Advocates have taken first steps toward getting marijuana legalization on the 2016 ballot in at least six states, with two more joining the growing list this week.
In Maine, advocates formed a political action committee to support their fight with proposed initiative language forthcoming, while a local Democratic activist in Mississippi submitted a nine-page proposed ballot measure with the state. Both efforts, launched Monday, join similar efforts underway in Arizona, California, Massachusetts and Nevada. The Marijuana Policy Project, which played an instrumental role in legalizing the drug in Colorado, has started or been involved with all but the Mississippi measure.
That effort—first reported in the Clarion-Ledger—was launched by Democratic activist Kelly Jacobs, who says the idea came out of a local political meeting. The party was considering ballot initiatives that would attract the state’s hundreds of thousands of unregistered voters to the polls and Jacobs proposed a legalization measure, an issue she felt her fellow Mississippians had strong feelings about. Her fellow Democrats didn’t bite, but Jacobs proceeded anyway.
“I suggested it and I’ve been suggesting it and nobody ever stepped forward to do it … so finally I just decided that I just have to do it,” she said.
If approved, her measure would amend the state constitution to legalize and tax the plant, with the funds primarily earmarked for public education. The filing, which has yet to be approved, is an early first step toward qualifying for the ballot in a state where even Jacobs admits legalization is a longshot.
She created a Facebook page to gather community input in late August and, more than 15 drafts later, turned in her nine-page proposal Monday. Along the way, Jacobs said she had to abandon her push to include pardons for low-level offenders because of advice she received from lawyers, she says. Another concern was over the measure’s lack of legal limits on possession, she said.
“People are just stuck on that, they’re stuck on it. And I say, well, what’s a wine cellar for?” Jacobs said. If the state doesn’t control how much alcohol or cigarettes one owns, why should they do the same to marijuana, she said.
The proposed ballot measure title reads as follows:
Shall there be an amendment to the Mississippi Constitution that legalizes and taxes cannabis and hemp 10% for adults, and adjusts penalties for cannabis abuse so that they are no more than those for alcohol abuse, and further requires that revenue raised annually by such tax be primarily credited for Mississippi Public Schools and Universities?
If approved, Jacobs and other volunteers will have to collect more than 100,000 certified signatures to qualify it for the ballot.
The same day she submitted her filing, the Maine Marijuana Policy Project created the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol political action committee. The next step will be to draft proposed language for a ballot measure and ideally begin collecting signatures in February or March, says MPP’s Maine Political Director David Boyer. While the details of a proposed measure have yet to be hashed out, it will likely match what’s been passed in Colorado and Washington, with allowances for personal cultivation, licenses for retail sales, a tax rate to be determined and hemp cultivation possibly being legalized as well, Boyer says.
“Colorado’s a good model to look at. Seems to be working pretty well there, even better than in Washington,” he says.