New Marijuana Initiative To Collect Signatures For 2012 Ballot
Proponents Don Duncan, the California director of Americans for Safe Access, and Ron Lind, the president of UFCWS, have 150 days to collect 504,760 signatures in order to qualify their initiative for the ballot.
The initiative calls for a statewide policy over medical marijuana with unified taxation and stronger punishment against fraudulent medical practices.
"This is something that Californians are very eager to pass and, now that it's cleared for signatures, our next goal is to get it on the ballot,” said Roger Salazar, a political strategist for Californians to Regulate Medical Marijuana, in a phone interview.
"This legislation tightens up controls and regulations under medical marijuana, fulfilling what Californians were looking for when they passed Prop 215," said Salazar, referring to the legislation entitled Compassionate Use Act of 1996 which allowed seriously ill Calfornians to have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes.
The new intitiative, which its sponsors call "The California Medical Marijuana Act," would take steps to better enforce the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 by establishing a new government agency -- the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Enforcement (BMME)-- to regulate cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing and sale of medical marijuana. The initiative also proposes creating a 2.5 percent tax on medical marijuana retail sales and agency fees to pay for the BMME.
“[The initiative will save] potentially up to several tens of millions of dollars annually to state and local governments from reductions in various criminal justice costs related to enforcing marijuana crimes,” said Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of Fiscal Impact on State and Local government in a press release.
The California Medical Marijuana Act would override local regulation of medical marijuana, with the exception of zoning medical marijuana dispensaries. It would also require one dispensary per 50,000 residents unless limited or banned by local initiatives; bar state and local assistance to federal enforcement against medical marijuana; and reduce criminal penalties for marijuana possession, cultivation, transport or sale.
So far, it appears the initiative has strong support among voters. A recent survey conducted found that 60 percent of Californians support the initiative.
"I'm not sure who would oppose it at this point," Salazar said. "Right now we expect a broad basis of support from patients, doctors, advocates and individuals interested in controlled and regulated medical marijuana use."
The 150-day circulation deadline for the initiative is July 13, 2012.
Reach Staff Reporter Jacqueline Mansky here.