_By Andrea Fasoli
The New York Constitutional Convention on November 7th, 2017 will be one for the books
Since last fall the entire nation and the world at large have witnessed an historic paradigm shift, in the long battle for the reform of marijuana laws as well as the single greatest victory for the legalization movement: 8 out of 9 ballot initiatives were passed and by the 1st quarter of 2018, experts have calculated that 1 in every 5 Americans will have access to recreational sales of cannabis!! Every legalization activist should be proud of this fact and even more so is the emboldening of an entire nation to finally start accepting a miraculous natural resource and begin to understand the infinite potential that it holds.
So far legislators in California, Nevada and Massachusetts, which are the largest markets for the new recreational states coming online, will have to learn from the success of Colorado and others to get it right, and make sure the citizens of their respective states will be able to reap the benefits of the Cannabis Industry, with an effective monitoring and taxation system that will make the public feel reassured about the quality of future cannabis goods being sold as well as a way for states to earn more funds for needed public programs. On top of that there need to be fair benchmarks for the licensing model, in order for these newly born markets to have a fair playing field and incentivize as many business participants as possible to enter the Cannabis space.
It is quite shocking that there is overwhelming evidence of the success of the recreational marijuana experiment in multiple states, as well as undeniable empirical data on the incredible medicinal properties that the cannabis plant possesses and yet, we see legislators, police officers, our current AG as well as doctors that still have the courage to say that marijuana legalization is a big mistake! You do not have to have a Ph.D. in statistics or medicine to understand that the numbers speak for themselves and that fear mongering will not trump facts.
I speculate that this incessant opposition and resistance towards nationwide legalization is a sad attempt at maintaining the status quo of big corporations, to keep making mind-boggling profits at the cost of many and hold their influence in our public offices. Prohibitionists are scared that other states will follow through and legalize Cannabis themselves after seeing the abysmal failure of the war on drugs and the unqualified success of taxing and regulating the substance instead of prohibiting it. That is why the Constitutional Convention in New York State this November 7th will be a historic moment for the nation and the world; because when the Empire State will legalize recreational Cannabis, it will be the final blow to the war on drugs and the reefer madness era.
When New Yorkers will cast their vote on November 7th, they will have the opportunity of initiating a 2-year process and in the year of 2018 delegates would be elected to attend this convention, and such individuals would be considered "temporary legislators" for the purpose of amending the State's Constitution. If the voters say YES on November 7th, it will grant the delegates unlimited powers to make needed changes to the constitution and this, by all means, presents a tremendous opportunity for legalization activists to see one of the most influential states of the union legalize the recreational of Cannabis and greatly improve the current crippled medical marijuana program!!
Once the delegates will be elected they will be able to attend the constitutional convention in 2019; the session will begin in April and will last for as long as the body of elected delegates will deem necessary. Once the drafted amendments will be brought forth then the political process will be given once again to the voters, to place the final decision on a 50% + 1 vote criteria to have the constitutional amendments implemented.
To make a long story short, in order to have amendments to the New York State Constitution, 3 different votes will be needed to be cast by the public:
- Voting to initiate the process of creating the Constitutional Convention in November 2017
- Voting to elect the delegates that will participate at the convention in the Spring of 2018
- Voting to approve the proposed constitutional amendments by 2019
There are many marijuana activist groups in the State of New York, including the Empire State NORML Chapter that will be keeping up the good fight in order to successfully reform the marijuana laws of New York State. Legalizing Cannabis in the State of New York will not be a walk in the park; there will be many battles to overcome between now and spring of 2019. One of the most active opposers of the convention is the organization of New York State United Teachers which has been very vocal about the threats they believe will manifest if the constitutional delegates will be given unlimited powers to modify New York State laws.
Once again for every debate, there will always be opposing views and for each organization/ group of people, including the different agendas they will pursue. The important aspect to always keep in mind is that at the end of the day voters will always have the final say in which legislators will be part of the convention and also whether the proposed amendments will be implemented. We cannot expect change to be perfect, though the current political situation in the Empire state has to change, and this convention will give the people a fighting chance to:
- Legalize Recreational Cannabis and greatly improve the Medical Marijuana Program
- Allow for future voter referendums/ ballot initiatives and not have a deadlocked process in the legislative body
The New York State Constitutional Convention will be a historic event, no matter which side of the debate you stand on, and let it be an important reminder that if the people decide to vote NO on November 7th, then this opportunity will not appear for another 20 YEARS!!
New Yorkers do the right thing and keep up the good fight.