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
The open-source style in which MCLR was created might have been headache inducing, but its proponents believe it will prove to be the key to the initiative's success on the 2014 ballot — in contrast with previous failed efforts at legalization.
As Hodges states, "In the case of Prop 19 in 2010, the message that was circulating — and the reason that it failed — was that everybody was saying, 'It's a bad law, but vote for it anyways,' because everybody just wanted to see legalization happen. In 2012, we had nine different initiatives all competing to be on the ballot, because everybody had their own view of how this had to happen and nobody was really trying to get everybody to work together. And then none of them ended up on the ballot."
These defeats in 2010 and 2012 led Hodges and his associates to the conclusion that the essential problem with legalization efforts was internal division across the movement, caused by respective groups disagreeing on language and prioritizing different aspects of the issue.
"When you do this process and combine so many perspectives, you see a lot of things that you wouldn't otherwise," Hodges explains. "And if there are any critics who come out and say this is a bad law, well, we've taken over a year to reach out to everybody. Anybody who hasn't responded doesn't really have an excuse at this point."
While the original document put forth by the AFPR a year ago stated simply that Californians should be free to smoke marijuana, its final form is a detailed set of regulations on how the drug ought to be sold, provided, and regulated. It also outlines new protections against issues, such as federal regulation, still complicating the movement toward legalization. The need for such a precise, comprehensive initiative was underscored by a recent California Supreme Court ruling, determining that individual cities are allowed to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, despite provisions established by Prop 215 in 1996 and reinforced by SB-420 in 2003 clearing the way for their operation.
"There were a lot of lessons to be learned from that Supreme Court ruling," Hodges says. "We learned that if we want this structured properly, we need to spell it out in very fine detail, to make sure that legally the courts can't come back and do something like this again."
He went on to explain the essence of the MCLR initiative. "The core of what we've done is create a bipartisan, independent cannabis commission that's going to regulate this, set up further detailed regulations, and adjust for anything in the future," he said. "Everything else is more basic structures around protections and limitations for businesses that could exist, and protections for the people who are currently using it."
Some of those "basic structures" proved especially important to the co-collaborators. They include enforcing laws against driving under the influence by testing a driver's impairment rather than testing the amount of THC in their bloodstream; prohibiting employers from firing employees simply for testing positive for marijuana; disregarding, in custody battles, whether one of the parents smokes; and establishing independent financial and insurance cooperatives for the cannabis and hemp industries, so that banking and insurance transactions may be done apart from the federal framework.
"Those are the little things that we would not have thought of, unless we'd been reaching out to individuals," Hodges states. "So it really is a much stronger document because we've been so open about it."
Once the document had been collaboratively shaped and vetted, AFPR took it to an attorney, who drafted it as legislation in preparation for submission to the Secretary of State.
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