California has long been a trendsetter in many areas, and marijuana is no exception. California was the first medical marijuana state and the freedoms and commerce enjoyed by the California cannabis community has spread throughout the land. However, the Golden State now lags behind Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and our nation’s capital in legalization for all adults over 21. Local and national advocates hope that the most populous state will legalize in 2016, providing yet another boost to the momentum for marijuana law reform that we are seeing across the country.
The International Business Times reports:
With 39 million residents, California has the potential to become the country’s largest retail marijuana market, something it could relatively effortlessly incorporate into its already-established medical marijuana industry. Medical pot is a $980 million industry in California, according to a 2014 report from ArcView Group, a marijuana research and investment firm based in San Francisco. Add adult-use marijuana sales to the mix and the market would explode, according to some experts. California’s bustling legal marijuana industry employs an estimated 100,000 people, a figure some expect will blossom ten-fold over the next few years should weed become fully legal in the state.
Several ballot measures are in the works to legalize marijuana in California in 2016. Two groups filed ballot initiatives in April and were busy gathering the signatures they need to qualify for the 2016 election. Similar initiatives failed five years ago.
Many say legalization in other states hinges on what happens in California next year, and if California were to legalize weed, it would have a domino effect across the U.S. “A lot of eyes are on California,” said the state’s Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a legalization proponent, to Bloomberg in April. “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.”
Crafting a legalization measure that can win at the ballot box, is more difficult than people realize. While polls show majority support for legalization across the country, those polls aren’t asking voters about a specific measure. Once the specifics are known regarding the details about home cultivation, tax rate, driving under the influence standards, etc., then support tends to be lower than just a general question about supporting legalization. California, with supportive voters and plenty of potential donors, has a great chance of passing legalization, but the state has some major obstacles as well. The sheer size of the state and the cost of running a statewide election are just daunting. Additionally, there will be many members of the medical marijuana community that will oppose legalization for all adults.
Keeping growers, processors dispensary owners, patients, consumers, activists, funders and politicians happy with a measure that can garner a majority of votes is a daunting task for any state. However, California has some amazing advocates working tirelessly on the issue and I expect California to join the ranks of legalized states in 2016.