Pro-pot activists file ballot measure with AG

July 29, 2009 12:01:49 AM PDT
Marijuana activists say it is time to let voters decide whether to make pot legal in California. Tuesday, they took the first stop to put the issue on the ballot.

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This may be the perfect storm for marijuana legalization. Public sentiment appears to favor making pot legal and the state desperately needs new sources of revenue.

If Richard Lee gets his way, a 25-square foot plot of marijuana plants at your home would be legal -- as long as it is for personal use. So would possession of up to an ounce of pot for adults 21 and over.

"I believe in democracy and I think it's time for a debate," Lee said.

Lee is founder and president of Oakland's Oaksterdam University, a trade school for the medical marijuana industry.

Lee filed paperwork Tuesday that would put the pot legalization issue on the November 2010 ballot.

"Cannabis doesn't kill you; alcohol, we have overdose deaths ever year, alcohol causes violence, cannabis does neither of those so citizens have the right to choose a less dangerous substance," Lee said.

Pot activists also say by making pot legal, the state could then tax it, which could bring in nearly $1.4 billion a year.

Even so, former San Francisco Police Chief Tony Ribera says legalizing marijuana is a bad idea.

"It compromises your ability to drive a car, it compromises your behavior; of course you can make comparisons to alcohol but again, I'm not arguing here that alcohol is a good thing," Ribera said.

According to a recent field poll, 56 percent of California voters support legalizing and taxing marijuana. Even the governor has said it is time to debate the issue.

"I think all of those ideas of creating extra revenues, I'm always for an open debate on it," Schwarzenegger said.

Pot activists need more than 400,000 signatures for the issue to qualify for the November 2010 ballot. They say they will start collecting them in September.

"I think we're doing the public a good service by giving them a chance to vote on it," Lee said.

San Francisco Assembly member Tom Ammiano is doing what he can to legalize marijuana. He has introduced a bill and plans to hold hearings on the legislation in the fall.

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