Weed backers target 2016 ballot

The Marijuana Policy Project, a national group that seeks to legalize recreational marijuana use, says it intends to put the issue before California voters on the 2016 general election ballot.

“A diverse coalition of activists, organizations, businesses, and community leaders will be joining together in coming months to draft the most effective and viable proposal possible,” MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia said in a statement. Use Google His group successfully backed legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington. California voters earlier rejected an attempt to legalize marijuana.

A Field Poll conducted last December found 55 percent of California voters favored legalizing recreational marijuana use and cultivation.

This year, MPP worked to put the issue on fall ballots in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. The group says it seeks to end marijuana prohibition in 17 states and Washington, D.C. by 2019.

The group’s decision to file a committee with California Secretary of State Debra Bowen on Wednesday means it may start raising funds to help finance signature gathering and qualify the measure in California.

A Field Poll conducted last December found 55 percent of California voters favored legalizing recreational marijuana use and cultivation, an all-time high since the poll began tracking the public’s opinion on the issue in 1969), but the state voted against doing just that in 2010 midterm elections with Proposition 19.

“Public opinion has been evolving nationwide when it comes to marijuana policy, and Californians have always been ahead of the curve,” Kampia says.

Actually, in California, the signals have been mixed.

Home to a lucrative underground marijuana industry that generates at least hundreds of millions of dollars annually, California was the first state to legalize medicinal marijuana use back in 1996.

But since then, state lawmakers haven’t been able to develop a coherent set of regulations for the industry, essentially rendering the market untraceable.

“Marijuana is an objectively less harmful substance than alcohol, and that’s how it needs to be treated,” Kampia said. “Regulating and taxing marijuana similarly to alcohol just makes sense.”

Two bills this year, one sponsored by law enforcement, failed to get through the state Legislature although they indicated a change in the perception of the marijuana industry by its most long-standing, rigorous opponents.

Currently two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized recreational marijuana use, with the support of the MPP.

The group said it would be part of a larger coalition seeking to pass a measure in California that’s similar to the measure Colorado voters approved in the 2012 general election.

Several proposed initiatives were aimed at the fall ballot this year, but they failed to qualify. The biggest funders in the efforts to repeal the prohibitions on pot – like MPP – pulled their support, saying the higher the Democratic turnout, the better the chances for approval. The November 2016 general election includes the presidential election and is likely to have a high turnout from both major parties.

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