Pubdate: Thu, 05 May 2016
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Kurtis Alexander


The big names and deep pockets behind California's effort to legalize 
marijuana have paid off with a voter initiative that's almost certain 
to qualify for the November ballot.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, joined by leaders in law enforcement, public 
health and social justice, said Wednesday in San Francisco that 
enough signatures had been collected to put recreational pot up for a 
vote in this year's presidential election.

The broad array of marijuana proponents, marking the official launch 
of their statewide campaign, overcame the hurdles of competing 
priorities and scant funding, on top of general unease about the 
drug. They coalesced support behind the Adult Use of Marijuana Act - 
a consensus that past efforts to legalize cannibas have not enjoyed.

The ballot measure, similar to successful initiatives in Colorado and 
Washington, would allow those 21 and older to possess up to an ounce 
of marijuana and cultivate as many as six marijuana plants for personal use.

"This has been a 21/2-year process of inclusion," said Newsom, 
explaining that a working group has been trying to figure out the 
safest and most effective way to legalize the drug as well as win 
broad appeal for the effort. "We're not doing this lightly. We're 
doing this thoughtfully."

Newsom stood among a crowd of supporters at the Commonwealth Club 
that included University of San Francisco Hematology-Oncology Chief 
Donald Abrams, former Los Angeles Deputy Policy Chief Stephen Downing 
and California NAACP President Alice Huffman.

The common refrain was that the nation's war on drugs was failing 
children and impoverished communities.

"I can't think of a bigger waste of money than to try to control the 
private lives of adults," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington 
Beach (Orange County).

The ballot measure calls for the state to regulate marijuana 
cultivation and sales, expanding a package of rules signed into law 
last year that governs the state's 20-year-old medical marijuana 
trade. The current Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation would under 
the measure become the Bureau of Marijuana Control. Advertising 
limits and labeling requirements would be among the planned regulations.

The initiative would institute a 15 percent tax on retail sales, 
which supporters of the measure say would raise billions for those 
affected by the measure - from police agencies to drug education 
groups to environmental regulators.

Last year, the state's medical marijuana industry generated $2.7 
billion in sales, a figure that's estimated to grow to $6.4 billion 
in 2020 with legalization, according to ArcView, a marijuana investor group.

The compromises made in the crafting of the initiative, campaign 
officials, are likely to make the measure more palatable to voters 
than the state's last bid to legalize recreational pot. In 2010, 
Proposition 19 was rejected by 53.5 percent of Californians.

The campaign may also get a boost from polls showing growing public 
support for legalization. Four states now allow recreational pot and 
nearly a dozen are considering it.

Still, the initiative is not without opposition, with many pointing 
to issues of addiction and youth access.

"I think we need more to time to study the problems they're 
experiencing with marijuana in Colorado," said Ventura Police Chief 
Ken Corney, president of the California Police Chiefs Association.

Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, co-director of the Rand Drug Policy Research 
Center in Santa Monica, said the Adult Use of Marijuana Act goes a 
long way in addressing safety and health risks - much further than 
Proposition 19 - but still falls short on some fronts.

Guidlines for the potency of marijuana, regulations on edibles and 
plans for studying the impact of legalization remain unknowns, she said.

"We need to learn from some of the early experiments and make better 
policies," Pacula said. "California's initiative attempts to do this 
in some ways ... but there's a lot of those details that aren't fleshed out."

Other groups in California have pulled paperwork to put a 
legalization measure on the ballot this year as well, but only the 
Adult Use of Marijuana Act appears likely to qualify.

Campaign officials said they submitted more than 600,000 signatures 
to the secretary of state's office, far more than the 365,000 needed 
before the June 5 deadline.

Financial support for the campaign has been strong, with more than 
$2.5 million in contributions reported during the first three months 
of the year. Silicon Valley venture capitalist Sean Parker is the top donor.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom