|Graphic: Radical Rags|
Hey Golden State, are you ready to legalize weed?
Here’s your chance! California will be voting this November on whether to legalize and tax marijuana.
On Wednesday, Los Angeles County election officials must turn in their count of valid signatures collected in the county for the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act, reports John Hoeffel at the Los Angeles Times.
And that number is virtually sure to be enough to put the initiative over the top, qualifying it for the November ballot, according to a tally kept by state election officials.
The measure needs 433,971 valid signatures to qualify for November’s ballot. On Tuesday, it was just 15,000 short. Los Angeles County supporters gathered 142,246 signatures — making qualification for the ballot a virtual certainty.
California will once again become a focal point of the long-running battle over liberalizing the pot laws. Observers predict plenty of money will be spent, by both sides, in an attempt to either launch or stifle what many see as an inevitable national trend.
As Hoeffel notes, the cultural landscape has changed considerably since legalization was last on the California ballot in 1996, especially since the Obama Administration instructed federal drug agents to lay off patients and providers in states where medical pot is legal.
|California’s 2010 election: Be there, or be square.|
Recent polls have shown a slim majority of Californians favoring legalization.
A big selling point of the pro-legalization side of the argument is the vast amount of revenue that cash-strapped California cities and counties could reap if the state legalizes and taxes the herb.
“They already accept that it’s out there,” said Chris Lehane, a pro-legalization strategist. “They want to see a smart strategy.”
California’s 10-page initiative (PDF) would legalize possession, sharing and transport of up to an ounce of pot for personal use by adults 21 and older. Marijuana could be privately grown in spaces of up to 25 square feet.
Local governments, but not the state, could impose marijuana taxes to raise revenues. Cities and counties could authorize cultivation, transportation and sale of pot, and in a controversial provision, could also locally ban marijuana.
The initiative’s main backer, Richard Lee, has spent at least $1.3 million on the effort, according to the L.A. Times. Most of the money was spent on a professional signature-gathering effort. Lee has also assembled a crack team of campaign consultants including Lehane, a veteran of the Clinton Administration.
Lehane said the legalization campaign would include a major Internet component. “There’s the potential to raise significant online resources,” he said.
According to Lehane, the campaign will soon debut radio ads featuring former law enforcement officials.
Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance, pointed to the increase in misdemeanor marijuana arrests, which tripled between 1990 and 2008, as an urgent reason to legalize.
“It really is on a scale that we have never seen,” he said.