And then there were two. Proponents of a second 2014 marijuana legalization initiative filed the measure with the California secretary of state's office last Friday. An earlier 2014 legalization initiative has already entered the signature-gathering phase.
The measure explicitly protects the rights of medical marijuana users, stating that it "shall not affect the individual and group medical rights and protection afforded" under Proposition 215 and subsequent legislation.
It would create a California Cannabis Commission with enumerated powers to regulate and control commercial marijuana cultivation and sales. Commission members could not include people currently holding state or local elected office or people who have been involved with a marijuana business in the past two years. The commission must include an attorney, an accountant, a member of law enforcement, a small business owner, and member of the public at large.
The initiative touts itself as the first "open source" California legalization initiative and was largely drafted through an online consultative process by veteran activists. It must now have its title and ballot summary approved by the state attorney general's office, which has 60 days to do, and if approved, signature-gathering can then commence.
Under California initiative law, measures approved for signature-gathering then have 150 days to collect signatures. This year, they need 504,000 valid voter signatures to make the ballot.
The Hererite perennial California Cannabis Hemp Initiative, which would also legalize marijuana in the state, has already entered the signature-gathering phase and has until February to come up with sufficient signatures.
The conventional wisdom among initiative experts and marijuana reform backers is that the huge number of signatures required to make the ballot in California necessitates paid signature gatherers and a budget of at least a million dollars. And that's just to make the ballot. Actually winning an election would likely cost several million dollars more.
The conventional wisdom is also calling for California to hold off until the 2016 presidential year, when expected higher turnout is believed to boost prospects for victory. But some Californians clearly aren't waiting. The question is whether this will turn out to be a repeat of 2012, when multiple legalization initiatives sought to make the ballot, but, lacking funds and unity, none did.