State Sees Spate of Initiative Proposals: Five Different Measures Seek Signatures for Ballot

Five marijuana initiatives are vying to collect signatures for the November 2012 ballot, ranging from medical marijuana reform and decrim to outright legalization.

Three initiatives have been filed to legalize marijuana for adult use, following up on the surprisingly strong Prop 19 legalization initiative of 2010, while one is specifically directed to the urgent issue of medical marijuana reform.

• The Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Initiative, by former Judge Jim Gray, Cal NORML attorney Bill McPike, Stephen Collett and Steve Kubby, would decriminalize sales, cultivation, transportation, etc., and direct the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to regulate commercial sales of marijuana like wine to adults over 21.

• The Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act, a tightly-written measure by Cal NORML attorneys Joe Rogoway, Bill Panzer, and Omar Figueroa with Dr. Frank Lucido and Mendocino activist Pebbles Trippet, would repeal existing marijuana laws for adults 19 and older and authorize a state commission to establish a regulatory system for commercial production and sales.

• The California Cannabis Hemp and Health Initiative, sponsored by Michael Jolson and Berton Duzy, a sweeping measure by the late Jack Herer that has circulated but failed to qualify in repeated attempts over twenty years, would legalize cannabis and provide amnesty and release for prior marijuana offenders.

• A fourth initiative, the Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act, would establish a uniform, statewide regulation system for medical marijuana in order to fend off federal attacks and local bans. The measure has picked up substantial support from advocates who are motivated by the notion that Californians would prefer to see medical marijuana better regulated before moving on to full legalization. The initiative is backed by a broad coalition including the former Prop. 19 campaign, United Food and Commercial Workers, ASA, the California Cannabis Association, Patients’ Care Alliance, Humboldt Growers Association, DPA, Cal NORML and others. The MMRCTA would establish a new state bureau in the Department of Consumer Affairs to regulate production and sales of medical marijuana; curtail the ability of local governments to ban dispensaries; clarify the law to make it clear that distribution, transportation, etc., by collectives are legal; and strengthen civil rights and protections for Prop 215 patients. It would also impose a 2.5% state sales tax to pay for enforcement costs and fund needed medical research and other health programs.

MMRCTA is motivated by public opinion polls showing that California voters are strongly supportive of medical marijuana reform but leery of legalization. An EMC poll co-sponsored by Cal NORML found that over 70% of California voters support medical marijuana and favor improved state oversight and regulation of its distribution. A bare 52% said they favored legalization, substantially less than the 60% threshold deemed essential for a successful initiative.

• A final initiative, the Reduced Marijuana Penalties Initiative, by Prop. 215 consultant Bill Zimmerman, would limit punishment for possession, sales, cultivation and transportation of 2 ounces or less to a simple $250 fine. Zimmerman argues that while Californians aren’t ready for legalization, they do believe that low-level marijuana offenders shouldn’t go to jail. The EMC poll found that 58% of Californians support reducing felony penalties for minor marijuana cultivation and sales offenses to misdemeanors.

Initiative proponents face an uphill struggle to qualify for the 2012 ballot. Proponents need to submit 504,760 valid signatures by the end of April. Major funders are reluctant to support a California initiative due to the substantial costs involved. Prospects appear brighter for legalization initiatives in Washington state and Colorado, where costs are lower.

This story is from CalNORML's December 2011 Newsletter. Join us and receive our quarterly news by mail or .pdf.