Update 9/1/17: Many New Yorkers have expressed their concerns over the method that this article posits of achieving legalization of cannabis, the constitutional convention. The concern is that this body could open much more than just cannabis laws to be altered, as basically anything is on the table from a political perspective. We understand why some New Yorkers may not support this as the right option for legalizing Cannabis in Florida, although we still believe that the story is worth coverage and we will continue to try and provide more in-depth analysis on the topic.
In New York, advocates of regulating cannabis like alcohol believe a constitutional convention could be their chance to do away with prohibition for good. The main organization involved, Restrict & Regulate in NY State, has raised over $600,000 and made it their mission to achieve this goal.
What this means for voters in New York is that on November 7th, 2017, they will have the opportunity to approve or reject the organization of a state constitutional convention, which is a mechanism available to pass legalization outside of the state legislature, as well as revisit other provisions of the state’s constitution.
In New York, according to Section 2 of Article XIX of the New York Constitution, the question to hold a constitutional convention is automatically placed on the statewide general election ballot every 20 years.
It started in the state in 1895 and was most recently on the ballot in 1997 when it was defeated 63-37%.
So far there are three issues that have been proposed as subjects for the constitutional convention. Prop. 1 deals with cannabis legalization. Prop. 2 addresses corruption, and Prop. 3 deals with the environment. Voters cast a yea or nay for each of those issues separately. If one of them passes, then a statewide constitutional convention would be called to address the issue.
From there, it’s still a long road to legalization. If voters call for a convention, state residents would then elect delegates in November 2018. The convention would be held in April 2019, and voters would then again vote on the proposed amendment(s) produced by the convention, in November 2019.
New York isn’t the only state that allows a constitutional convention. It’s actually a fairly common procedural option here in the United States—even if they don’t happen all that often.
A constitutional convention is a gathering of elected delegates who propose revisions and amendments to a state constitution, according to Ballotpedia. To date, 233 constitutional conventions to deliberate on state-level constitutions have been held in the United States, while 44 states have rules that govern how, in their state, a constitutional convention can be called.
States can have differences in their laws governing constitutional conventions. In some states, like New York, a ballot measure asks people to approve or disapprove of holding a convention automatically on the ballot every 10, or in some states (again, like New York), 20 years.
In other states, the state legislature can act to place on the ballot a question asking whether voters wish to call a convention.