Marijuana law reform efforts have had their share of ups and downs over the decades as so many concerned citizens have put their blood, sweat, tears, time and money to help end failed Drug War policies across the nation. After winning some important decriminalization victories in the 1970s to suffering through the “Just Say No” Reagan years, advocates starting winning important victories in the early 1990s as local medical marijuana measures starting winning in progressive California communities. A monumental turning point was the 1996 victory of Proposition 215 in California.
After California legalized medical cannabis, Washington and Oregon followed next in 1998. The support for medical marijuana spread across the nation and now more than half the nation lives under medical cannabis laws as medical measures have now been passed in 23 states and Washington, D.C. Colorado and Washington State, like California did with medical, led the way by passing adult-use legalization measures in 2012, with Oregon, Alaska and our nation’s capital following suit in 2014. California, while not legalizing non-medical use just yet, does deserve credit for the Prop 19 attempt in 2010, an effort that garnered 46.5% of the vote,helped set the stage for Colorado and Washington.
At this point, cannabis law reformers are not settling for any moral victories as the momentum, and the people, are on the side of ending cannabis prohibition. The big question has been whether California, a complicated state with a lot of players, a lot of people and a big price tag for political campaigns, would be able to unite behind a single effort. From my perspective from afar, Reform California, led by many advocates that I admire, have tried their best to listen to a variety of interests and have done their best to unite the California cannabis community. However, the efforts to unite haven’t been as successful as necessary and the California legalization effort seems to hinge upon the soon-to-be announced proposal supported by billionaire entrepreneur Sean Parker, the co-founder of Napster and former president of Facebook.
Graham Boyd and his New Approach PAC have joined Parker’s effort to establish what seems to be a proposal that has been drafted to win at the ballot box. The measure reportedly includes a 15% statewide tax that should appeal to voters while also including provisions favored by activists, such as allowing home cultivation and the retroactive expungement of past marijuana offenses. I have long admired the work of Graham Boyd, the former ACLU Drug Policy Litigation Project Director. I was honored to have worked with him in Oregon and the 2014 Measure 91 legalization victory would not have been possible without him.
The Drug Policy Alliance, who also made Measure 91 possible as well with their policy expertise and fundraising prowess, will reportedly be involved, as will the Marijuana Policy Project and the California California Industry Association. I look forward to reading the details of the Parker-led measure, but it seems like the best opportunity for California to finally end cannabis prohibition for all adults and add the biggest state of the union to the list of legal cannabis states.