Last weekend, California NORML hosted Cannabis in California: Ending the 100-Year War, an inspiring conference that brought together advocates from across the state, country, and even as far as New Zealand. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the event – California will almost surely see a statewide initiative in 2016 similar to those approved in Colorado and Washington, and it appears local and national activists and organizations will be unified in the effort to get it done.
On the first panel, California NORML Director Dale Gieringer explained how the California State Board of Pharmacy quietly pushed a ban on possession of “hemp, or loco-weed“ through the legislature in 1913 without it receiving any press or opposition. In contrast to that very quiet campaign to demonize and ban marijuana, reversing this failed policy will be very public, and it will undoubtedly face some opposition.
For an initiative to succeed in California, however, it’s important that the opposition doesn’t come from our base. Hence, it was particularly heartening to see so much unity at the conference and at an MPP-hosted strategy meeting on Thursday. Reform organizations, funders, and advocates overwhelmingly supported putting a marijuana regulation initiative on the next presidential ballot in 2016, rather than 2014 (when voter turnout is much less favorable) and working together to see it through. It will be some time before the details of any measure and campaign are hammered out. In the meantime, there appears to be widespread support for advancing statewide regulations on medical marijuana.
For those who are eager to start building support for 2016, we can look to the 2012 Colorado campaign’s “Talk It Up” project, which helped build support leading up to the election by encouraging people to start conversations about the issue with their friends, family members, and others. It’s these personal discussions that change people’s minds and make them more comfortable supporting an end to marijuana prohibition, so start talking it up today!