Money talks during election season in the United States. If California cannabis activists were worried about passing statewide adult use legalization next year, then yesterday’s announcement of a new proposal for the ballot was a breath of fresh air.
Now, the only question that remains is whether or not Reform California will back down and allow more moneyed interests to take control of California’s multi-billion dollar cannabis industry.
The new effort, dubbed the “Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act,” is spearheaded by Sean Parker, a billionaire technology entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist. As a teen, he co-founded the popular file-sharing service Napster at the turn of the century, was the President of Facebook in its early days, and his character was portrayed by Justin Timberlake in the 2010 film “The Social Network.”
Other major backers include Hyatt heirs Nick and Joby Pritzker, Weedmaps founder Justin Hartfield, and advocacy groups Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA).
The first-announced Reform California initiative has ties to Democratic consultant Joe Trippi, Oaksterdam University and the AFL-CIO. Due to the group’s failure to pass legalization during the 2010 election, many voters and activists have expressed qualms that the group could put forth a worthy campaign for 2016.
California is known for its high-budget campaign seasons, making Parker’s entry into the race practically a shoe-in for a legalization victory that’s expected to cost more than $10 million.
In many ways, Sean Parker’s initiative does appear to mirror the AB 266 medical cannabis industry regulations signed into law earlier this year. It doesn’t appear that there are any glaring policy differences between the ReformCA initiative and Parker’s. It all comes down to which group can make it happen with proper campaign strategy and funding.
Ideally, one initiative will be chosen and the other will either back down or join the effort, in order to avoid voter confusion and infighting. There’s also hope that Reform California will support the effort with its massive and powerful email list of over 80,000 Californians. That kind of grassroots leverage will be another important component of the campaign, no matter whose initiative is ultimately chosen.
“There’s no question that California needs to legalize adult-use cannabis, regardless of which vehicle is used to get there. Stakeholders need to compromise and align their interests to get us there,” said Derek Peterson, CEO of Terra Tech. “As an entrepreneur, I feel that a free market is exactly what the California cannabis industry needs, so long as there’s the necessary degree of responsible regulation.”
This new initiative just clinches what Californians have felt coming for some time – reformed cannabis laws that build on the successes of Colorado and Washington, and the creation of a new, regulated industry that benefits consumers and cannabis entrepreneurs.
Read the full text of the initiative here.