California was the first state to make a serious attempt to legalize marijuana. In 2010, Proposition 19 went down to defeat at the polls by six points.
In 2012, Colorado and Washington beat us to the punch, both legalizing the recreational use and possession of marijuana. But as attitudes and laws are changing across the country, many think 2014 could be the year that California legalizes marijuana for the masses.
Last month’s Field Poll showed for the first time a “clear majority” of Californians support legalization. More than half, 55%, think pot prohibition should end. That number has steadily been climbing from a low of 13% in 1969 when they first started asking the question, according to the LA Times.
Even the president has spoken out on marijuana laws, as the topic has become less taboo and far more necessary during the sweeping changes. About racial disparities and the effects of marijuana laws on poor Americans, the president said, “we should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.”
For the first time, the Department of Justice backed off state marijuana laws in 2013, when they announced their enforcement priorities didn’t involve cracking down on law-abiding citizens in states where medical or recreational pot laws conflicted with federal statute.
When Proposition 19 failed in 2010, many were convinced it was a sure thing. Polls had shown support for the measure and the entire country was watching. But the ballot measure failed 53 to 47%.
“I think there seems to be greater momentum for legalization across the country than there was even three years ago when Californian’s last voted on marijuana legalization,” said Mark DiCamillo with the Field Poll. “So with greater support now in our poll and with greater support evidenced in states around the country and from the president, there probably is a greater success here in California.”
Marijuana prohibition has reached a tipping point. In only the last three to five years, we’ve seen the landscape change dramatically in regards to pot prohibition. Now we are watching as states move closer and closer to all-out legalization and the feds take an increasingly passive role.
Many have argued that California’s efforts 4 years ago paved the way for Colorado and Washington’s successes 2 years later. The lessons of organization, strategy, and messaging were learned and applied there.
While there are some strategists who thing we should wait until 2016, most experts say legalization is inevitable.
The reasons have never been clearer. The Attorney General of Calfornia, Kamala Harris, released a study that showed the state would save hundreds of millions of dollars a year from both law enforcement savings, and tax gains.
Will California be next in the legalization trend this year? There is a good chance. If it makes it to the ballot in November, there is little doubt the public would support legalization now more than they did when it failed 4 years ago.