Pubdate: Wed, 06 Apr 2016
Source: East Bay Express (CA)
Column: Legalization Nation
Copyright: 2016 East Bay Express
Author: David Downs


It Appears That Only One Flavor of Legalization Will Make the Ballot 
This November, and It Might Have a Strange Ally.

For those wondering what's going to happen with the crowded field of 
proposals to legalize cannabis in California this year, look no 
further than an independent source of information with boots on the 
ground: paid signature-gatherers. Thousands of these mercenaries have 
fanned out across the Golden State this April, earning an estimated 
$2.50 per signature to help place pot legalization on the ballot.

I ran into a man named Alan, a paid signature-gatherer from Vallejo, 
in the BART's Embarcadero Station last week. Alan said voters are 
ready to legalize it.

He didn't want to give me his last name because he didn't have his 
employer's permission to speak to the press, but the self-described 
veteran signature-gatherer of eight years - four California election 
cycles - had plenty of insight into how voters will lean this November.

Despite twenty-three different legalization proposals on file with 
the state, paid gatherers in California are now working on one 
initiative - the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). It's almost 
certain that the initiatives sponsors will file enough signatures to 
qualify it for the ballot by the state's final deadline, April 26.

Alan has been gathering signatures for AUMA for five weeks, focusing 
on BART stations in Oakland and San Francisco. "It's uncanny the 
amount of people that have signed this marijuana one," he said.

Alan said voters want to hear about the economic benefits and tax 
revenue legalization will create. "It's enormous," he said. AUMA "has 
the most pull" for voters, alongside proposals to help public schools 
and raise the minimum wage. He said AUMA will make the ballot "easily."

It comes down to simple dollars for paid signature gathering. "Every 
initiative that I've run since 2008 has gotten it. There's no 
petition that doesn't get on the ballot," he said.

The backers of AUMA have reported $3 million in campaign donations, 
including $500,000 on April 1. They've also certified to the state 
that they've collected 25 percent of the 365,880 total signatures 
they need. No other legalization group has matched this fundraising 
prowess or signature gathering goal.

Alan buries the AUMA initiative sixth in his stack of ballot 
propositions that he gets people to sign. He puts on top the 
initiative with the highest bounty per signature. Signatures fetch 
different bounties - the more controversial or late the initiative, 
the higher the signature bounty. AUMA isn't paying any special 
premium for signatures because it is not considered controversial, 
nor is it running late.

Alan's foot soldier-eye view squares with other data points. The 
Adult Use of Marijuana Act's rivals appear to be out of time and 
money. For example, the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue 
Act gained the last-minute support of Oakland author and celebrity 
pot grower Ed Rosenthal on March 25. Rosenthal called AUMA's flavor 
of legalization too strict and compared it to legalization in 
Washington versus Colorado.

"Don't be like Washington, let's be like Colorado. Sign and vote for 
MCLR," he told Legalization Nation. MCLR is hoping patients download, 
print, and mail in the needed 365,880 signatures by an April 20 
deadline (technically the deadline is April 26). But MCLR is running 
out of time, said Dave Hodges from the MCLR campaign. And MCLR has no 
cash to pay for last-minute gatherers.

"It's the cannabis community," he said. "It has a really hard time 
getting everything together."

Another rival initiative, the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative, is 
also using volunteer signature-gatherers, but it has not passed the 
25 percent signature threshold yet.

Eight of the other 23 pot legalization initiatives approved to 
circulate for this election have already failed to gather enough 
signatures by their 180-day deadline.

Assuming AUMA makes the ballot alone, professional pollster Ben 
Tulchin - whose Tulchin Research clients include Bernie Sanders - 
said that the odds for California legalization will be up from 50-50 
in November, to 55-45. And that's thanks to unlikely ally: The Donald.

"If Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee for president, which 
is the most likely outcome at this point, that will benefit 
progressive candidates and causes around the country as it would 
likely lead to the progressive base being very motivated and coming 
out to vote in large numbers while the conservative base would be 
dispirited," Tulchin wrote me in a statement Monday. "This dynamic 
would definitely benefit a marijuana legalization measure in California."

Alan is also bullish on AUMA passing. "I want to say that it's going 
to pass, which is my professional opinion," he said. Alan said even 
tepid supporters who decline to sign the petition are showing signs 
thy will vote for AUMA this fall. "They'll end up voting for it then 
as well because they're going to look at the revenue Colorado is 
making, they're going to look at the revenue Washington State is 
making, and Oregon."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom