California Likely to Vote on Marijuana Legalization

The Los Angeles Times tells us about a California ballot measure worth watching: California voters could decide whether to legalize marijuana in November after supporters ...
by | December 15, 2009

The Los Angeles Times tells us about a California ballot measure worth watching:

California voters could decide whether to legalize marijuana in November after supporters announced Monday that they have more than enough signatures to ensure that it qualifies for the ballot.

The petition drive has collected more than 680,000 signatures, said Richard Lee, the measure's main proponent, about 57% more than the 433,971 needed.

...

The initiative would allow cities and counties to adopt laws to allow marijuana to be grown and sold, and to impose taxes on marijuana production and sales. It would make it legal for anyone who is at least 21 to possess an ounce of marijuana and grow plants in an area of no more than 25 square feet for personal use.

If this measure passes, it's not clear to me what practical effect it would have. Earlier this year, the Obama administration announced (essentially) that it would let states set their own rules for medical marijuana. The feds, however, have shown no indication that they'll be permissive toward general legalization of marijuana (i.e. for recreational use). Barring a federal shift, it seems unlikely that passage of this measure would truly make marijuana legal in the state.

Still, an affirmative vote in California could have a pretty big impact on the politics of marijuana. On medical marijuana, the process has played out like this: First, voters started approving measures to allow it. Then, legislators in a few states started accepting the idea. The passage of the measures proved to lawmakers that medical marijuana wasn't politically dangerous.

Could this ballot measure start the same process for recreational marijuana? Maybe. At the very least, lawmakers seem more likely to entertain the idea if voters have backed it at the polls.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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