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California Marijuana Legalization Initiative Fails

California Marijuana Legalization Initiative Fails
File photo by Timothy Norris for LA Weekly.

And then there was one. Pretty much.

One of two surviving initiatives that would ask voters to legalize recreational marijuana in California has failed to make the ballot, the Secretary of State's office says. The California Cannabis Hemp Initiative (CCHI) did not turn in enough qualified signatures. Two others have already dropped out of the running, leaving just one viable possibility, the Marijuana Control, Legalization & Revenue Act, it would seem.

See also: Legal Weed in California is "Dead as a Doornail" for 2014

CCHI spokesman and backer Berton Duzy told us it's not entirely over yet for 2014, but he sounded realistic when we spoke to him via phone:

"We'll go up against DPA [Drug Policy Alliance] and NORML in 2016," he said, "and try to get ours to qualify."

There's still a small chance for CCHI: Even though it didn't qualify, the group refiled paperwork so that it could begin gathering signatures anew. Duzy told us he expects the language for signature gathering to be approved by the state this week. 

Organizers would then have until April 18 to turn in a new set of signatures, although that deadline could be stretched by a few weeks in order to qualify for the November, 2014 ballot.

That's a tall order, especially considering that CCHI has nowhere near the $3 million in cash it takes to get professional signature gatherers on the streets. Duzy said the group has less than $100,000 on-hand.

"We'll have to have a million dollars to get it done by paid professionals by April 18, the last day to qualify, the last day to turn in signatures to make it to 2014," he told us. "If we didn't raise the money, then we could still try to qualify for 2016."

The last proposed initiative apparently standing, the Marijuana Control, Legalization & Revenue Act, is also looking at April 18, with basically none of that $3 million or so it would take to make the ballot.

Backer Dave Hodges told us, "We're still looking for a miracle."

By miracle he means an angel backer who can pretty much come up with all that cash to hire signature gatherers. It officially takes 504,760 valid signatures from registered voters to make it, though organizers usually turn in about 100,000 or so more just to be sure.

Hodges says the MCLR only has about 10,000 signatures right now.

He says that we shouldn't rule out a hail Mary save just yet, though. He notes that it happened with California's original medical marijuana law when wealthy supporters, including George Zimmer of Men's Warehouse, came through with the cash to get 1996's Prop. 215 on the ballot.

"It has happened before, and we're hoping it will happen again," he said. "It just takes one person to help make this happen."

California Marijuana Legalization Initiative Fails
Timothy Norris/LA Weekly

Last month the Drug Policy Alliance announced it was dropping its plans to gather signatures for a recreational legalization initiative, ostensibly to focus its considerable resources on 2016.

Many legalization supporters always liked 2016 better because it's a presidential election year, when turnout, especially among the young, will be greater.

Most of the proposed 2014 initiatives sought tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.

Marijuana author Ed Rosenthal announced his own proposed initiative just to counter the DPA's bid. When the DPA dropped out he told us he was out too. However, his paperwork had been filed, and the Secretary of State announced earlier this month that Rosenthal was clear to start gathering signatures if he so desired.

In any case, it looks more and more like longtime statewide political consultant Steve Maviglio was right when he told last month that the legalization of recreational pot in California was "dead as a doornail" for 2014.

Send feedback and tips to the author.Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.