Sniffing the horizon, last month Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom's Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy released a "roadmap" for legalization. Today Supervisor Scott Weiner is following suit at the city level, announcing that he will introduce legislation to form a Cannabis State Legalization Task Force.
"Within the next two years, use of cannabis is likely to be legal in California, and we need to be prepared with smart public health, zoning, and other local implementing regulations,” said the Supervisor in a press release. “If we don’t formulate these policies over the next year or two, we will end up having a chaotic fire drill after legalization occurs."
The Examiner notes that, as of now, there are three marijuana legalization initiatives gathering signatures in the petition stage. "The group most likely to mount a serious legalization effort is a coalition led by the Drug Policy Alliance and an outfit called Reform California," they report, but it hasn't drafted anything yet.
It's been a little while since 1996, when California was on the vanguard of cannabis legalization as the first state to approve medical marijuana use. At the time, San Francisco quickly became the first city in the nation to regulate pot dispensaries, which despite pushback, have largely flourished here.
But in past years, we've been leapfrogged by four states, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, all of whom have legalized recreational marijuana use for adults. Perhaps noting a recent Public Policy Institute of California poll that showed 55 percent of likely voters in strong support of full legalization, now local and state politicians are wrapping their heads — and their policies — around a pot-friendly future. What would happen, they genuinely seem ready to imagine, if recreational legalization were approved by Californians at the ballot ballot box as soon as November? Wiener and others would rather be safe than sorry with plenty of preparation.
Thus the Cannabis State Legalization Task Force, to comprise 19 members including "representatives from City Departments, the cannabis industry and consumers, local businesses, tourism and policy groups, nightlife advocates, public health advocates, and neighborhood associations." Not much word, by the way, on who he's looking for as "consumer" representatives, just that they will be "two individuals who use cannabis."
"By acting now to bring together a wide range of residents, businesses, advocates, and government leaders, we can flesh out the countless social, economic, land use and enforcement issues surrounding legalization, and we can propose thoughtful local approaches.” said Wiener.
The task force will meet at the end of this summer with one year to report back to the Board of Supervisors on "legal, social, land use, and enforcement issues that are likely to arise if the State adopts proposed legislation to legalize cannabis." As is the case with Newsom's group, the task force will remain agnostic, forming no opinion on whether or not legalization ought to occur.
It should be noted that a proactive task force created by Supervisor David Campos in 2010 proved of little use, as Californians rejected recreational marijuana that year. It's recommendations were not adopted by the Board of Supervisors.