Direct democracy isn’t cheap in California.
Take marijuana. Ahead of each of the last several elections, advocates of all stripes have plopped down $200 to submit for the statewide ballot various unsuccessful proposals to legalize recreational marijuana, or regulate medical cannabis, the latter of which the Legislature finally came around to doing on its own.
With the 2016 election drawing near, no fewer than 17 proposals have been submitted for consideration, with at least 10 already receiving the cursory title and summary from the Attorney General’s Office. Aides to Kamala Harris have estimated the cost to prepare the measures for signature gathering at $8,500 apiece.
That puts the running tab to taxpayers at $85,000, plus whatever untold sums the Department of Finance and Legislative Analyst's Office spends to draft its perfunctory fiscal analysis. The attorney general is set to spend another $60,000 just for the remaining seven measures slotted for consideration.
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That’s enough to buy Phish tickets for the entire town of Garberville, with plenty left over for snacks.
The irony here is that few, if any, of the pot proposals in the current pipeline will receive enough financial backing to qualify for the ballot, let alone withstand expected withering attacks from law-enforcement types.
Some of the fiscal pain will soon be sated by a new law hiking the initiative filing fee tenfold, which may dissuade serial filers, but that still won’t cover the total tab.
Cheers, Hiram Johnson*
* Father of the state’s initiative process