State pot backers submit petition for Nov. ballot |

State pot backers submit petition for Nov. ballot

SAN FRANCISCO — Backers of a California initiative to legalize marijuana said they would submit far more signatures Thursday than needed to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

Volunteers intended to submit about 700,000 signatures collected across all 58 California counties, campaign spokesman Dan Newman said.

The initiative needs about 434,000 signatures from registered voters to make the ballot. Campaigners typically try to collect far more to build a cushion in case some signatures are invalidated.

The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults. It also would allow limited growing on private property and permit local governments to decide whether to legalize and tax pot sales.

”Our current laws aren’t working. We should have learned from alcohol prohibition,” said Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee, the measure’s main backer.

Lee has marshaled manpower and financial support for the initiative through Oaksterdam University, an Oakland-based school he founded to train growers and distributors of medical marijuana. Under current state law, Californians can legally grow and possess pot for medical purposes.

The drive to put a broader legalization measure on the ballot got a boost in April when a Field Poll found that 56 percent of California voters supported legalizing and taxing marijuana to help bridge the state budget deficit. The campaign’s internal polling showed similar support, Newman said.

”This initiative was very carefully crafted to win at the ballot box. It contains specific safeguards and controls,” he said.

Standing in the way will be a coalition of religious and law enforcement groups that argue marijuana is harmful and an immoral approach to fixing the state’s financial problems.

”We’re going to talk about blood money, about trying to raise taxes on the backs of our youth,” said Bishop Ron Allen, a pastor and head of the International Faith Based Coalition, an anti-drug religious group.

Potential revenue from legal pot sales would encourage young people to use the drug, Allen said.

The ballot measure would require jail time for anyone who sells or gives marijuana to children. It also forbids smoking pot in front of minors.

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