| Yesterday Richard Lee of Oaksterdam University announced that he has gathered over 680,000 signatures to place an initiative to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana on the November 2010 ballot:
The petition drive, which was run by a professional signature-gathering firm, collected more than 680,000 signatures, 57% more than the 433,971 valid signatures needed to put it on the ballot, said Richard Lee, the measure's main proponent.
"It was so easy to get them," Lee said. "People were so eager to sign."
The initiative would also allow cities and counties to adopt their own laws to allow marijuana to be grown and sold, and the localities could impose taxes on any aspect of marijuana production and sales. It would make it legal for adults over 21 years old to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and to grow it in a 25-square-foot area for personal use.
Because this particular initiative creates a "local option" for taxation, on top of a statewide legalization, it is hard to quantify exactly how much money this would raise. Initiative proponents cite the Legislative Analyst who says it could generate up to $1.4 billion in new revenue, in addition to an unknown but likely significant amount of savings in prison and court costs.
Although some other legalization initiatives are floating around out there, this is the only one that's expected to make the 2010 ballot. And despite some earlier debate over whether 2010 or 2012 was the best time to go the ballot, other marijuana legalization advocates plan to support this initiative fully and work to pass it.
They may be joined by the rest of the state:
Polls have shown that a majority of California voters support legalization. A Field Poll taken in mid-April found that 56% of voters in the state and 60% in Los Angeles County want to make legalize and tax pot as a way to help solve the state's fiscal crisis. In October, a poll taken by a nonpartisan firm for the Marijuana Policy Project found 54% support in the county.
A poll taken for the initiative's proponents by EMC Research, an opinion research firm in Seattle, found that 51% of likely voters supported it based on language similar to what will be on the ballot, but support increased to 54% when they were read a more general synopsis.
Those numbers are no slam dunk. But they also show that this is clearly an idea whose time has come. California has proven that the costs of the war on drugs are unacceptably high, and that we need to bring that stupid and pointless conflict to an end before it bankrupts the state.
There's still 11 long months to go between now and the November 2010 election. But I'm hoping that Californians are ready to take the national lead in legalizing and taxing marijuana as part of a more rational and sensible approach to drug policy, prison reform, and the budget crisis.