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Saturday, March 2, 2024 | Back issues
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Drive Begins to Legalize Recreational Pot in California

SACRAMENTO (CN) - A former board member of the California Medical Association is spearheading an initiative effort to legalize recreational marijuana and create a 15 percent tax on retail sales of pot.

Dr. Donald Lyman and former Facebook President Sean Parker will lead a coalition seeking to legalize recreational use of pot for adults, 21 and older.

Their measure would allow California residents to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana but bar public use of the drug.

California voters rejected a similar initiative in 2010, when 53 percent of voters opposed Proposition 19, which required a simple majority to pass.

Their announcement Monday of the initiative, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, came less than a month after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a trio of medical marijuana bills , creating statewide licensing requirements for medical marijuana retailers and guidelines for patients and health care providers.

The new marijuana initiative immediately garnered the support of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said Monday that Californians "will rally behind this consensus measure." In July, Newsom released a report introducing blueprints for marijuana legalization and safeguards for children.

"I am pleased that this thoughtful measure is aligned with the Blue Ribbon Commission's recommendations and presents California's best opportunity to improve the status quo by making marijuana difficult for kids to access," Newsom said in a statement Monday.

The California Cannabis Industry Association and the Drug Policy Alliance also support the initiative.

Lyman, who wrote a 2011 report for the California Medical Association that advocated cannabis legalization, has long criticized California's drug laws. In his 2011 report , Lyman wrote that the state's laws "have proven to be a failed public health policy," and proposed regulating and taxing recreational marijuana similarly to alcohol and tobacco.

California voters passed the first statewide medical marijuana initiative in 1996 and California is the only state with uniform licensing regulations for growth, manufacture and sale of medical marijuana.

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act, one of many proposed 2016 marijuana initiatives, would impose a $9.25 tax on every ounce of dried marijuana buds and $2.75 for an ounce of leaves. Tax revenue would be sent to a marijuana oversight fund and the California Department of Consumer Affairs would be tasked with licensing retail pot shops.

At least 585,407 Californians must sign the petition to qualify it for the 2016 election. Organizers will have 150 days to collect the signatures once the attorney general clears the measure for circulation.

If the proposal qualifies and voters accept it in November 2016, California would join Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska as the only states to legalize recreational marijuana.

Legislators in Vermont have said they will introduce a recreational marijuana bill next year.

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