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Marijuana legalization initiative headed for 2010 ballot, organizers say

Supporters of an initiative that would legalize marijuana in California say they have collected enough signatures to ensure that it will be on the November 2010 ballot.

The petition drive, which was run by a professional signature-gathering firm, collected more than 680,000 signatures, 57% more than the 433,971 valid signatures needed to put it on the ballot, said Richard Lee, the measure's main proponent.

"It was so easy to get them," Lee said. "People were so eager to sign."

The initiative would also allow cities and counties to adopt their own laws to allow marijuana to be grown and sold, and the localities could impose taxes on any aspect of marijuana production and sales. It would make it legal for adults over 21 years old to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and to grow it in a 25-square-foot area for personal use.

It is one of four initiatives circulating that aim to legalize marijuana use.

Lee, who owns Coffeeshop Blue Sky, Oaksterdam University and other pot-related businesses, said he has spent at least $1.1 million so far to put the measure before California voters. He said he expects the campaign to cost between $7 million and $20 million, depending on how much opponents spend. He said he hopes to raise most of that from marijuana legalization supporters across the country and he has already set up an Internet fundraising operation.

"We feel like we've done our part," he said.

Polls have shown that a majority of California voters support legalization. A Field Poll taken in mid-April found that 56% of voters in the state and 60% in Los Angeles County want to make legalize and tax pot as a way to help solve the state's fiscal crisis. In October, a poll taken by a nonpartisan firm for the Marijuana Policy Project found 54% support in the county.

A poll taken for the initiative's proponents by EMC Research, an opinion research firm in Seattle, found that 51% of likely voters supported it based on language similar to what will be on the ballot, but support increased to 54% when they were read a more general synopsis.

Some marijuana legalization advocates initially criticized Lee for moving forward with his measure, arguing that they would have a better chance in 2012, a presidential election year.

"I think things have turned our way so much that we have a good chance of winning without having to wait to 2012," Lee said. "This is the time to bring up the issue and talk about it. Who knows what will be going on in 2012?"

Lee said that the increasing acceptance of medical marijuana has changed the political dynamic. Since the Obama administration announced it would not prosecute medical marijuana providers or users who follow state law, hundreds of dispensaries have opened in California.

"Medical marijuana in California has been accepted as legalization in some ways by a lot of the population," he said, noting the widespread awareness that it is easy to get a doctor's recommendation to use it. "To me this is codifying what it happening."

Lee said he did not think that the backlash against dispensaries, which in many cases have flouted local laws by opening in neighborhoods, would have much effect on his campaign. "It's tough to say whether it's more good or bad," he said. "On one hand, you have your bad apples, on the other hand, it shows the need for better regulation."

-- John Hoeffel


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Comments () | Archives (92)

I could see a ton of problems related to enforcing the 25 foot square footage allowance for personal use... (who knew 25 sq ft was needed for one person's consumption?!... wink... wink), but it'll sure dent the profits of the mexican cartels... but for real reform, we need the federal govt to act.

It's about time! Legalize Now!

yes yes yes

Here who will oppose it; big pharma and alcohol co's. And the people who decry its evils will spill their cocktail on your shoes while they yell cause they haven't had their prozac yet.

Here's why it will pass; tax $. Expect it to go worldwide within two years, just like no-public-smoking. Thank you, land of soup and nuts.

I would be willing to pay taxes on legalized marijuana. And heavy taxes at that too. I doubt it would be more than what I pay "street value" now which averages to about $20 per gram. This would take money away from organized crime and into the coffers of the state treasury. I would be able to smoke responsibly in the comfort and privacy of my own home without the worry. Of course If I chose to drive while intoxicated I should be held responsible under the same DWI laws that exist. If I chose to go to work stoned, then I should be fired, just as any 'normal' adult drinks for fun but does not go to work drunk.

If I chose to go to school stoned, I will see the repercussions come end of the semester. And If I chose to illegally purchase marijuana for minors, I should be punished just like I would be with alcohol/tobacco.

And If I chose to just waste my life away and be stoned all day, well I would probably live in extreme poverty and a blurry haze of life and suffer the consequences of decision.

dude ....... um ......... nevermind

Good work Richard. You the man.

I'll be voting yes. Time to come out of the Dark Ages. We need the money. We need the relaxation.

i'm all for total legalization, but serious regulation is key to make sure dispenseries are not only paying their fair share to the state's coffers (i'd imagine that there are a lot of "cash" purchases), but also making sure that they are not buying pot from mexican cartels and further promoting the drug war in that country.

Three cheers!

Taking money out of the pockets of gangbangers! I hope it passes!


About time. Marijuana is much safer than alcohol and much less addictive or damaging to human health. Let responsible grown-ups decide how they want to spend their happy hour.

Sounds good on paper. But what will current small time dope dealers move to then? Meth, cocaine, black market booze, more kidnappings? And I guess Illegals will swarm the crops looking for work. Only in Ca.

It's about time! Stop this expensive and silly "war!" The only people winning the war are organized crime syndicates with the profits and government with the taxes devoted to a lost war. Legalize, tax, regulate, educate, and treat.

Prohibition never works.

FINALLY!! MAKE IT LEGAL AND TAX IT, THE COUNTRY WOULD BE OUT OF DEBT IN 6 Months!!!! It;s a friggin' plant for God's sake! God wanted it here or he never would have planted it! prosecute God!

Hmmm....I just looked at my watch and it's 4:20! Anyway, it's about time! Such a stupid prejudice against marijuana. It's such a pleasant past time and so relaxing. Oh yeah, I work 40 hours a week, own a beautiful home, have money in the bank and have never been late on a bill payment. Just your typical pothead...and that's the truth. I am your typical pothead. Those ads on tv showing pot smokers as losers still living at home. I had to leave home early because my mother is an alcoholic...I only WISH she had been a pothead instead of an incoherent, crazy drunk.

Cool article. One question. Was the reporter high when he wrote it or are those typos an attempt at humor. haha

I think it would be great way to generate income for California, the lottery didn't do it, making movies hasn't done it, this is a for sure thing!

Oh boy thousands more pot heads on the roads, good business for hospitals and funeral homes.

May God bless Richardd Lee. Bless you.

We really need this.

I have been seeing the same medical dr for the past 7 years.

Today I was informed that because I am a medical marijuana patient I can not be prescribed any pain medication.

This was at Cottonwood Medical Group Cottonwood, CA 530-347-4867.

In 7 years I have requested pain med's less then 10 times.

I am not being treated by a pain clinic.

My srcript is for PTSD and sever anxiety disorder, not for my back spasms.

I was given no piror warning to arrange medical care with another doctor until after I had been in severe pain for 6 weeks and only requested 21 Norco's.

I was never warned nor, asked too sign, nor did I sign any type of contract to not use medical marijuana.

I was an honest patient and shared the info when I was given the script years ago.

This came as a shock. I'm on my back in bed, in severe pain, having panic attacks as a result and the new dr can't see me until the 29th.

This is discrimination... It has to stop !

LA Times editorial board, we know you hate the idea of legal pot, but get behind this push, or you will be left in the dust.
We all know (all as in police, physicians, educators, thinking people..) that MJ is far safer than tobacco and alcohol, so get behind this common sense move. Help promote rational discussion so that we can get on with fixing the calamity that is our budget (ie, fix prop 13).

TAX Mary Jane! and help our Education and Health system. Specially for the POOR.

I dont smoke pot but I am sick of spending huge resources that have zero impact on stopping it. Time for a different approach.

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