California's Best Hope For Pot Legalization Delayed Until 2016

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Jay Brockman
Anyone hoping that California's ballot initiative process might finally deliver what most state residents and U.S. voters want--recreational marijuana---shouldn't hold their breath.

In an exclusive story leaked to the L.A Times on Sunday, a pro-legalization coalition led by Drug Policy Alliance said that it was delaying its much-vaunted Control, Regulate & Tax Marijuana Act until November 2016. If passed, the act would add California to the list of states that have legalized recreational marijuana use by adults. "The group was instrumental in legalizing recreational pot in Washington and Colorado and medical marijuana in Massachusetts in 2012, and it is supporting efforts in November to pass a recreational pot measure in Oregon and a medical cannabis measure in Florida," the Times reported.

In an interview with the Weekly, the Drug Policy Alliance's Stephen Gutwillig said that the coalition, which was financed by philanthropists George Soros and and the late Peter Lewis, had originally planned the iniative for the 2016 ballot. Because of the presidential election, Gutwillig said, "that's when you get the larger younger more progressive electorate." But late last year, he added, "the group decided to go for 2014, because "public opinion on this issue has evolved more rapidly in California than anyone had expected."

Indeed, electoral support for legalizing recreational use has skyrocketed in the past year, with more than 60 percent of Americans in favor of ending the war on weed. But unlike Colorado and Washington, California's elected leaders have failed to develop a functional system to regulate the state's largest cash crop, which remains mired in the underground economy, with perhaps half the harvest illegally exported instead of sold legally in California dispensaries.

Of course, legalization is firmly opposed by much of the state's governmental structure, most notably the League of California Cities and various state law enforcement lobbying organizations. Gutwillig said the Drug Policy Initiative plans to use the next two years to develop more political allies in Sacramento that can help combat the reefer madness.

Two other marijuana legalization ballot proposals--the California Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act and the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative--are still in the running, but most observers doubt either one has the financial backing to win enough signatures to get on this November's ballot.

Email: nschou@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @NickSchou. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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