Stephen Gutwillig at (323) 542-2606 or Tommy McDonald at (646) 335-2242
SACRAMENTO — Oakland-based activists submitted 690,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office today, well over the 434,000 required to put a marijuana legalization initiative on the state’s general election ballot in November. The initiative is being spearheaded by medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee, founder of Oaksterdam University.
The announcement follows a historic vote on California’s landmark marijuana legalization bill (AB 390), which was approved by a committee of the State Assembly two weeks ago. That vote represented the first legislative consideration of marijuana regulation in American history.
“This marks the first time in California that proponents of a marijuana legalization initiative have gathered enough signatures to successfully put the question to voters,” said Stephen Gutwillig, California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “There’s simply no denying the intense groundswell for change.”
Last year for the first time ever in a statewide Field Poll, a majority of California voters — 56 percent — expressed support for legalizing and taxing marijuana, and an ABC News/Washington Post poll found 46 percent of Americans nationwide now favor legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use, more than double its level 12 years ago.
According to the Attorney General, 78,000 Californians were arrested for marijuana offenses in 2008. Nearly 80 percent of all arrests were for misdemeanor possession. Marijuana arrests in California increased nearly 30 percent since 2005 while arrests for all other controlled substances, and most violent crimes, fell. The Drug Policy Alliance estimates that current marijuana prohibition laws cost California’s criminal justice system hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The state Board of Equalization has estimated that regulating and taxing marijuana sales to adults would generate $1.4 billion in new revenue.