Voters in New York will decide tomorrow, November 7, whether or not to host a Constitutional Convention in 2019. If approved, Con Con (as it is known in some political circles) could become a platform for the statewide legalization of adult-use cannabis via an amendment to the state’s Constitution.
The combination of today’s political climate — where cannabis reforms are popular among voters but not lawmakers — and New York‘s status as a non-referendum state make this potentially the state’s best and fastest road to enacting cannabis reforms.
New York’s Con Con vote is held just every 20 years and is a rare opportunity for voters to directly influence and reform state laws. Here’s how it works: voters tomorrow will vote yes or no on Proposition 1. If successful, the Con Con process will begin in 2018 with the election of 204 delegates — three representing each of New York’s 63 senate districts, plus an additional 15 individuals from anywhere in the state. Anyone who has lived in the state for at least five years can run to be a delegate.
In April of 2019, the delegates would convene to debate issues facing the state and, if a popular consensus is reached, the delegates can then propose a constitutional amendment(s) to be put to a popular vote in the following general election.tat
It’s a long and complicated process, but — for a state that does not allow citizen petition initiatives — it is New York’s only chance at a grassroots legalization effort for the next 20 years.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” said Jerome Dewald, director of Cannabis4NY.org, in a phone interview with Ganjapreneur. Dewald said that, although legalization may not ultimately be embraced by the delegates of a potential 2019 Con Con (though it certainly could), there are other ways the convention could help, such as an amendment to make New York into a referendum state like Colorado, Washington, or any of the other states who have already embraced the end of cannabis prohibition.
“This is the tried-and-true method we have used over the last 21 years to reform marijuana laws in 29 states and Washington DC,” Dewald said. “Recent polls show that almost 80% of New York voters support this kind of constitutional amendment.”
There are currently eight states in the U.S. with cannabis legalization laws on the books, all of which were enacted following the popular approval of a citizen initiative. Just 24 states and the District of Columbia allow citizen initiatives — New York, and the majority of states located in the South and North East, do not.
A legalization proposal has only been approved by both of a state’s legislative bodies one time, in Vermont, but that measure was immediately vetoed by the governor.