You may have heard there's a push to legalize marijuana in California. You may not have heard that it's for real.
Voting ballots in California this November will contain an initiative to legalize, tax, and regulate the sale of marijuana to adults 21 and older, and while this may sound like something that has no chance, whatsoever, of ever becoming law, the thing is: it actually might.
The organized campaign around this initiative is called Tax Cannabis, and it's the brainchild of marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee. "Marijuana entrepreneur" sounds highly illegal, but, in California, where medical pot is sold unobstructed by the feds, it's not: Lee founded Oaksterdam University, a school that teaches how to grow marijuana and run a marijuana business, as chronicled by Josh Green in The Atlantic last April.
This was not, mind you, originally an effort of the national marijuana policy establishment, per se. According to conventional wisdom on initiatives like this one, 2012 would be a better year to dedicate resources to a marijuana legalization campaign: it's a presidential election year, and younger and marginal voters--voters who could be more sympathetic to legalizing pot--will come out to vote, whereas fewer people vote in the midterms. People who vote in midterms are more engaged in the process--if pollsters label respondents as "likely voters," then the midterm turnout is made up of are even likelier voters than the electorate in presidential years--the type of people who might not, typically, support an initiative like this one. So, much like in California's gay-marriage movement, there was some hesitation over whether 2010 was the right year to do this.