All together now

It takes a village — and a Google Doc — to legalize pot: California's Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2014, a new crowd-sourced legislation proposal

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The latest attempt to legalize marijuana in California took one step forward last week when a group of advocates filed a ballot initiative with the office of the Secretary of State.

Titled California's Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2014 (MCLR), the new marijuana legalization proposal is being floated by Americans for Policy Reform (AFPR). For the past year, the organization has made the draft initiative open to the public as an editable Google Doc for anyone to read, comment on, and even modify.

The next step is for the Secretary of State to evaluate the initiative and compose a title and summary. Only after that process, which could take up to two months, will the AFPR be free to begin collecting the 500,000 signatures it must amass in order to get the marijuana legalization act on the 2014 ballot.

Such a task may sound daunting, but AFPR members have already done some of the heavy lifting, having spent the past year soliciting thousands of individual Californians' input and support. The policy reform group even postponed an earlier submission target date to allow time for a statewide tour to gauge public opinion one last time before formally filing the proposed legislation. The initiative began as a grassroots, "open source" document to legalize cannabis for medical, industrial and adult social use.

"About a year ago, we held a cannabis conference in San Jose where we presented a document that was two paragraphs long and basically said, 'Marijuana should be legal and nobody should be sent to jail,'" recounts AFPR member Dave Hodges. "Then we put that document into a Google Doc and just started promoting it, telling everybody, 'If there's anything in it that you don't like, get in there — and change it yourself.'"

Hodges opened San Jose's first medical cannabis club in 2009, but wasn't drawn to the forefront in the fight for legalization until the death of a good friend a year and a half ago. His friend suffered from a condition caused by daily consumption of alcohol.

"About two weeks before he passed away, we were smoking a joint and the fucker had the balls to tell me: 'If this shit were legal, I would have never drank alcohol.' This is something I've believed in a lot, in general — but that was probably the thing that made me really get into it and not let go."

The AFPR has gone to great lengths to garner broad support and lay the groundwork for a strong coalition once the signature gathering process begins. In the past year, the policy reform group has reached out to attorneys, activists, and other members of the community, trying to include as many Californians as possible in shaping the MCLR initiative. They've also issued press releases and blasted the word out on social media.

The editable Google Doc upon which the proposal is based has been circulated to thousands of people, via e-mail lists. When someone posted a link to the document on the popular website Boing Boing, more than 1,000 people logged into it within 48 hours.

Hodges has personally sat down to meet face-to-face with more than 100 different people. Over time, the two-paragraph long Google Doc grew to a length of 24 pages.

"The process of creating it was a little bit of a nightmare," Hodges chuckles. "I've probably read that 24 pages a thousand times," a feat he admits could not have been accomplished without copious amounts of marijuana.

Nonetheless, he agrees with fellow proponent Bob Bowerman, who said, "This is the best cannabis initiative ever put together for California. It follows federal guidelines and regulates cannabis in a way that makes sense." Bowerman added, "It corrects the other legal mistakes."