California: The Next Cannabis Battleground

California battleground

The 2014 midterm elections have been a huge victory for the cannabis industry. All of the states that passed cannabis reform did so with well over 50 percent, even Florida’s failed Amendment 2 got 58 percent of the vote. As is the case with any political race, as soon as one ends another begins; cannabis reformers and prohibitionists have their sights on the next battleground state: California.

California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana and the first state to put recreational marijuana on the ballot. Although recreational marijuana failed to get approved by California voters, it set the stage for Washington and Colorado to follow. A green California would present huge opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs.

Tamar Todd of the Drug Policy Alliance spoke with KPCC, a radio station in California, about how the 2014 election has affected the California’s legalization movement and future reform efforts.  “I think what last night demonstrated is the huge, unprecedented momentum for marijuana law reform … . What I think we’ll see in California in 2016 is it will embrace the best elements [of reform] … and will marry those lessons to the specific needs and concerns of California.”

Sometimes, the benefit of not being first is that you get to see the mistakes of those who have gone before you. Colorado was able to steer clear of California’s failure to regulate medical marijuana when they legalized it; and maybe California will learn the lessons of Colorado and adopt stricter edible marijuana policies.

While California already has a lot of entrenched interests in the cannabis industry, recreational marijuana stands to expand it and give a little breathing room to an already crowded market. In 2010, when California had recreational marijuana on the ballot, the state government estimated that a recreational cannabis market would generate $1.4 billion in tax revenue.

If California legalizes recreational marijuana in 2016, it can easily become the largest cannabis market in the nation, not to mention the fact that there would be three marijuana states (California, Washington, and Oregon) with contiguous borders, giving a whole new meaning to “The Emerald Triangle.”

Don’t get too excited just yet. Marijuana advocates are not the only ones fired up by the 2014 elections. Speaking with CBS News, prominent marijuana opponent Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana called the 2014 election “a bit of a wake-up call before 2016,” and added, “This is going to make our side redouble our efforts to find donors who can put forth real money.” Apparently, having a billionaire financing your efforts is not enough.

At the moment, everything is in the preliminary stage for the 2016 election, but expect the race to heat up as we get closer to 2016. There is still groundwork to be done to prepare for the next election, which could be the biggest year ever for cannabis.

Despite the trend of cannabis reform, do not expect California to be a cakewalk. There are billions on the line and marijuana prohibitionists know that. This is going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight.

William Sumner, a freelance writer and marijuana journalist, was a staff writer for MJINews from May 2014 through February 2018. You can follow him on Twitter @W_Sumner.

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