Californians seek pot of gold in marijuana legalization
By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - There is no guarantee California will vote to legalize recreational marijuana in November, but political operative and father of four Daniel Conway has already staked his future on it.
Conway left his job as chief of staff to Sacramento's celebrity mayor, former Phoenix Suns NBA basketball star Kevin Johnson, to help start the marijuana investment company Truth Enterprises.
He is one of hundreds in the most populous U.S. state already pushing ahead with plans to enter a market experts say will be worth $4 billion by 2020.
"I'm someone of an age and of a demographic that sees the legalization and normalization of marijuana as inevitable," said Conway, 35. "This was a chance not just to build companies but to build an industry."
With a population of nearly 40 million people, and a thriving medical marijuana trade legalized 20 years ago, California already has the United States' largest legal marijuana market. Legalization of recreational pot would generate an estimated $1 billion in additional taxes per year.
If voters in November approve a measure to legalize and tax marijuana that qualified last Tuesday for the ballot, California would be the fifth U.S. state - and by far the largest - to allow marijuana for recreational use, joining Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, as well as the District of Columbia.
A similar ballot initiative failed in California in 2010, but recent polls show strong support for legalization. The latest effort is backed by mainstream leaders including Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who helped negotiate the regulations and taxes it would impose.
Eight other states, including Nevada and Maine, also have recreational or medical marijuana proposals headed for their 2016 ballots. California's sheer size as the world's 6th largest economy means a decision by its voters to legalize marijuana could accelerate the trend elsewhere. Continued...