Jessica A. Levinson, an associate clinical professor for election laws and government political reform at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, says the two court rulings are not death blows for Prop. 215.
“It may have been watered down or eroded, but it still leaves jurisdictions some leeway” about brick-and-mortar stores and cultivation, she said. “It just gives them more discretion not to have them, and allows localities to make up their own minds.”
And, Levinson said, those issues may be pushed aside when California eventually considers statewide recreational marijuana use. “If you look at the demographics, I think this issue is only a matter of time,” she said. “Whatever happens to Prop. 215, it is not going to be the last proposition on the state ballot dealing with marijuana.”
Swerdlow said that’s where he has turned his energy. In 2012, he founded the Brownie Mary Democratic Club of Riverside County as an advocacy group for medical marijuana and marijuana legalization.
“It’s been chartered by Riverside County Democratic Central Committee,” Swerdlow said. “We are an official part of the Democratic Party. We now have clubs chartered in Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco.” The group went to the state Democratic convention in Los Angeles in March.
Swerdlow made the club a force to be reckoned with. The party for the first time endorsed marijuana legalization as part of its platform, calling on marijuana to be regulated and taxed similar to alcohol and tobacco.
“This is not a debate about stoners,” Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom told the convention. “You can be pro-regulation without being an advocate for drug use.”
Swerdlow said he wrote the original platform proposal — “they massaged the wording a bit from what I originally put in there,” but said he was pleased with the outcome. “It kind of sends a word to all the Democratic politicians who are on the fence. That might be enough to push them off the fence, on our side.”
It sounds like another uphill battle for Swerdlow.
Days before the platform language was considered, Gov. Brown talked about marijuana legalization on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“How many people can get stoned and still have a great state or nation?” Brown asked.
While elected Democrats distance themselves about marijuana legalization, Swerdlow said he was convinced what he called the “grass roots” of the party supports it. “I used to look at the Democratic Party and think they were Republican light,” Swerdlow said. But he now sees the party as “really progressive, and the Democratic Party, I believe, will end marijuana prohibition.”
Californians most recently rejected marijuana legalization and regulation in 2010 by voting down Prop. 19. Poll numbers since then have shown growing support for legalization, when it’s combined with government oversight.
Loyola Law School’s Levinson said voters should expect to see legalization for recreational marijuana in the form of a ballot initiative, rather than by the Legislature. “This is the type of issue we typically see through the initiative process in California.”