California, the most populous state in the USA and the sixth-largest economy in the world — will give its residents the chance to vote on an expansive legal recreational week proposal on the ballot paper this coming November.
The proposal comes courtesy of California's sometimes problematic ballot initiative system, which allows the voters to directly enact law by getting 5% of the state's voters to sign a petition more than 131 days before the election, and then getting support from a simple majority of voters.
Under the proposal, it will be legal for people over 21`to smoke weed and to grow up to six plants for personal use (smoking weed will be banned in the same places where tobacco smoking is prohibited). Weed will be subject to a 15% excise tax, which some estimate will return $1B to the state coffers (this is in addition to the peace dividend from not having to pay cops to arrest weed-smokers and not having to pay to try and imprison those people).
The proposal is opposed by the state GOP, police unions, and the Teamsters (who want weed to be distributed in ways that will be amenable to unionized workers).
State officials estimate the measure would raise as much as $1 billion per year in revenue and reduce public safety costs — for police, courts, jails and prisons — by tens of millions. Provisions of the initiative, which requires a simple majority vote to pass, would direct most proceeds to covering regulatory costs, research on the effects of legalization, environmental mitigation, substance abuse treatment and other purposes.
It has drawn support from the California NAACP, the California Medical Association and the California Democratic Party. Sponsors are promoting it as a civil rights issue, arguing that minority communities suffer a disproportionate share of drug crimes and arrests. They also say the initiative would make it harder for people under 21 to obtain pot and easier for police to crack down on illicit sales than it has been in the two decades since California became the first U.S. state to legalize medical marijuana.
California Voters to Decide Whether to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
[Jonathan J Cooper/AP]