Legalization advocates in New York State are one step closer to a statewide vote to end cannabis prohibition. Earlier this month the group Restrict & Regulate in New York State got its proposal certified by the New York Board of Elections.
That means New York State residents will vote on November 7, 2017, to approve or reject the organization of a state constitutional convention, which is one of the few mechanisms available to pass legalization outside of the state legislature.
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 1957, 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.
Below is a flow chart that lays out the process as it plays out in New York State.
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.