Big Marijuana Moment for California


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.

Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.