign for such a bill.

A group led by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) submitted a bill last week with the state that would legalize marijuana for adults and create a regulated system of retail shops and cultivation facilities. The measure – called the Control, Regulate and Tax Marijuana Act – would also impose a 25% tax on cannabis sales.

However, organizers said they are not 100% certain they’ll campaign to get the measure on the 2014 ballot. They are discussing whether it makes more sense to wait until the presidential election in 2016, when there will be higher voter turnout and the odds are more favorable in general.

Some national cannabis lobbying and advocacy groups warn that aiming for 2014 will be an expensive, time-consuming effort that will likely end in defeat. Two other 2014 marijuana legalization initiatives have been submitted in California as well, showing deep divides with the local marijuana community about how to approach the issue. That lack of unity could spell trouble if any initiative makes the ballot.

Other marijuana advocates, however, feel that the state must strike while the iron is hot and attempt to legalize recreational marijuana next year. They say the time is ripe because the industry has national momentum and favorable poll numbers of its side.

Supporters of the DPA-backed bill will need to make a decision quickly: If they want to move forward next year, they’ll need to gather more than 500,000 valid signatures by April to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

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