I read several articles today that made it sound like California is a total slam dunk to legalize marijuana in 2016. The word ‘inevitable’ was found throughout the articles. Does California have a good chance of legalizing in 2016? Absolutely. Is it inevitable? Not by a long shot.
There is still a ton of work to be done in California if any of the current initiative efforts are to even make the 2016 ballot. Hundreds of thousands of signatures are required to get a marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot, and those signatures aren’t going to gather themselves. It will take a small army of people to do it, and they will have to gather significantly more than the required amount to calculate for ones that will be deemed invalid for various reasons.
Then, only after ballot access is achieved, does the next phase of the campaign begin, which involves promoting the initiative and convincing voters to vote for it. California will be one of the hardest states to do that in two ways. The first is that in a lot of people’s minds, marijuana is largely legal already via the state’s medical marijuana program. I am not one of those people, but I recognize that there are a lot of swing voters that feel that way, and believe that marijuana opponents will try to use that to their advantage.
The second is that California is the most expensive state to run a campaign in due to the size of the state, the huge population spread out into several different media markets, and the price to run ads in those media markets. When political analysts take into account how much a successful marijuana legalization campaign media effort would cost in California, they are always quick to say that a victory is far from certain, and that doesn’t even take into account all the other hurdles that a campaign will face.
Just because a campaign has a lot of money, doesn’t guarantee victory. Ohio 2015 was an example of that. Obviously, there aren’t any efforts in California that are as poorly written as the 2015 Ohio effort, but the point about money remains the same – money alone does not ensure an automatic victory. In order for California to legalize in 2016, people need to put visions of inevitability and guaranteed victory out of their heads. People need to instead put their heads down, and get to grinding. California needs to unite behind one solid effort, gather as many signatures as possible towards that effort, and if it results in ballot access, then push quality information and awareness to the very end. Anything short of that, and California will continue to be left on the outside looking in when it comes to recreational marijuana legalization.