Los Angeles attorney Bruce M. Margolin has been at the center of the marijuana rights movement for decades, defending people in court from overzealous prosecutions and fighting for medical marijuana.
But on a recent day in L.A., over the phone, Margolin sounded like a man in a war room. The topic: how to prevent the number of legalization measures bound for the November 2016 ballot from fracturing into as many as seven initiatives by disparate groups with different views and egos.
“We've been trying to get these people to combine into one initiative,” Margolin says. “But right now? That's a very big, long question mark. And if we have too many initiatives for the voters next year, that can water everything down and split the vote and kill the whole thing.”
Repeatedly interrupted by phone calls in the background on this very topic, Margolin says that he said as much not long ago to California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom — a supporter of legalized weed. “People say this is a shoo-in? Talk is cheap,” Margolin says.
“We have many groups with different points of view as to what the law should say, one, and different points of view about what the public will accept, two.”
His law firm recently sent the five key California sponsors who may be vying for a ballot spot a 23-page table detailing the legal comparisons between their ideas, “so we don't end up with something like Proposition D in Los Angeles, which has been a total mess,” Margolin explains.
He personally hopes that the five competing measures, currently known as the CBD Cannabis Act, Responsible Use Act, Jack Herer Initiative, Craft Cannabis Act and Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act, include the guaranteed freeing of people still in prison for nonviolent marijuana offenses, and the wiping clean of their records. “This is a must,” he says.
Margolin believes that the ReformCA coalition is the strongest base on which all the groups should come together to build the winning ballot measure, “but God only knows when even they are going to come up with ballot wording.”