CA’s 2016 Legalization Bid & Its Federal Implications

Although several states are expected to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes in 2016, there is a substantial amount of pressure being applied out West to establish a cannabis industry in the largest state in the union: California. It is there that pot proponents are currently working to develop an initiative aimed at getting the question of legalization on the ballot in the next presidential election — which, depending on its success, could be a tremendous boost for similar campaigns all across the country and ultimately lead to the end of federal prohibition.

“A lot of eyes are on California,” Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California, recently told Bloomberg. “It’s very different than almost any other state because of the scale and the magnitude of the change and what it will represent across the country.”

Marijuana activists in California believe that despite their failed efforts in the past, legalization is a lock if they can manage to get the issue on the ballot in 2016. A recent poll indicates this might be true, with next year’s election predicted to be a completely different story than in 2010, when legal weed was run out on a rail by 54 percent of the voting population. The latest data, published last month by the Public Policy Institute of California, suggests that 55 percent of the population now stands in favor of regulating the herb in a manner comparable to the alcohol industry, which is an added incentive for supporters to make good with a new proposal.

But it is going to take a lot more than a favorable poll for California to pass this type of initiative. In addition to requiring an immense team of volunteers, these types of campaigns are ultra-expensive to run and will cost millions of dollars to successfully snuff out the plague of those snidely opposing forces. However, experts anticipate that this could be easy to do, as a large chunk of the required campaign finances will likely be donated by cannabis industry figures that are already operating in legal states. Some of these businesses are more than willing to support the cause to legalize weed in California because they are champing at the bit to expand into such an enormous market.

Shockingly, however, some experts predict that it will take much more than a million and change to get an initiative passed in 2016. Troy Dayton with the ArcView Group recently told Bloomberg that it would take in upwards of $20 million in order to successfully accomplish a feat of this magnitude. This is because it will only cost about $10 million for the combined lynch mob of law enforcement, educators, and national anti-marijuana campaigners to make certain that legal weed never seen the light of day.

Fortunately, the California medical marijuana market is one of the most lucrative in the United States, especially since it has been nearly twenty-years in the making. A lot of those involved in this segment of the industry will likely come forward in support of a plan to take the state into a fully legal market, which supporters feel confident will happen. Lynne Lyman, the director of the California chapter of the Drug Policy Alliance, has been raising funds for a 2016 initiative since last fall. Although she did not speculate as to how much the organization has already raised for the selected initiative, she did say that the group hopes to collect at least $15 million to go towards running the campaign.

According to the California Secretary of State, once the language of an initiative is approved, activists will need to collect between 365,000 to 585,407 valid voter signatures to earn a spot on the ballot in the 2016 presidential election. The overall attitude surrounding this undertaking is that it is extremely doable, and because of what is at stake, the campaign is expected to attract financial support from industry leaders across the nation, those prepared to tear down the establishment preventing cannabis from going nationwide.


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