Authors of CA 2014 Cannabis Initiative: Most Comprehensive Effort Yet

The 2014 California Cannabis Hemp Initiative hopes to address the shortcomings that have made previous attempts to legalize marijuana unsuccessful.

Previous coverage outlined some of the ways the wording of the bill seeks to do this. However, that is not the extent of the challenges the CCHI will face, as insufficient funding and signature gathering kept the 2012 version of the initiative off the ballot.

In an interview, the two men who submitted the 2014 initiative, Michael Jolson and Berton Duzy, explain the challenges they face, as well as the logic behind the proposal.

What differentiates this proposal from those that have not passed in California?

Many of the other initiatives address some of the same issues addressed in CCHI. None of them addressed them all, so in that respect CCHI is the most comprehensive initiative ever released.

Many of the initiatives legalize industrial hemp, but most of them fall into what I call the “Monsanto trap.” Defining hemp with respect to psychoactive cannabis using THC limits and onerous regulation defeats the purpose of legalization.

For industrial hemp to reach its full potential, it must be allowed to flourish without the handcuffs currently practiced worldwide. These only serve to increase the cost of farming hemp to the point that it will never be profitable enough to do everything that it is capable of doing.

Just like medical marijuana has thousands of strains specifically grown for indicated purposes, Hemp can and should be grown the same way. Setting an arbitrary limit on THC content reduces the ability to develop strains in that manner.

Along those same lines, allowing Monsanto and other GE firms to patent strains and enforce the patents on unsuspecting farmers whose crops may be contaminated by GMO pollen would be disastrous to a hemp industry. GMO hemp remains illegal in California under CCHI and growing it would still be a felony under Sec. H&S 11358.

What challenges did you face with the 2012 initiative that lead to your inability to receive the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot?

Every activist seemed to have their own vision of what would work and offered their support only if we would modify CCHI to reflect more closely their visions.

Since these visions varied widely and often conflicted with each other, it was obvious that we were on our own. Since we didn’t have funding, we started recruiting volunteers to do a grassroots initiative.

The other camps grouped together according to their visions and we ended up with 6 different approaches to legalization all competing with each other.

How do you plan to overcome those obstacles?
For 2014 we have taken a two pronged approach to legalization. We still would like to get the funding since that is the easiest way to qualify, but in case we don’t, we are building on our statewide volunteer effort to proceed in any event.
Does the inclusion of use as a “euphoric product” create unique legalization challenges not faced by the industrial, medicinal and nutritional uses? If so why do you find the inclusion of that stipulation central to the initiative?

We have created a unique legalization situation for recreational ‘euphoric’ marijuana. We don’t think it’s fair that medicinal patients should be taxed, we don’t think food or industrial cannabis should be treated any different than any other crop, and finally, we don’t think that non-users should foot the bill for pot regulation and enforcement.

That leaves that recreational pot users, which is where most of the extra cost to the government will be incurred, should pay their way.

We expect that the revenue will far exceed the cost though, especially if California becomes a mecca for pot tourists like Amsterdam, and so we designated that half the proceeds go to kick start a California hemp industry and to expedite the study of medicinal cannabis.

Jolson and Duzy are confident in the text of the initiative, as the CCHI is the result of over two decades of work, originating in the 1990s. The CCHI is also known as the Jack Herer Initiative in honor of the late and revered marijuana activist who wrote and advocated the original.

Their hope is that the initiative addresses the concerns of those skeptical about marijuana legalization. Not only those who are patently against the drug, but also those who are in favor of using the plant, but fear the implications of legalization.

Jolson and Duzy believe the initiative provides the proper tax and legalization stipulations to prevent small marijuana farmers from being swallowed by larger farming corporations. They have also addressed concerns about drug testing and intoxicated driving.

CCHI does not have money akin to the amount Richard Lee used for the unsuccessful Proposition 19 in 2010. Gaining the funding to run a successful signature campaign will be the initiatives biggest challenge.