Marijuana Legalization Initiative Headed For Ballot Today

Backers of a state marijuana initiative say they have enough signatures for it to qualify for the ballot, and that a green light will likely be announced today. The ballot measure would treat pot like alcohol -- allowing it for the over-21 set, taxing it and opening the door to cultivation for personal use. All this would be regardless of medical need or a doctor's recommendation.

Oakland pot shop owner Richard Lee has funded the drive to gather 690,000 signatures, which is more than the 434,000 needed. If approved for ballot placement, voters would get to make a decision on the measure in Novemeber. Polls indicate that a majority of California voters favor full legalization for the drug that is now legit only for medical patients with doctors' recommendations.

"This is a watershed moment in the decades-long struggle to end marijuana prohibition in this country," states Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Banning marijuana outright has been a disaster, fueling a massive, increasingly brutal underground economy, wasting billions in scarce law enforcement resources, and making criminals of countless law-abiding citizens. Elected officials haven't stopped these punitive, profligate policies. Now voters can bring the reality check of sensible marijuana regulation to California."

The law would allow people to possess one ounce or less of pot, and local cities and counties would be authorized to come up with their own rules regarding pot sales (hours, locations, etc.). Local governments could even ban pot sales, but they would not be able to enforce laws against otherwise-legal users and possessors.

"California led the way on medical marijuana with Prop 215 in 1996," states Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Now it's time again for California to lead the way in ending the follies of marijuana prohibition in favor of a responsible policy of tax and regulation."

Proponents point to a possible infusion of pot-tax revenue for the cash-strapped state as one reason to support the initiative.

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