Leading California marijuana measure emerges
February 22, 2016
Aided by billionaire backers, a marijuana legalization measure has emerged as a likely candidate to appear on the November ballot in California. [LA Times]
Marijuana legalization advocates have filed more than 20 proposal for state ballot measures. Six of the initiatives have already failed to qualify for the ballot, and the backers of four other measures have effectively abandoned their campaigns.
Support is consolidating behind the proposed Adult Use of Marijuana Act, largely because the campaign has raised $2.25 million. Sean Parker, the co-founder of Napster and the former president of Facebook, has donated $1 million to the initiative. The campaign also received $500,000 from Drug Policy Action, which is backed by investor George Soros.
If passed by voters, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act would allow Californians 21 and older to use marijuana and to keep up to one ounce in their possession. The ballot measure would impose a 15 percent sales tax on marijuana, and it would prohibit pot advertising targeting minors.
The initiative also calls for state officials to regulate the cultivation, distribution and sale of recreational marijuana. The measure would also prohibit exporting marijuana out of California.
Following recent legislation on medical marijuana, cities and counties across the state have been adopting ordinances aimed at maintaining local control of medical pot issues. Several cities in San Luis Obispo County have passed bans on the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana.
The billionaire-backed initiative attempting to legalize recreational use of marijuana has also gained the endorsement of Gavin Newsom, California’s lieutenant governor and a leading candidate in the 2018 governor’s race. Newsom chaired a blue-ribbon commission that tried to determine the best way of legalizing recreational marijuana while limiting access to children, targeting illegal activity and regulating cultivation and sale of the drug.
Some of the supporters of competing legalization initiatives have switched allegiance to the leading measure. Others, however, are worried the financial interests behind the leading initiative could wipe out California’s small marijuana operations and create “big marijuana” or a “Phillip Morris of marijuana.”
A campaign needs 365,880 signatures for its initiative to qualify for the November ballot. If more than one marijuana legalization measure qualifies for the ballot, the initiative that receives the most votes will trump the others.
In 2010, California voters rejected a marijuana legalization initiative by a vote of 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent. But, a 2015 poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute found 53 percent of respondents supported legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes.
Thus far, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska are the only states to have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.