Marijuana Legalization Backers to Take a Big First Step This Week

Marijuana Legalization Backers to Take a Big First Step This Week
File photo by Timothy Norris/L.A. Weekly

Backers of an initiative that would ask voters to legalize recreational marijuana in California plan to send their proposal to the Attorney General's office for approval this week.

Dale Gieringer, state coordinator of California NORML, which is part of a coalition behind the ReformCA initiative that would tax and regulate cannabis sales alcohol-style, says the language for circulation would be filed within a matter of "days."

Circulation language is the wording backers want to use to entice registered voters to sign petitions that would then be turned in to state officials. If enough valid signatures are turned in, the initiative would be approved to go before voters in the November 2016 election.

Gieringer says the proposed circulation language will likely be filed twice — once so that members of the public can see it and suggest changes, and a second time to reflect those changes.

The Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, the group behind the ReformCA effort, could have filed earlier but was waiting for legislators to pass a package of bills that would regulate medical marijuana sellers and growers, which they did earlier this month, Gieringer said.

"This has taken longer than we wanted," he said. 

Gov. Jerry Brown, whose office worked on the regulation package, was expected to sign the bills soon. They mandate that dispensaries must have both state and local licenses to operate.

The coalition wanted to shape its language, which offers to legalize small-scale pot possession for those 21 and older, so that the regulation bills would also apply to recreational sellers, Gieringer said.

The ReformCA initiative isn't the only one aiming for the November 2016 ballot, however.

Backers of the Marijuana Control, Legalization & Revenue Act have already filed its circulation language, which has been approved.

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Organizer Dave Hodges of the All American Cannabis Club in San Jose says backers will soak up feedback from the public and then submit updated circulation language for approval.

He says the initiative would not require local permits for recreational collectives. "It would provide another path for the legal adult-use market," he said.

Raising funds to get such measures on the ballot is difficult. It can take $3 million or more just hire signature gatherers.

The ReformCA initiative is expected to come up with the big bucks needed both to get such a matter on the ballot and to campaign for a yes vote. The coalition includes NORML, the Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project, and it has big-money donors on board.

Stay tuned.


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