Ex-Facebook President Sean Parker backs California pot initiative

Canna Care employee Joe Hough waters young marijuana plants at the medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento.

Canna Care employee Joe Hough waters young marijuana plants at the medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento.

(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

A coalition that includes former Facebook President Sean Parker on Monday proposed an initiative that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in California and place a 15% tax on retail sales of the drug.

Parker, a billionaire who also co-founded the file-sharing service Napster, plans to put millions of dollars behind the proposal, intended for the November 2016 ballot, according to those in the coalition.

“It’s very encouraging to see a vibrant community of activists … coming together around a sensible reform-based measure that protects children, gives law enforcement additional resources and establishes a strong regulatory framework for responsible adult use of marijuana — one that will yield economic benefits for all Californians,” Parker said in a statement.


Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom endorsed the proposal, calling it a “thoughtful measure” that aligns with the recommendations of a blue-ribbon commission he created to study the legalization issue.

Others endorsing the initiative drive include the Marijuana Policy Project, Drug Policy Alliance and the California Cannabis Industry Assn.

The measure is opposed by Paul Chabot, president of Coalition for a Drug Free California. “California can examine Colorado’s failed pot legalization experiment as reason enough to say just no in 2016,” said Chabot, a candidate for Congress.

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The measure would allow adults to possess, transport and use as much as an ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes and would allow individuals to grow as many as six plants. Use of marijuana in public and while driving would remain illegal.

The measure would also rename the state Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation as the Bureau of Marijuana Control.


“California has long been at the forefront of economic innovation and legal reform,” said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Assn.

Bradley said the involvement of Parker and other wealthy supporters, including WeedMaps app founder Justin Hartfield, would help ensure a robust campaign for the measure if it makes the ballot. In 2010, California voters rejected legalization of recreational marijuana use.

The Legislature’s recent approval of regulations for medical marijuana, legalized in 1996, might also give momentum to the new proposal, proponents say.

The official proponents of the measure are Michael Sutton, an environmental attorney, and Dr. Donald O. Lyman, a member of the California Medical Assn.

“The physician community and the people of California in general have increasingly voiced support for ending marijuana prohibition and bringing greater control, oversight and consumer protections to our marijuana policies,” Lyman said.


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