April 17, 2015
California has long prided itself on being one of the most progressive states in the nation. However, its collective liberal attitude has thus far failed to result in the legalization of marijuana.
This is despite seeing other bastions of liberalism, such as Washington and Colorado, pass ballot measures bringing the little green herb out of the shadows. With Californians likely to vote once and for all on this issue in 2016, it’s time to look at the roadblocks standing in the way of marijuana legalization.
As far as Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is concerned, the fight over the legalization of marijuana boils down to nothing more than logistics. “I was supportive of it 18 months ago, and I’m supportive of it now,” he’s quoted as saying by the San Jose Mercury News, “ but let me tell you, there’s a lot of work to be done here.”
That work involves how to effectively tax the new product as well as how to keep it out of the hands of children. (Plus how to prevent unscrupulous marketers from advertising it right into those children’s hands.) Consideration also has to be given for public safety, such as what to do about those caught driving while impaired, as well as crafting new treatment and counseling policies.
Nothing happens overnight, especially in the world’s seventh-largest economy, otherwise known as California. The state has a high number of politicians representing a staggering number of constituencies, and they all need to have their say. This might help explain why smaller states like the aforementioned Washington and Colorado were able to pass their measures already: fewer horses to trade and backroom deals to be made.
Still, a report by the Public Policy Institute of California shows a large majority of Californians favor legalization. And it’s just this attitude that will hold local politicians’ feet to the fire and all but ensure legalization is approved in 2016.
It’s always about the money. Because even though public opinion overwhelmingly favors legalization, ballot measures aren’t free to produce. California’s large size means hundreds of thousands of signatures are required for a proposal to get on the ballot, and this requires good old-fashioned lobbying. Lobbying done by groups. Groups that require money.
Therefore, for legalization to become a reality, big-money donors will need to be involved. Before, the public was on the fence, but now Californians have the will. And where there’s a will there’s a way—or in this case, deep pockets.
Ultimately, legalization of marijuana is, as Newsom himself says, “likely to happen on our watch.” The only hurdles remaining seem to be those of a policy and bureaucratic variety. Those who wish to press the issue can engage in the statewide debate held at one of many open forums convened by the ACLU.
More info can be found at http://www.safeandsmartpolicy.org.
Photo credit: Colorado Spring Independent