New York – Get Out and Vote “YES” On Proposition 1
Twenty-four states have a referendum allowing the electorate to vote on laws it suggests through petition. New York State is not one of these states. The only ballot initiatives that New Yorkers get to vote on are those suggested by the state legislature, a body not historically inclined to give us vox populi much air-time.
There’s one big exception to this rule—by law, every twenty years New Yorkers get to vote on whether to call a constitutional convention. A convention where citizens get some say in the shape of laws to come.
For such a progressive state in many regards, New York’s law-making system is an anachronism, a vestige of its founders’ bias formed under centuries of British monarchies. It’s a bias based on an abiding distrust and distain for the unwashed masses. The net-net? New Yorkers, from the rolling farmlands of the Mohawk Valley, to the re-awakening commercial centers of the Western Tier and down to the power-rich canyons of Manhattan, remain oddly shut-out from updating their legal fates for being governed.
This system, of course, is particularly problematic when it comes to keeping New York up with the rest of the country. When it comes to revising the seriously outdated laws around things like cannabis. If the rest of the country had the same system, the movement to legalize marijuana would have gone nowhere. In those states, we won our victories by bringing petitions directly from the people to the people, something we’re prevented from doing in New York State.
That’s where the unique quirk of our once-a-generation chance at holding a constitutional convention comes in. 2017 is one of those moments and this November 7th is one of those days where every adult New Yorker has a chance to mark a simple “YES” next to the ballot question of whether to hold a convention to revisit and revise New York State law.
A yes vote for calling a convention isn’t an automatic yes for legalizing marijuana in New York. But given the progressive nature of the electorate, it’s a fair certainty that coming out of the convention in the Spring of 2019, a cannabis legalization law would be put to the voters for a vote in November of 2019. And in a state like New York, given the chance, it’s a pretty sure thing legalization would pass and we’d finally abolish the regressive and punitive marijuana prohibition laws once and for all.
This all adds up to a crucial moment of truth coming this first Tuesday in November for New York and, arguably, for much of the country. Our antiquated electoral system aside, New York remains a bellwether state for America. Culturally, politically, socially and certainly economically, as goes New York, so goes America. As you might imagine, especially if you’re from here, this is crushing blow to our communal egos — to be such a follower and not a leader when it comes to drug policy reform and legalizing cannabis.
That can all start to change on November 7th. There’s a political momentum gathering here, and we’re feeling it in Brooklyn as much as in Buffalo and Binghamton. We’re feeling the gathering urge towards change on many fronts. Our activist colleagues across a range of progressive causes are recognizing the opportunty this convention presents, and they’re starting to join us in the ‘YES on Proposition 1’ fight. Their change missions align with ours. And ours couldn’t be more momentous – patient use of cannabis treatment, legal adult use of cannabis, and— important to some New Yorkers and non-New Yorkers alike—a commercial cannabis industry.
If you were here in New York these last few weeks, you’d get a feel for the buzz that’s gaining strength. A buzz for change. A chance to transform not just our archaic drug laws, but a chance to re-infuse New York with the immensely progressive sense of energy and opportunity it has always afforded its citizens.
As usual, there’s a catch, and like New York itself, it’s a big one. The New York State legislature and their aligned and entrenched political forces want nothing to do with any of this citizen expression and law-making powers stuff. Taking their cue from the Trumpian playbook’s defunding of marketing and outreach around open enrollment for American healthcare, they’ve done everything they can to suppress any public debate, discussion or promotion of this once-in-a-generation chance to have a say in how we govern ourselves here in the Empire State. Insidiously, they’ve slipped the actual initiative to the back of the ballot, a place few voters even think to look.
All this leads to one essential rally cry—if you care about building a more progressive future for New Yorkers when it comes to finally cancelling its criminally out-of-date cannabis prohibition laws, now’s the time to make some noise. Many of us were there for the great people of Alaska, California, Colorado, DC, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Now we need you to be there for us—with us. You know, like we know, the cannabis constituency will march in the snow, battle through hurricanes, crossing raging rivers to spread the word and then get out the vote. A vote that, in New York state just two short years from now, could finally and fully end the war on marijuana here.
By the time our friends and subscribers to Dope Magazine are reading this, we’ll have about three weeks left to wage and win this first and crucial battle for legal weed in New York. We don’t get another shot at it until 2037.
Make no mistake—this is about more than just being able to smoke a joint sitting on your porch in Westchester or saving your mom from debilitating pain as she recovers from cancer. And it’s more than the hundreds of millions—eventually billions—of dollars the cannabis industry will generate in the coming years for New York and America. This is about our fundamental rights as a free-thinking and self-governing population of citizens—even if that’s only every 20 years in NY.
We need your help, and we need it now. Please reach out to me at [email protected] to join the fight. Thanks, and party on good people …