Pubdate: Wed, 29 Jun 2016
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: Patrick McGreevy


SACRAMENTO - An initiative that would legalize the recreational use 
of marijuana in California qualified for the Nov. 8 ballot on Tuesday 
as its campaign took a commanding lead in fundraising to battle the 
measure's opponents.

The Secretary of State's Office certified that a random sample showed 
sufficient signatures among the 600,000 turned in to qualify the 
measure. The initiative is backed by a coalition that includes former 
Facebook President Sean Parker and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

"Today marks a fresh start for California as we prepare to replace 
the costly, harmful and ineffective system of prohibition with a 
safe, legal and responsible adult-use marijuana system that gets it 
right and completely pays for itself," said Jason Kinney, a spokesman 
for California's Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

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

Smoking marijuana would remain off-limits in places where tobacco use 
is prohibited, including restaurants, bars and other enclosed public places.

California would join Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon as 
states that allow recreational use of marijuana. Eight other states 
also have marijuana measures on their ballots this year.

More than $3.7 million has been raised so far by the leading campaign 
for the initiative, Californians to Control, Regulate and Tax Adult 
Use of Marijuana While Protecting Children. Leading contributors 
include Parker, legalization advocacy group Drug Policy Action and a 
committee funded by Weedmaps, a company that helps consumers locate pot shops.

Opposition is led by the Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies, 
made up of law enforcement and health groups including the California 
Police Chiefs Association, the California Hospital Association and 
the California State Sheriffs' Association. The groups warn 
legalization will lead to an increase in drugged driving and allow 
dealers of harder drugs to have a role in the new industry.

"The dangers of marijuana are pretty clear in terms of motorist 
safety, criminal activity, impacts on society," said Cory Salzillo, 
legislative director of the California State Sheriffs' Association. 
"We don't believe that decriminalization will upend the black market."

The coalition has raised about $125,000 so far from groups including 
the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs State PAC and the Los 
Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association.

A similar coalition helped defeat the last legalization measure in 
California, Proposition 19, in 2010.

"This campaign will very be similar to that of Proposition 19. They 
have the money and we have the facts," said Tim Rosales, a spokesman 
for the opposition coalition.

Rosales noted that under current law, convicted methamphetamine and 
heroin dealers are banned from being involved in the medical 
marijuana industry, but the initiative overturns that ban and would 
allow those felons to obtain licenses to sell recreational marijuana.

"The proponents were specifically advised by numerous law enforcement 
groups during the comment period about this huge flaw, but they 
deliberately chose to keep it in, and you have to ask 'Why?'" Rosales 
said. "Who is that provision for? They got it wrong. Again."

At a conference last week hosted by the National Cannabis Industry 
Association in Oakland, business people and activists were upbeat 
about the chances of the initiative passing, even though Proposition 
19 was defeated with 53 percent of voters casting "no" ballots.

Advocates say the new measure has a better chance because it adds 
more regulation at the state level and comes after the state has 
approved a regulatory system for medical marijuana growing, 
transportation and sales.

In addition, the presidential election is expected to draw more 
young, progressive voters than the 2010 midterm election, according 
to Taylor West, western deputy director of the National Cannabis 
Industry Association.

It also helps that recreational use has been approved in other 
states, she said.

"This is six years later. We've already seen legalization pass and be 
successful in other states. So it's a different world in talking 
about this issue than it was," said West.

West said "there needs to be real funding behind (the measure) and 
there needs to be a lot of work" to overcome opposition from law 
enforcement groups.

Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, is 
confident this year's measure will do better than past attempts.

"We think voters in California are ready to end marijuana prohibition 
and replace it with a more sensible system," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

McGreevy writes for the California News Group, publisher of the 
Union-Tribune and the L.A. Times.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom