WASHINGTON — As cannabis industry leaders gather in Washington, DC, to lobby the nation’s congressmen to relax federal laws prohibiting the sale and use of cannabis, medical marijuana and hemp, one group proposes a novel tactic to bypass the NY State legislature and legalize adult-use marijuana by a direct vote of the people in New York. Restrict & Regulate in NY State 2019 (RRNY) is holding a private briefing on Wednesday to explain the periodic mandatory vote in NY State on whether to hold a constitutional convention, or “ConCon.”
Not to be confused with a federal constitutional convention, New York is one of 15 states whose state constitutions require a periodic popular vote on holding a state constitutional convention. Thus on November 7, 2017, a sleepy off-year election, New Yorkers will go to the polls to find, buried at the bottom of the ballot, the question “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?” If they say “no,” the process will end. If they say “yes,” a two-year process will be triggered, culminating in a popular vote on changes to the NY state constitution proposed by a convention to be held in April 2019.
The last time NY voted yes on this question was 1967. Voters rejected this call in 1977 and 1997, but RRNY believes 2017 will be different. “The political and technological landscape is completely different today than it was 20 years ago,” said Josh Alper, one of the organizers of the briefing. “We live in an age of cellphones and social media, live-streaming and fake news. In 1997, the internet was only just taking off. In 1967, cellphones were barely imaginable.
“Our government, both in Washington and in Albany, is dysfunctional and unpopular, and in NY it is corrupt as well. The electoral college elected Trump but the people elected Clinton, and many inside and outside of our movement believe that establishment insiders rigged the primary system to deny Bernie Sanders an opportunity to run for President. The level of anger is palpable. The vote this November 7 in New York will be an early bellwether of what will come in 2018.”
“At the same time, use of cannabis has become mainstream. 56% of Americans say the use of marijuana is socially acceptable. Support for medical marijuana and hemp is through the roof. Our industry ran ballot initiatives in 9 states in 2016 and won 89% of them, and we bring millennials out to vote, largely because they find it shameful to keep people locked up and destroy their lives for doing something or possessing something that they see as harmless and commonplace. RRNY believes it is crystal clear that New Yorkers will turn out in much higher numbers than usual and they will vote to override the NY legislature on a number of issues, including cannabis, marijuana and hemp, by voting to have a state constitutional convention on November 7.”
The briefing will be led by Dr. Peter Galie, renowned scholar and author on the NY constitution, and followed by Ben Tulchin, pollster for Bernie Sanders in 2016. Dr. Galie will speak on the NYS Constitution, its history, the history of this mandatory ballot question in NY State and the results of previous NYS ConCons, while Tulchin will talk about how to shape campaign strategy using data-driven polling and social media.
The event is being held at The Phoenix Park Hotel in Washington, DC, on May 17, 2017. Seating is limited to 75. The event will be followed by Earl Blumenauer’s DC Comedy Night fundraiser (unrelated event, separate RSVP needed), featuring the Congressman and six of the Most Talented Members of Congress. For further information and tickets to the briefing, please visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/changing-the-ny-constitution-on-cannabis-nov-7-2017-nys-concon-ballot-question-tickets-34598139968.
News media, please direct-message RRNY on Twitter @LegalWeed4NY.