California: Cannabis Hemp Initiative Gathering Signatures For 2014 Ballot
By Steve Elliott
A group called the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative received clearance last month from the California Secretary of State to circulate a petition to legalize marijuana at the ballot box in the November 2014 election.
The CCHI 2014 "Decriminalizes marijuana and hemp use, possession, cultivation, transportation, or distribution," according to the California Secretary of State's Office.
In addition, the measure "Requires case-by-case review for persons currently charged with or convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses, for possible sentence modification, amnesty, or immediate release from prison, jail, parole, or probation. Requires case-by-case review of applications to have records of these charges and convictions erased. Requires Legislature to adopt laws to license and tax commercial marijuana sales. Allows doctors to approve or recommend marijuana for patients, regardless of age. Limits testing for marijuana for employment or insurance purposes. Bars state or local aid to enforcement of federal marijuana laws," according to the Secretary of State's Office.
The blocking of state or local aid to enforcement of federal marijuana laws is one of the defining features of CCHI 2014, also known as the Jack Herer Initiative; cities would be prohibited from collaborating with DEA agents conducting federal raids in the state.
The initiative, if passed, would result in "reduced costs in the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually to state and local governments related to enforcing certain marijuana-related offenses, handling the related criminal cases in the court system, and incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders," according to the California Legislative Analyst and the state director of finance. "Potential net additional tax revenues in the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually related to the production and sale of marijuana and industrial hemp, a portion of which is required to be spent on marijuana-related research and other activities."
Sponsors Berton "Buddy" Duzy and Michael Jolson must gather valid signatures of 504,760 registered voters by February 24, 2014 in order to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.
Jolson has tried and failed several times in the past to get marijuana legalization on the ballot in California, reports David Downs at East Bay Express, each of those times using volunteers to collect the signatures. CCHI is once again using volunteers to circulate the petition this time, and is looking for donations. Experts say it is very difficult for an all-volunteer team to gather enough signatures to qualify.
Jolson said his group's initiative protects small commercial marijuana growers by prohibiting excessive regulatory measures and limiting licensing fees, reports Anna Challet at New American Media.
"Prices [of marijuana] will be affected, but the demand for organic cannabis will continue," Jolson said. "Our initiative prohibits the government from overly regulating growers or allowing them to get swamped by big corporations."
A recent poll indicated 60 percent of likely voters in the Golden State want legal pot, but the actual details of any legalization plan have in the past divided cannabis advocates. In 2010, for example, legalization measure Proposition 19 went down to defeat, with the marijuana community itself being split on its merits. Fifty-four percent of California voters clicked "No" on Prop 19.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is not backing CCHI 2014, in part because of its lack of emphasis on regulation. California DPA director Lynne Lyman said her group is undecided on whether it will field its own legalization initiative in 2014 or 2016, but that any DPA-sponsored initiative would include more comprehensive regulatory and safety requirements for the industry, as well as protections for minors and restrictions on advertising.