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Marijuana Legalization in California Races Toward Ballot

Marijuana Legalization in California Races Toward Ballot
File photo by Nanette Gonzalez for LA Weekly

Two initiatives that would fully legalize marijuana were approved for signature gathering ("circulation"), the California Secretary of State's office announced this week.

A would-be initiative by Americans for Policy Reform, backed by San Jose pot shop operator Dave Hodges, got the green light from the state to start gathering signatures. Also approved was a proposal from the Drug Policy Alliance. A third legalization submission got the thumbs up from the state way back in fall. A new, fourth player, the Cannabis Policy Reform Act of 2014, had yet to be approved for circulation.

However ...

... The Drug Policy Alliance resubmitted its language recently after "slight revisions based on outside input," the group's deputy executive director, Stephen Gutwillig, told us.

That would give the group a later deadline to turn in signatures, which would have been due later this month. Gutwillig said he expected the new language to be approved for signature-gathering in mid-February.

Likewise, the folks behind the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative 2014, the one that was approved in fall, resubmitted their language late last month.

Co-organizer Berton Duzy told us the idea was to "reset the clock" so that the group would have more time to raise money and gather signatures.

"We're coming up short on our Feb. 24 deadline" to turn in about 505,000 valid signatures from registered voters, he said.

Duzy explained that the deadline would allow for a hand count of signatures, if necessary. By going for the later deadline of April 18, however, the CCHI folks are doubling down:

Hand counts are out at that point, and they have to come up with 110 percent of the valid number of signatures necessary - 560,000 signatures or so - that are then validated quickly by random computer sampling.

It's a gamble. Duzy says:

You can buy extra time if you can get over a 110 percent of what you need. They will do a sample count, and if it comes up 110 percent, they quality you without a full count, which takes an extra two months. Otherwise it's a 2016 thing for us.

"We're going to just try to raise money" for signature-gathering, he said.

Americans for Policy Reform also got their language approved for circulation, the Secretary of State's office stated.

The group had to resubmit its proposed signature-gathering language after it got one word wrong on a previous version, which says those under 21 "may" not consume recreational weed. The correct word was "shall" not.

The new, fourth proposal by "pot cultuivation educator" Ed Rosenthal had yet to see its language approved for circulation.

Most if not all the initiatives aimed for the November ballot would ask you to approve alcohol-like regulation for recreational pot. Some would create regulatory agencies, while the CCHI would ask state alcohol authorities to take cannabis enforcement under their wings. Most ask for special taxes on weed (we haven't seek Rosenthal's proposal).

The state Attorney General's office said the proposals it has seen could save taxpayers $100 million in enforcement costs while also enriching the state budget with fresh taxes.

Organizers are trying to take advantage of both an increasingly accepting electorate and the hype seen over legalization in Colorado and Washington.

Polls show California voters would approve legalization if given another vote. A measure to fully legalize it in 2010 failed with 46 percent for, 54 percent against.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.


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