Pubdate: Wed, 04 May 2016
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Los Angeles Times
Author: Patrick McGreevy


High- Profile Coalition Will Submit 600,000 Signatures to Give Voters 
a Chance to Legalize Marijuana.

SACRAMENTO - A measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 
California appears headed for the Nov. 8 ballot.

A coalition that includes former Facebook President Sean Parker on 
Tuesday said it had collected 600,000 signatures, more than enough to 
qualify the initiative.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and other supporters of the measure 
plan to kick off a campaign for voter approval of the Adult Use of 
Marijuana Act on Wednesday in San Francisco.

The measure would allow adults ages 21 and older to possess, 
transport and use up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational 
purposes and would allow individuals to grow as many as six plants.

"This November, California voters will finally have the opportunity 
to pass smart marijuana policy that is built on the best practices of 
other states, includes the strictest child protections in the nation 
and pays for itself while raising billions for the state," Newsom 
said in a statement.

The coalition, which includes some law enforcement and civil rights 
leaders, needed to collect 365,880 signatures of registered voters to 
qualify the initiative, which would also place a 15% tax on retail 
sales of the drug.

The use of marijuana in public and while driving would remain 
illegal. Parker, a billionaire who also cofounded the file-sharing 
service Napster, donated more than $ 1 million to the campaign to 
collect signatures and qualify the initiative.

If elections officials verify that the signatures turned in Wednesday 
are sufficient and voters approve the initiative, California would 
join Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon as states that allow 
recreational use of marijuana.

Opposition is already organizing behind groups such as Citizens 
Against Legalizing Marijuana, which formed to defeat a 2010 
legalization initiative that was rejected by 53% of voters.

"Marijuana is a very dangerous drug," said Scott Chipman, a San Diego 
businessman who is the Southern California chairman of the group. 
"The state has not proven it has the capacity or the will to properly 
regulate marijuana and so they won't."

The measure is also opposed by the California Police Chiefs Assn., in 
part, because of problems that have arisen in Colorado.

Ventura Police Chief Ken Corney, president of the association, said 
extremely potent marijuana is being sold in Colorado that he fears 
will lead to high addiction rates and high incidents of psychosis.

"This is bad for our communities. This is bad for our youth and it's 
a broad commercialization [ of drugs], a for-profit, money-making 
model," Corney said.

More than 55% of California voters allowed the use of marijuana for 
medical purposes in 1996 when they approved Proposition 215.

Despite the defeat of a 2010 legalization initiative, a poll last 
year by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 55% of 
likely voters in California favor full legalization.

"I'm excited to be a part of one of the largest coalitions of 
cannabis and noncannabis organizations to come together to push this 
initiative forward," said Nate Bradley, executive director of the 
California Cannabis Industry Assn.

Bradley, who backed the failed 2010 initiative, said voters have 
since "seen how well [ legalizing recreational use] has worked in 
other states."

Newsom, who is running for governor in 2018, formed a blue ribbon 
commission on marijuana policy that made recommendations, many of 
which were incorporated into the initiative.

The measure is supported by the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana 
Policy Project, California Cannabis Industry Assn., California 
Medical Assn. California NAACP, and the national Organization for the 
Reform of Marijuana Laws.

The medical association said in a statement that it supports the 
measure because "the most effective way to protect the public health 
is to tightly control, track and regulate marijuana and to 
comprehensively research and educate the public on its health 
impacts, not through ineffective prohibition."

Supporters hope to build on the momentum from the Legislature's 
action last year to set up regulations for the medical marijuana 
industry in California. The new initiative would expand on that, 
renaming the state Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation as the 
Bureau of Marijuana Control.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom