Numerous ballot measures and candidates will shape the future of cannabis in the state

David Downs, East Bay Express

The deadline to register to vote in the November 4 election is October 20, and cannabis activists are warning that progressives and young voters should not ignore the so-called "off-year" election. Voters in 2014 will, in effect, be deciding if they will continue to be denied access to medical marijuana and whether they will be getting recreational weed stores in 2016, said Ellen Komp, deputy director of California NORML. Candidates elected this November will be in charge when California likely legalizes pot in 2016.

As a result, each progressive, pro-cannabis vote is essential, Komp said. Voters who support access to cannabis can swing narrow races for city council, county supervisor, and county sheriff. Now is not the time to tune out.

Komp helped assemble a California NORML voter guide for the state, and said progressives have the potential to score big wins this off-year, thereby laying the groundwork for legalization in 2016 — if they vote, that is.

Props 46 and 47

Activists are urging a "yes" vote on Prop 47, which would reduce the penalty for possession of cannabis extracts, commonly called hash, from a felony to a misdemeanor. Prop 47 is sponsored by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and backed by state Senator Mark Leno, and its passage would signal that the state is fed up with mass incarceration. "Midterm elections are a forecast of things to come," said Dale Jones, who is working on legalization in 2016 as executive director of

Reformers also urge voters to vote "no" on Prop 46, which would mandate random drug-testing of all doctors in California. "It's chemical McCarthyism," Komp said.

California Attorney General

Incumbent Democrat Kamala Harris likely will coast to victory over Republican challenger Ron Gold. But it's pro-lifer Gold who endorses full legalization, while Harris has stood silent as federal agents terrorized thousands of medical marijuana patients during the three-year-old federal-state crackdown.


Pot law reformers are pushing hard for the election of Democratic candidate Betty Yee for state controller. Yee bested her primary opponent John Perez by just a few hundred votes. Now, the state Board of Equalization member is facing off against a "particularly terrible" anti-marijuana Republican, Ashley Swearengin, Komp noted. Swearengin is the mayor of Fresno, an area of the state that has enacted medical pot dispensary and cultivation bans. Out-of-state conservatives are propping up Swearengin in the hopes of gaining a toehold in the capitol, Komp said.

Seventh Congressional District

Rancho Cordova and Roseville patients and their allies have the chance to return incumbent freshman Democrat Ami Bera to Congress. Bera faces a serious challenge from Republican Doug Ose, who encouraged federal raids on patients and has attacked medical cannabis as a "sham."

Local Initiatives and Races

Last year, the state Supreme Court granted cities and counties sweeping power to completely roll back Proposition 215. With statewide regulations stalled, local politicians are shaping the face of medical marijuana in California and will control adult-use access after 2016. And at least twelve local initiatives on the November ballot across the state will define how folks can grow medical cannabis and where they can get it.

In the battleground of San Diego County, voters in the cities of Encinitas and La Mesa will cast ballots on Measure F and Measure J, respectively. The measures will lift bans on dispensaries, install regulations, and tax medical cannabis at 2.5 percent. That would be a major victory for patients in a region in which there isn't a single licensed dispensary and cannabis users are under siege, said Terrie Best of San Diego Americans for Safe Access.

In Santa Ana, reformers are backing Measure CC to regulate dispensaries, and are urging voters to vote "no" on the city-backed Measure BB, which would prohibit patients ages 18 to 21 from accessing medical cannabis and would ban pot clubs from almost the entire city.

In Santa Cruz, county and city officials hope to pass Measures K and L to tax medi-weed at 10 percent in the county and 7 percent in the city of Santa Cruz. The robust MMJ community has not filed arguments for or against Measures K and L.

Voters in the rural Northern California pot-growing counties of Butte, Lake, Nevada, and Shasta are all facing decisions over patients' rights to cultivate this year. Reformers are urging "yes" on B and "no" on A in Butte County, "yes" on O in Lake County, "yes" on S in Nevada County, and "no" on A in Shasta County.

In San Leandro, pro-cannabis candidate Victor Aguilar is seeking a spot on the city council. And San Leandro mayoral candidate Pauline Cutter is also courting the patient vote.

Don't know where your local candidates stand on patient's rights and smart drug policy? Ask them and share their answer, said Best.

"If you're not voting, you're part of the problem at this point," she added.