Voters will decide as recreational use of marijuana in California qualifies for 2016 November ballot

Voters in California to have recreational marijuana on November ballot

Voters in California support an initiative that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in California officially took its place on the Nov. 8 ballot on Tuesday as its campaign took a commanding lead in fundraising to battle the measure’s opponents.

Certified that a random sample of signatures from the 600,000 turned in were sufficient, the Secretary of State qualified 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.

Adults ages 21 and older would be allowed to possess, transport and use up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes and would allow individuals to grow as many as six plants for their personal consumption.

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.

Over $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. Contributors so far include former Facebook president Sean Parker, Drug Policy Action and a committee funded by Weedmaps, a company that has built their business by helping consumers locate marijuana dispensaries via their online directory.

Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies, leads the opponents who are trying to take down the initiative. Other groups against recreational cannabis include: the California Police Chiefs Association, the California Hospital Association and the California State Sheriffs’ Association. The groups warn legalization will lead to more people on cannabis and more drugged-driving incidents. They also warn that recreational legalization allows dealers of harder drugs to have a role in the new industry.

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

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

“This campaign will be very 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 responded 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 lets those felons 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.”

The facts contradict the concern

A recent report from the Drug Policy Alliance looked at the state of Washington after passing I-502, which allows for recreational cannabis.

Since adult possession of marijuana became legal eighteen months ago, the state has benefited from a dramatic decrease in marijuana arrests and convictions, as well as increased tax revenues. During the same period, the state has experienced a decrease in violent crime rates. In addition, rates of youth marijuana use and traffic fatalities have remained stable.

At a recent conference hosted by the National Cannabis Industry Association. in Oakland, business people and activists were upbeat about the chances of the initiative passing, even though a similar measure in 2010 was defeated, with 53% of voters casting “no” ballots.

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

It also helps that recreational use has already been approved in other states, Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association noted. She also went on to say that younger voters will turn out for the 2016 election which will also impact the vote.

“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 his 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.

“We think voters in California are ready to end marijuana prohibition and replace it with a more sensible system,” said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, which has about 200,000 supporters nationwide.

“We are moving to mobilize our supporters,” Tvert said. “There are folks throughout the country who recognize the importance of making marijuana legal in the largest state in the nation. There are a lot of folks who recognize that passage of these laws in other states will make it easier for their state to move forward.”

Tvert is confident this year’s measure will do better than past attempts.

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