Pubdate: Tue, 13 Nov 2012
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2012 The Press Democrat
Author: Paul Payne


North Coast marijuana advocates are buzzing about the historic
elections in Colorado and Washington where voters legalized marijuana
for recreational purposes.

They say they're hopeful Californians will be persuaded to take a
similar step when they see how the two western states benefit over the
next few years.

Call it a contact high of sorts.

"Legalization of cannabis has been essentially green-lighted to go
forward in California," said Santa Rosa attorney Joe Rogoway, who is
part of a grassroots effort to make pot legal. "It's no longer a
question of 'if' but of 'when'."

Rogoway isn't the only person who's giddy at the prospect of ending
California's marijuana prohibition.

Supporters everywhere are anticipating a domino effect from the
unprecedented vote -- which allows Colorado and Washington residents
21 and older to possess up to an ounce of pot and establishes future
regulatory plans for retail sales, production and distribution.

Many believe California's time will come in 2016 -- the next election
when a large number of young voters will go to the polls.

Aaron Smith, a former Santa Rosa resident and executive director of
the National Cannabis Industry Association, said people will be
convinced it's the right thing to do when they see millions of dollars
in tax revenue roll into Colorado and Washington.

As an anticipated windfall is spent on things like schools and roads,
sentiment in California should grow strongly in favor of legalization,
Smith said.

"We are in a completely different landscape now after what happened in
Colorado and Washington," Smith said. "Support is growing

But uncertainties remain, including the fact that marijuana remains
illegal under federal law. The Justice Department has not said whether
it will block the new laws in Colorado and Washington but indicated
its continued opposition.

And some question whether Californians really want to legalize pot.
The idea was rejected by voters in 2010 and there's been nothing to
indicate a change in that thinking, said Paul Armentano, deputy
director of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Polling would need to show 60 percent in support to attract major
financial backers needed to get a measure on the ballot and ensure
ballot-box success, he said.

Before ill-fated Proposition 19, polls showed about 52 percent favored
legalization, Armentano said.

The measure, which cost backers $3.5 million, lost with about 46
percent of the vote.

"There's a limited universe of money men," said Armentano. "Nobody
likes to back a losing campaign."

As it stands, state law allows people with doctor recommendations to
possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana.

Sonoma County allows qualified patients to have up to three pounds of
processed bud and as many as 30 plants.

However, the medical requirement could be lifted if voters like what
they see in Colorado and Washington. Armentano put California on a
short list of a half-dozen states that might pursue the next
legalization measure.

"It's hard to convince Californians to change," he said. "They are
comfortable right now. Maybe when they look at Colorado and
Washington, they will say it can be better."

Others believe that's exactly what is going to happen.

Rogoway said voters will be swayed by the financial benefits. Also, he
said drafters of the next measure will correct mistakes of the past
and offer a single initiative instead of multiple proposals.

Smith said celebrity donors are starting to emerge. Money from
industry sources in Colorado and Washington could fuel the campaign,
which would be timed to the election with younger voters.

"We've shown it's possible to pass these sorts of measures in states
like Colorado, which is generally more conservative," Smith said. "The
time will be ripe for California in 2016."
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