Measure to legalize pot kicks off campaign

September 25, 2009 6:40:34 PM PDT
Organizers of a ballot measure that would legalize and tax marijuana in California kicked off their campaign Friday in San Francisco.

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A smoke break at the convention in the Grand Hyatt Hotel Friday did not necessarily mean lighting up a cigarette.

There are already 1,000 volunteers that organizers for the initiative say they have recruited to gather signatures for November 2010 ballot.

They will need about 400,000 signatures to qualify the ballot measure, which would allow adults to use and grow a small amount of marijuana and permit cities to tax and regulate cannabis.

"With over 1,500-2,200 dispensaries in this state alone, marijuana is the number four or five cash crop in the United States, no matter how you do the math," National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said.

Organizers say it will be a windfall for state and local coffers.

Former State Senator Don Perata did not make his scheduled appearance Friday, saying personal matters prevented him from attending. Instead, organizers read his letter of support.

"In this time of economic uncertainty, it's time to think outside the box and bring in revenue to restore the California dream," Oaksterdam University Executive Chancellor Dale Clare said, reading Preata's statement.

In California, only medical marijuana can be sold legally. The ballot measure would legalize all forms of the drug, but organizers say it will only apply to adults 21 or over.

"It makes stiffer penalties in some sense for you to provide it to anyone whose under 21 much like the adult liquor laws that's currently there," Cannabis Defense Fund spokesperson Jeff Jones said.

The initiative flies in the face of federal laws which ban any use or sale of marijuana.

San Mateo District Attorney Jim Fox opposes the measure, saying there is an inherent conflict.

"If you have a major grow or you have major cartels making large sums of money, I don't, California if it were to see fit to change the law, which I hope it doesn't, is not going to be immune from the federal authorities," Fox said.

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