02/19/2014 12:38 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2014

California Likely Won't Be Voting On Legal Weed This Year

Leading marijuana policy groups have decided against putting a legal pot initiative on this year's ballot in California, opting to wait for 2016 instead.

The Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, a group that includes the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Majority and California NORML, has decided to wait until the 2016 election to push for a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana in the Golden State. As the Los Angeles Times notes, other groups in the state are still circulating petitions to get a pot measure on the ballot this year, but they lack the necessary financial backing and high-profile support.

The group, which played a key role in the successful 2012 legalization campaigns in Colorado and Washington, had already drafted and registered the Control, Regulate and Tax Marijuana Act with the state. The measure would have made it legal for individuals 21 years of age and older to buy, possess and use small amounts of marijuana. It would have also allowed the state to tax marijuana sales.

While the group had intended to begin gathering signatures ahead of the April 18 deadline, they decided to wait until 2016 in order to build up public support for the initiative as well as fundraise for the statewide campaign.

"We decided it was more important to do it right than to do it fast," Drug Policy Alliance deputy executive director Stephen Gutwillig told the Bay Area News Group Tuesday. "We ultimately came quite close but just decided we didn't have enough of the pieces in place right now."

Marijuana legalization has strong support in the state. A Field Poll released in December found that 55 percent of Californians favor legal weed. According to the Drug Policy Alliance's Ethan Nadelmann, internal polls show support closing in on 60 percent.

However, as Nadelmann told the Los Angeles Times, the group felt it needed more time to reach out to key officials in the state, including elected officials and law enforcement. It also wanted to build up its campaign coffers, as a legalization campaign could cost as much as $10 million.

Another group, Americans for Policy Reform, is still hoping to go forward with the California Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act, which has been approved by the state's attorney general for signature gathering. However, the group has struggled with fundraising as many key backers threw support behind the Drug Policy Alliance-backed initiative instead.



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