Matthew Renda

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November 1, 2013
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California lags in bid to legalize marijuana

California has been on the vanguard of the marijuana issue, becoming the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996.

But despite its innovative foray into legalization of the drug that the federal government continues to label as an illicit substance, it has lagged behind other states — specifically Washington and Colorado – in unilateral legalization.

A Gallup Poll released last month shows a clear majority of Americans favor wholesale legalization of cannabis with 58 percent in favor and only 39 percent saying it should remain illegal.

The results of a recently released Tulchin Research poll said an even greater percentage of Californians (65 percent) favor regulating and taxing recreational marijuana in the state.

With this in mind, two separate organizations are attempting to bring forth initiatives to appear on the statewide November general election ballot.

A group called Americans for Policy Reform has proposed The Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2014, while a separate group has proposed the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative 2014.

Both plans decriminalize marijuana and propose general frameworks for taxation, but Shelby Lucero, the president of the Sacramento NORML Woman’s Alliance, said the MCLRA has more details regarding how legalization would be implemented appropriately.

“It contains guidelines for growers, cultivators, harvesting, testing, dispensaries, lawyers, bakers and more,” Lucero said. “It is very, very detailed.”

Patricia Smith, president of the Nevada County chapter of Americans for Safe Access, said the CCHI is “pie in the sky.”

“It’s (been) on the ballot every year for the last 16 years and it’s more of an ode to Jack Herer,” Smith said.

Herer is a prominent pro-cannabis activist and is sometimes call the “Emperor of Hemp.”

Lucero said her group is hopeful both initiatives make it to the ballot, as that would make legalization more attainable.

“The city of Sacramento currently makes about $2.5 million in annual tax revenue from the dispensaries,” she said.

The hope is that the government will soon figure out that it is wasting enormous amounts of taxpayers’ money in funding law enforcement agencies to arrest and house people associated with cannabis, when it could be making money by reasonably taxing it, Lucero said.

“Nobody deserves to go to jail for a plant,” she said.

Lucero further said legalization and the regulations that would follow are necessary to ensure that patients are ingesting medical marijuana safely.

If a plant is tainted with mold, pet hair or insects, it can actually exacerbate conditions, she said.

In Colorado, the first marijuana retail stores are anticipated to open their doors on Jan. 1, 2014.

That state’s Department of Revenue adopted final regulations on Sept. 9, making it the largest public entity in the United States to collect taxes relating to commercial activity in the marijuana industry.

The Colorado state law that legalized marijuana contained a provision that required the first $40 million in revenue raised by taxes be credited to the public school capital construction assistance fund.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or call 530-477-4239.

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The Union Updated Nov 3, 2013 12:17AM Published Nov 7, 2013 10:14AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.