By Sean Donahoe
With 19 short months before voters will be asked to reverse cannabis prohibition here in California, the rumor mills are working overtime, and factions may be emerging. Our shared passion and our shared commitment to the cause of legalizing cannabis are tested, permanent factions are formed, and unbridgeable differences are spotted, supposedly, if you listen to naysayers. What exact purpose this serves, how exactly infighting helps advance our overall cause, has never been adequately explained to me . . . On the other hand, to those who follow the real “inside baseball” policy debates, or for those working within one (or more) of the camps within the drug policy reform community, it can seem as if we are all indeed at odds with each other at times.
You know what? The general public, most patients nor the cannabis-using community, are all totally oblivious to these supposed splits. They won’t even hear about any of this, it doesn’t reach them, nor is it discussed with passion and in-depth background knowledge in their circle of friends, as it is with some of us.
I would venture that, for the overwhelming majority of likely registered voters, these organizational and policy differences simply don’t matter. It’s hard to see how it will effect how they’ll vote in 2016—nor will it (really) effect what the regulations will look like after legalization comes. If a reasonably-crafted and politically-viable statewide ballot measure to tax and regulate cannabis for adult consumption is put in front of the voters, it should win. Period. And the guts of such a measure, the overall framework that will be put into effect is, in a very real way, up to us. For the cannabis movement and the cannabis industry, as with much in life, what we get out of the 2016 measure will be directly linked to what we put in.
If the majority of cannabis users choose to stay uninvolved, if the majority of the cannabis industry chooses to stay uninvolved, and if the majority of patients don’t come out with their personal stories, then we might not like everything about the statewide measure that gets drafted, gets put before the voters, gets campaigned for by others, and passes (thanks to no help from us). Or we could go the other way. We could improve on what Colorado, Washington, DC, Alaska and Oregon passed, by going beyond what their measures did. We could create legal licenses for onsite consumption clubs, heavily fund medical research, decrease barriers to entry for small businesses and have low taxes on adult use. We could have the best ballot measure out there in 2016, putting Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts and the other emerging state campaigns to shame.
We could create a great environment for post-legalization here in California, great for patients, great for consumers, great for investors, and great for local municipalities. But it’ll take some work. And folks will have to engage with existing organizations, maybe learn about policy differences, and maybe even contribute money to campaign committees. We should be expected to put our money and our mouths where our hearts are, right? It helps to remember that we are the lucky ones, front row participants in the end of the “drug war,” walking in the footprints of heroes and heroines, creating a great new industry as we move the world to a better place. Why would we ever waste time fighting each other again?