Recreational Pot Legalization Gets Closer to the Ballot

Recreational Pot Legalization Gets Closer to the Ballot
File photo by Enrie Manrique/L.A. Weekly

Organizers of a voter initiative that aims to legalize recreational marijuana in California are a little closer to the November ballot.

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), which would allow those 21 and older to hold up to an ounce of weed without fear of prosecution, needs 365,880 signatures to make the ballot.

Those behind the effort indicate they're ready to turn in more than enough signatures to qualify in the weeks to come. The office of California's Attorney General recommends a turn-in date of April 26.

"We're in a good position," said AUMA spokesman Jason Kinney. "It's safe to say that we're going to turn in signatures very soon."

Although there have been several legalization proposals aiming for November, AUMA appears to be the only one with the money and organization to make it.

In fact, it's the only one that registered with the state Secretary of State's office to declare it had reached 25 percent of its required registered-voter signatures. It did so Feb. 4. The 25 percent declaration is required under California elections code so the Legislature can prepare for the possible change in law.

State records show that organizers have raised more than $3.2 million, including $1 million from key backer Sean Parker, a Silicon Valley billionaire. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California NAACP, national NORML and Drug Policy Action (the political arm of Drug Policy Alliance) are backing AUMA.

The next viable initiative effort, dubbed ReformCA, has essentially backed off in deference to AUMA's momentum and fundraising.

While $3.2 million is just about the right price to get 365,880 valid voter signatures in your pocket, organizers say there will be much more cash to come.

Lynne Lyman, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, says AUMA's expectation is to have raised at least $12 million by the time campaigning is well under way.

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"We're not worried at all about the money," Lyman told us. "We're ready to battle it out on the airwaves."

AUMA spokesman Kinney said, "We have confidence we will be well-funded and able to communicate our message to every corner of the state."

Opposition could come from the usual suspects — law-and-order organizations, such as police groups, Lyman said. 

While a statewide legalization effort failed in 2010, many in the marijuana world have high hopes for AUMA.

A recent poll found that about 60 percent of likely voters support the idea of fully legitimizing weed use, doctor's note or not. And presidential elections usually bring out more voters, which can translate to younger, more pot-friendly people at the polls.

Officials will have 30 days upon receipt of AUMA's signatures to certify that organizers have turned in enough valid endorsements to make the ballot. 

In the meantime, Lyman said she expects pro-AUMA campaigning to begin as early as next month.


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