CCPR: Money is Stopping the Legalization of Cannabis in California

Cannabis and moneyThere is one problem preventing the legalization of cannabis in California, and it is not the Drug Enforcement Administration. It is money.

Budget issues were the deciding factor in determining whether to legalize cannabis in Colorado and Washington, rather than in California in 2012. Voters in all three States showed nearly identical support for reforming these laws, and each stood a chance, if voters could be educated and advocates coordinated.

But, the combined budgets of Colorado and Washington equaled the total expense of winning California, and with limited funds, the choice was easy.

Core organizers, groups, and funders joined forces in Co and WA to end cannabis prohibition in those States. Good news is, solidifying those two wins will makes the job easier (and less expensive) in all States that follow.

Cannabis law reform in California comes with a hefty price tag. It will cost more than $12 million dollars for a statewide initiative and even more to lobby the General Assembly for workable medical cannabis regulations. Surely, if advocates invest heavily in grassroots and professional lobby efforts now, they could end cannabis prohibition at the legislative level. This is the more cost effective path to legalization, way less expensive than an initiative, but this would still cost several million dollars to coordinate the sophisticated approach needed to succeed. Implementation will be costly, too, and advocates will need to build a war chest to make sure any new laws are enacted in a timely manner.

At the federal level, the pharmaceutical lobby has spent $2.3 billion dollars since 1989, and the private prison industry spends about $45 million a year. Cannabis reform groups have only spent a fraction of that amount, likely less than $500,000 a year on federal lobbying efforts. Reformers must invest in grassroots and professional lobby efforts to reach Congress, whose votes could end cannabis prohibition. By managing a professional lobby campaign, right now, advocates might even convince President Obama and Attorney General Holder to reschedule cannabis. This is most direct and least expensive path to cannabis legalization.

All of this money seems like a lot at first glance. But, “if each cannabis user would just donate a dollar, pot would be legal by now.” This has been a frequent reverie amongst activists, repeated countless times since the 1970’s. And, it is nearly unfathomable that, with more than 20 million regular users, marijuana is not legal already. Surely all those people can chip in to end cannabis prohibition.

Well, it is time to pay up. The final push to legalize cannabis in California is underway, and donations from consumers are essential.

Let’s do the math. With 1975 as the guideline year, inflation has turned one dollar into $4.20. After all, 1975 was a stellar year for reformers. Glaucoma sufferer Robert Randall received the first medical marijuana from the feds, the Alaska Supreme Court determined cannabis use was constitutionally legal, and Ohio decriminalized cannabis for adults. NORML was in full swing (still is), and “a dollar a pot smoker” was their office mantra.

If the 1.6 million Californians who used cannabis in the last 30 days would donate just $4.20 each by the end of 2013, advocates would have $6,700,000 to end cannabis prohibition.

If CCPR raises those funds, philanthropists and celebrities like Bill Maher will jump on board, matching with funds, connections, and enthusiasm. After all, from a financial standpoint, we would get this money back fast. California NORML predicts that a legalized cannabis market could bring more than 1.5 billion dollars in tax revenues to the State. Imagine all the cannabis businesses and nonprofit groups, and resulting jobs that will be created to develop this large of a tax base.

Cannabis consumers, it is time to commit, and donate a minimum of $4.20 each year to ending cannabis prohibition. 4:20, it’s time for change!

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