Today: California Marijuana Legalization Initiative to Qualify for November Ballot

Press Release March 23, 2010
Media Contact

Stephen Gutwillig at 323-542-2606 or Tony Newman at 646-335-5384

Sacramento — Today, an initiative that would legalize personal marijuana possession and allow regulated sales of marijuana to adults will qualify for the state’s November general election ballot. A win at the ballot would be a first of its kind in U.S. history.

Oakland-based activists gathered 690,000 signatures, well over the 434,000 required to qualify. The initiative (which will receive its official proposition number this summer) is spearheaded by medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee, founder of Oaksterdam University, an organization that provides vocational training for the medical marijuana industry.

“This is a watershed moment in the decades-long struggle to end marijuana prohibition in this country,” said Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Banning marijuana outright has been a disaster, fueling a massive, increasingly brutal underground economy, wasting billions in scarce law enforcement resources, and making criminals of countless law-abiding citizens. Elected officials haven’t stopped these punitive, profligate policies. Now voters can bring the reality check of sensible marijuana regulation to California.”

If approved by voters, the initiative would decriminalize possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and older statewide and allow small-scale cultivation for personal consumption. It would also authorize local governments (cities and counties) to design and implement regulations for controlling sales of marijuana to adults within their jurisdictions. The initiative lets local authorities determine whether and how to license cultivators and distributors, set taxes and fees, and determine civil penalties for unauthorized activities. It also allows local governments to prohibit marijuana sales altogether; however, the provisions decriminalizing personal possession and cultivation would apply statewide.

The Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization working to end the war on drugs, has endorsed the initiative and pledged to support its passage. DPA secured the victory of Proposition 215, California’s first-in-the nation medical marijuana law, in 1996 and medical marijuana laws in eight other states thereafter. Medical marijuana is now legal in 14 states and the District of Columbia.

“California led the way on medical marijuana with Prop 215 in 1996,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Now it’s time again for California to lead the way in ending the follies of marijuana prohibition in favor of a responsible policy of tax and regulation.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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