A measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use in California appears headed for the Nov. 8 ballot.
A coalition that includes former Facebook President Sean Parker on Tuesday said it has collected 600,000 signatures, more than enough to qualify the initiative.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and other supporters of the measure plan to kick off a campaign for voter approval of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act on Wednesday in San Francisco.
The measure would allow adults ages 21 and older 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.
"This November, California voters will finally have the opportunity to pass smart marijuana policy that is built on the best practices of other states, includes the strictest child protections in the nation and pays for itself while raising billions for the state," Newsom said in a statement.
The coalition, which includes some law enforcement and civil rights leaders, needed to collect 365,880 signatures of registered voters to qualify the initiative, which would also place a 15% tax on retail sales of the drug.
The use of marijuana in public and while driving would remain illegal. Parker, a billionaire who also co-founded the file-sharing service Napster, donated more than $1 million to the campaign to collect signatures and qualify the initiative.
If elections officials verify that the signatures turned in Wednesday are sufficient and voters approve the initiative, California would join Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon as states that allow recreational use of marijuana.
Opposition is already organizing behind groups such as Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana, which formed to defeat a 2010 legalization initiative that was rejected by 53% of voters.
"Marijuana is a very dangerous drug," said Scott Chipman, a San Diego businessman who is the Southern California chairman of the group. "The state has not proven it has the capacity or the will to properly regulate marijuana and so they won't."
The measure is also opposed by the California Police Chiefs Assn., in part, because of problems that have arisen in Colorado.
Ventura Police Chief Ken Corney, president of the association, said extremely potent marijuana is being sold in Colorado that he fears will lead to high addiction rates and high incidents of psychosis.
"This is bad for our communities. This is bad for our youth and it's a broad commercialization [of drugs], a for-profit, money-making model," Corney said.
More than 55% of California voters allowed the use of marijuana for medical purposes in 1996 when they approved Proposition 215.
Despite the defeat of a 2010 legalization initiative, a poll last year by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 55% of likely voters in California favor full legalization.
"I'm excited to be a part of one of the largest coalitions of cannabis and non-cannabis organizations to come together to push this initiative forward," said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Assn.
Bradley, who backed the failed 2010 initiative, said voters have since "seen how well [legalizing recreational use] has worked in other states."
Newsom, who is running for governor in 2018, formed a blue ribbon commission on marijuana policy that made recommendations, many of which were incorporated into the initiative.
The measure is supported by the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, California Cannabis Industry Assn., California Medical Assn. California NAACP, and the national Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
The medical association said in a statement that it supports the measure because "the most effective way to protect the public health is to tightly control, track and regulate marijuana and to comprehensively research and educate the public on its health impacts, not through ineffective prohibition."
Supporters hope to build on the momentum from the Legislature's action last year to set up regulations for the medical marijuana industry in California. The new initiative would expand on that, renaming the state Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation as the Bureau of Marijuana Control.
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