Huffpost Politics

California May Legalize Marijuana In 2014

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An initiative that would legalize and regulate recreational marijuana in California was cleared for signature gathering by the state attorney general on Friday. Should organizers gather the required 504,000 signatures, the initiative will appear on the ballot in November.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris released her summary on the final version of the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act (MCLR) on Friday, which contained stricter protections for children than its previous version. The initiative is one of two legalization attempts currently gathering signatures in the state.

In her generally positive summary, Harris wrote that MCLR could “reduce costs potentially exceeding $100 million annually to state and local governments related to enforcing certain marijuana-related offenses, handling the related criminal cases in the court system, and incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders.”

Though the green light is a big step, the fight is far from over for MCLR. Initiative organizers have committed $500,000 to signature gathering but project that an additional $2 million may be necessary to complete the task. MCLR organizers have established a donation page on the group’s website.

“We are calling on all marijuana users and supporters to help make 2014 happen,” said Dave Hodges, one of initiative's primary backers, in a written statement.

California voters have signaled that they may be ready to legalize. Two separate public polls -- one by Field Poll and another by the Public Polling Institute -- showed that over 50 percent of voters favor recreational legalization.

And it seems that politicians are following suit, though at least one would prefer marijuana policy reform activists wait until 2016.

Governor Jerry Brown has refused to push for legalization, but Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom has been a staunch supporter. In October, Newsom announced plans to launch a two-year research effort led by professors, medical professionals and policy researchers examining the potential effects of legalization.

"Communities are devastated because of this abject thing called the drug war," he told The Huffington Post. "Forget the politics. This is the right thing to do."

Newsom, however, hopes to wait until the research is completed in 2016 before bringing legalization to the ballot.

"We need to answer the tough questions before we put it on the ballot," he said. "I want the research in order to be more convincing to others."

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