Marijuana legalization will be on California ballot

Thu Mar 25, 2010 6:51am EDT
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By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California voter initiative that would legalize possession and sale of marijuana has qualified for the November ballot, state election officials said on Wednesday, in what supporters called a "watershed moment" for their cause.

Passage of the measure, by no means certain, would make California the first U.S. state to legalize marijuana. Backers believe the state could be at the vanguard of a national movement toward decriminalizing the drug.

"This is a watershed moment in the decades-long struggle to end marijuana prohibition in this country," said Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which has spearheaded the ballot initiative.

"Banning marijuana outright has been a disaster, fueling a massive, increasingly brutal underground economy, wasting billions in scarce law enforcement resources and making criminals out of countless law-abiding citizens," he said.

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen said in a written statement that her office had certified the measure for the November 2 general election ballot after backers submitted the required number of signatures on petitions.

Bowen said that proponents, who needed 433,971 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, had submitted 694,248 that were verified through a random sampling.


Legalizing marijuana appears to have broad support in the state, with some 56 percent of Californians surveyed in an April, 2009 Field Poll saying they favored making it legal for social use and taxing the sales proceeds.   Continued...

<p>A bag of medical marijuana is shown at Oaksterdam University, a trade school for the cannabis industry, in Oakland, California July 23, 2009. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith</p>