Pubdate: Sat, 28 May 2016
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Orange County Register
Author: Brooke Edwards Staggs


The signatures are still being tallied and verified, but an 
initiative aimed at legalizing recreational use of cannabis in 
California is on track to easily qualify for the ballot this November.

Early secretary of state reports show the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, 
which is backed by Silicon Valley billionaire Sean Parker, submitted 
more than the needed 365,880 signatures just in Southern California. 
And more than three-quarters of the signatures sampled from counties 
that have completed the verification process - 15 out of 58 - have 
been deemed valid. In all, some 600,000 petition signatures were 
submitted earlier this month.

"Our measure is blessed with an enthusiastic and active base of 
support, so signature gathering has been robust and relatively 
cost-effective," campaign spokesman Jason Kinney said. "In other 
words, we're right where we want to be."

It may be a foregone conclusion that legalization will be on the 
ballot, but it's not a sure thing that voters on Nov. 8 will give 
adults a green light to use marijuana.

A growing number of public safety groups are speaking out against 
legalization. And there's still division over the complex initiative 
among members of the state's diverse marijuana industry, which has 
taken root over the 20 years since use of medical cannabis was legalized.

That means Californians can expect to hear a lot about pot over the 
next six months, as backers and detractors ratchet up their campaigns.


The push to legalize adult use of marijuana this year in California 
has included no fewer than 19 initiatives. Most never gathered a 
single signature, and none reached 25 percent of the signatures 
needed to get on the statewide ballot except the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

Los Angeles County led the pack in supporting the initiative, 
contributing 35 percent of the submitted signatures, according to 
figures reported to the secretary of state.

San Diego County added 57,660 signatures - more than twice the number 
collected in Orange County. While the counties are similar in size, 
San Diego is a bit more blue, with 62 percent of voters there 
registered as Democrats or undeclared vs. 55 percent of Orange County voters.

Also surpassing Orange County with more than 26,000 signatures each 
were smaller Riverside and San Bernardino counties, where proponents 
set up a booth at High Times Cannabis Cup festival in April.

The act continues to gather a range of political support, including 
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the 
California Medical Association and U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, 
R-Costa Mesa, who recently acknowledged his own use of topical 
medical marijuana to treat arthritis.

"As a Republican who believes in individual freedom, limited 
government and states' rights, I believe that it's time for 
California to lead the nation and create a safe, legal system for the 
responsible adult use of marijuana," Rohrabacher said.

Even presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, during rallies throughout 
the state this week, said he'd vote for the initiative if he could.

Backers of the measure also are gathering far more campaign cash. 
More than $3.5 million has been raised just to get the initiative on 
the ballot.

Lynne Lyman, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit 
that advocates for drug law reform and has donated $750,000, said she 
expects they will raise between $10 million and $20 million by Nov. 8.

The 600,000 signatures submitted by legalization proponents earlier 
this month are being randomly checked in each county.

Signers who aren't registered to vote, signatures that don't match or 
addresses that don't correspond with state records are the leading 
reasons for signatures being found invalid, according to Orange 
County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley, whose office is still 
sampling signatures collected here.

If the current 77 percent validity rate continues, the measure would 
have roughly 462,000 qualifying signatures, or 26 percent more than 
required to make the ballot.


Critics and some medical marijuana advocates believe voter approval 
of the proposed measure is not assured  or necessarily the best 
approach to legalization.

"I'm very confident saying that the majority of Californians are 
ready for an end to prohibition," said Hezekiah Allen, executive 
director of the California Growers Association, a coalition of 550 
cannabis businesses. "It's been a costly failure."

But he said questions remain about what may lurk in the details of 
the dense, 62-page Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

In a policy meeting of his association this week, Allen said members 
were "no where near" having a unified position on the initiative, 
with some voicing concerns over how both medical marijuana patients 
and small businesses might be swallowed up by the proposed new 
legalized, recreational pot industry.

"I think there are a lot of folks in the community that think we 
could have done a better job" in crafting the ballot measure, Allen said.

Then there's the opposition campaign. A committee of activists who 
fought legalization in 2010 has collected $60,000 largely from law 
enforcement and health groups who cite safety concerns. In addition, 
the Teamsters union is objecting to provisions of the initiative that 
would regulate the transportation and delivery of legal pot.

The California Association of Highway Patrolmen also registered its 
opposition this week. President Doug Villars said legalization "will 
make California's highways and roads more dangerous."

However, Kinney, a political consultant who helped Newsom become 
lieutenant governor, points to recent polling, which shows 6 in 10 
voters favor regulating the drug for recreational use. He said 
legalizing recreational use of pot is "working in other states, and 
that's what the Adult Use of Marijuana Act represents."

Also predicting success is Anna Boyce, a retired Mission Viejo nurse, 
who coauthored California's medical marijuana law 20 years ago after 
seeing it help her late husband in his battle with cancer.

Though she's never tried pot and doesn't particularly like the idea 
of recreational use, Boyce said she believes legalizing it will 
finally take away the drug's stigma and give medical marijuana 
patients the access they need.

"If it's the only way that we can get some success, some assistance," 
she said, "I'm going to have to vote for it."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom