Pot legalization initiative headed for Nov. ballot

March 24, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in California has enough signatures for the November election. The measure proposes allowing adults to grow and possess pot which cities and counties would tax and regulate.

Critics say it would mean more substance abuse and more costs for drug treatment.

If the measure passes, California would be the first state in the nation to legalize adult marijuana use. The initiative is the work of Oakland's Oaksterdam University.

"The Board of Equalization estimates about $1.5 billion in revenue plus another billion dollars in law enforcement savings, and then there's always the indirect benefits like the job revenue," says Oaksterdam University President Richard Lee.

The group "Californians for Drug-Free Youth" oppose the initiative.

Aimee Hendle says, "This is not going to answer our state's budget deficit. It's not going to reduce crime."

In the measure, cannabis would be sold just like alcohol, in a store, and a customer would have to produce identification.

"We have an opportunity to control cannabis both its consumption and distribution," says Oaksterdam University Chancellor Dale Sky Clare. "We can control it away from children."

"The bottom line is how can we expect our kids to say no to marijuana when the adults around are saying yes?" Hendle argues.

A recent field poll shows 56 percent of California voters support legalization.

"I think it's a good idea to legalize and decriminalize, and hopefully that will help us all out," says Siobhan Leonard.

On the other hand Noreen Santini says, "We need to clear out all the prisons and put away all the hard criminals."

Cities and counties would decide how and where to sell cannabis.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown is opposed to the measure. San Mateo County District Attorney John Fox supports medical marijuana, but is opposed legalization, claiming crime and addiction far outweigh any revenue benefits.

The debate is just beginning, leading to the November ballot.

Lee points out, "We're getting zero tax dollars for all the cannabis being consumed now."

"This is just detrimental," argues Hendle. "This is something that we can't afford to pass."


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