California pot initiatives spark up

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

I see plenty of people getting excited about legalizing marijuana in California, but are there any ballot initiatives ready to go? Any you can recommend?

—Ivana B. Puffingwun

There are a few ready to go, but I am not sure they will have much of a chance. The folks behind the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative are trying (again) to get their initiative on the ballot. While I really like the language of their proposal (the tax on pot is really low, you would be able to grow an incredible amount of weed in your home and it would free people in jail for nonviolent cannabis crimes), I don’t think they have a chance. The CCHI has no money, and no real organization. Sigh.

The people working on the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act are crowdsourcing ideas for a new initiative (follow this link to see the initiative on a Google Doc: These folks tried to get something on the ballot in 2014. I wish them luck in 2016.

Cannabis advocate and superlawyer Omar Figueroa has started drumming up support for his California Cannabis Artisan Initiative ( It would seek to support “mom and pop” marijuana businesses and create “reasonable regulatory oversight by a newly created, elected, and highly transparent governmental agency subject to term limitations, the California Cannabis Commission, with the dual requirements to facilitate the safe access of medical cannabis for seriously ill Californians and also to ensure that Californians 21 years of age or older have access to cannabis for responsible adult use from open, transparent, and highly reliable sources.” This is a good and interesting idea.

ReformCA, a sort of supergroup composed of people from CA NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, Oaksterdam University, the NAACP, the Drug Policy Alliance and a few more folks, is working on the language for its initiative as we speak. These folks may have the best chance, seeing as they will probably have the most money to spend on a campaign. It costs about $20 million to get an initiative on the ballot and the ReformCA team are excellent fundraisers.

One of the challenges in California is that seemingly everyone has a different idea of what cannabis legalization should look like. Some people want it super controlled, like it was Sudafed or some other dangerous drug, and some people would like a way more liberal approach to marijuana legalization. I hope we can a find a workable, passable balance. Also, people seem to think that marijuana legalization in California is inevitable, so the fervor and passion of previous campaigns hasn’t really started yet.

Maybe we should just do what Texas Representative David Simpson has proposed: he recently filed a bill with the Texas legislature that would simply remove any law prohibiting marijuana from the books. Seems simple enough to me. Of course, if that happened, errybody and their momma would start a weed farm, but so what? I feel like we should grow weed everywhere anyway. It’s good for the planet.