Chronic City: Let's Vote On It -- Marijuana Legalization May Be On 2010 Ballot

To put a new twist on an old saw, desperation is often the mother of invention. When a person, or a state, is in dire straits, it's often an opportunity for the kind of epochal change that, at other times, might not be considered.

That's where we are right now with Marijuana law reform in California, thanks to the state budget crisis and its attendant desperate search for tax revenue. Backers of the Control, Regulate and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, the first major statewide initiative designed to legalize Marijuana for personal use, say they are preparing to get the issue on the November 2010 ballot.

According to Richard Lee, founder of, sponsors of the initiative, the tide has turned. Lee (who's also executive director of medical Marijuana dispensary and teaching center Oaksterdam University in Oakland) said polls showing majority support for legalization and taxation of Marijuana, along with the recession, mean that the initiative could be viewed as a watershed, and even a first step in changing federal Marijuana laws.

The initiative backed by Lee's group would legalize up to one ounce for personal possession by adults 21 and older, and would allow cities and counties the option of regulating and taxing the herb. Adults would be allowed to grow Marijuana in a space no larger than 5 feet by 5 feet.

Lee's group plans to send the initiative to California Attorney General Jerry Brown in July for the summary and title oversight required by law. Signature-gathering will begin in August, with 650,000 signatures required by January to make the November 2010 ballot.

The ballot initiative isn't the only chance for more realistic pot laws in California. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's (D-San Francisco) bill in the state legislature would regulate Marijuana much like alcohol. Under Ammiano's plan, Marijuana would taxed at $50 per ounce and bring an estimated $1 billion annually into state coffers.

Lee, however, said a ballot initiative is faster than waiting for the legislature to act. "We believe that the people lead the politicians on this issue," he told the San Jose Mercury News. "We can't waste money enforcing laws that over 50 percent of the people don't think should be in place."

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