Pubdate: Tue, 15 Dec 2009
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Page: A - 19
Copyright: 2009 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Carla Marinucci, Chronicle Political Writer
Cited: The Tax & Regulate Cannabis Initiative
Cited: Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


SACRAMENTO -- Advocates of legalizing marijuana say they've collected 
more than enough signatures to have California voters decide next 
year whether to tax and regulate the drug.

The signatures in support of the Tax and Regulate Initiative, which 
would give local governments the authority to tax and regulate the 
sale of marijuana, will be submitted to state election officials 
early next year for verification.

Delaying the submission of signatures improves the chances that the 
measure will be on the ballot in November, said Richard Lee, the 
measure's chief supporter.

The petition drive collected more than 680,000 signatures in two 
months, less than half the time allowed for such a drive, said Lee, 
who owns two marijuana businesses in Oakland - Oaksterdam University 
and Coffeeshop Blue Sky.

The signature-gathering effort, which was managed by a professional 
firm and so far has cost more than $1 million, needs 433,971 valid 
signatures from registered voters to make the ballot, he said.

"It's long overdue," Lee said. "It was very easy. People were eager 
to sign. We heard they were ripping the petitions out of people's 
hands to do it."

He said supporters hope to raise $7 million to $20 million to pass 
the measure. Law enforcement groups, including a group of narcotics 
officers, are expected to oppose the measure if the initiative 
qualifies for the ballot.

Proponents of the initiative say it is similar to the regulation of 
alcohol and tobacco products. It would give local governments the 
power to tax and regulate sales of small amounts of marijuana to 
adults 21 and older.

The measure also calls for increasing penalties for providing 
marijuana to a minor and prohibits consumption of marijuana in 
public, smoking marijuana while minors are present and possession of 
marijuana on school grounds.

Supporters say studies from the Board of Equalization, California's 
tax regulator, suggest that taxing and regulating of marijuana could 
raise as much as $1.4 billion in annual revenue.

The possibility of raising such revenue in cash-strapped California, 
which faces a $22 billion budget deficit in the coming year, has 
sparked support from some surprising sources.

"This initiative is moral, sensible and the right thing to do," Rabbi 
Jeffrey Kahn of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, an effort by 
religious groups to ease drug laws, said Monday. "Regulating cannabis 
is a common-sense solution that puts our priorities in order and 
reflects our values."

A recent California Field Poll suggested that a majority of 
California voters, 56 percent, support the idea of legalizing and 
taxing cannabis. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake