What should be clear to everyone is that legalization in California is now inevitable. There are multiple polls showing a clear majority of California voters back legalization and support is rising fast. In addition, marijuana reform groups like Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance proved in 2012 they have the knowledge, skills, and resources to get marijuana legalization initiatives approved. There is little doubt California will legalize marijuana by 2016 or 2018, the only real question question is whether it will be done by the initiative process or the state legislature.
Given the rules governing California initiatives, it’s uniquely important the California state legislature act preemptively
California is the only state with an unusual strong legislative tampering provision. Their constitution is the only one that prevents state legislature from on their own ever making even minor changes to a law approved by initiative.
Initiative groups have the option to include a provision that would completely or partially waive this protection. Of course, if the state legislature proves it is irrationally opposed to listening to the will of the electorate on marijuana reform, an initiative campaign may rightly be reluctant to give the legislature much or any flexibility.
This could create a suboptimal outcome. Given the possible conflicts with federal laws and natural growing pains of a new industry, unforeseen issues are almost guaranteed to come up. What would be best is a state legislature with desire and the ability to quickly fix any minor problems.
The California state legislature has a simple choice. They can listen to the electorate and craft their own legalization proposal, this would give them the ability to fully guide the process to make sure it functions smooth. Or they can let it go to the ballot and risk being almost completely cut out. Either way legalization is going to happen.
Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy