9 states to vote on ex­pand­ing le­gal ac­cess to pot

Marysville Appeal-Democrat - - FRONT PAGE - By Paul Elias and David Crary As­so­ci­ated Press

SAN FRAN­CISCO – From Cal­i­for­nia, with its coun­ter­cul­ture her­itage, to the fish­ing ports and mill towns of Maine, mil­lions of Amer­i­cans in nine states have a chance to vote Nov. 8 on ex­pand­ing le­gal ac­cess to mar­i­juana. Col­lec­tively, the bal­lot mea­sures amount to the clos­est the U.S. has come to a na­tional ref­er­en­dum on the drug.

Five states – Ari­zona, Cal­i­for­nia, Maine, Mas­sachusetts and Ne­vada – will con­sider le­gal­iz­ing the re­cre­ational use of pot. Three oth­ers – Florida, Ar­kan­sas and North Dakota – will de­cide whether to per­mit mar­i­juana for med­i­cal pur­poses. Mon­tana will weigh whether to ease re­stric­tions on an ex­ist­ing med­i­cal mari- juana law.

As the most pop­u­lous state, with a rep­u­ta­tion for trend-set­ting, Cal­i­for­nia is at­tract­ing the most at­ten­tion – and money – in an in­ten­si­fy­ing de­bate over Propo­si­tion 64.

Sil­i­con Val­ley ty­coons and deep-pock­eted donors with con­nec­tions to the le­gal med­i­cal mar­i­juana in­dus­try are among the top fi­nan­cial back­ers of a pro-pot cam­paign that has raised al­most $17 mil­lion. Op­po­nents have raised slightly more than $2 mil­lion, in­clud­ing a $1.4 mil­lion con­tri­bu­tion from re­tired Penn­syl­va­nia art pro­fes­sor Julie Schauer.

Ad­vo­cates on both sides say pas­sage in Cal­i­for­nia would likely ig­nite le­gal­iza­tion move­ments in other states, es­pe­cially when the tax dol­lars start

adding up. Cal­i­for­nia’s non­par­ti­san Leg­isla­tive An­a­lyst’s Of­fice es­ti­mated the state could col­lect up to $1 bil­lion a year in mar­i­juana taxes.

“As Cal­i­for­nia goes, so goes the na­tion,” said Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor Alan Ross.

If “yes” votes pre­vail across the coun­try, about 75 mil­lion peo­ple ac­count­ing for more than 23 per­cent of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion would live in states where re­cre­ational pot is le­gal. The ju­ris­dic­tions where that’s al­ready the case – Alaska, Colorado, Ore­gon, Wash­ing­ton state and the Dis­trict of Columbia – have about 18 mil­lion res­i­dents, or 5.6 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion. Twenty-five states al­low med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

Ac­cord­ing to na­tional polls, a solid ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans sup­port le­gal­iza­tion. Gallup’s lat­est sur­vey gauged sup­port at 58 per- cent, up from 12 per­cent from when the ques­tion was first posed in 1969. Gallup says 13 per­cent of U.S. adults re­port us­ing mar­i­juana at present, nearly dou­ble the per­cent­age who re­ported us­ing pot in 2013.

Cal­i­for­nia vot­ers re­jected an at­tempt to le­gal­ize re­cre­ational mar­i­juana in 2010 af­ter cam­paign lead­ers strug­gled to raise money and sup­port for a four-page bal­lot mea­sure hastily writ­ten by the owner of a small medic­i­nal mar­i­juana store.

This time, the 62-page bal­lot mea­sure was crafted by po­lit­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als and has the back­ing of many elected of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Lt. Gov. Gavin New­som, who is run­ning for gov­er­nor in 2018. Cur­rent Gov. Jerry Brown says he’s close to an­nounc­ing his po­si­tion.

The mea­sure would al­low peo­ple 21 and older to legally pos­sess up to an ounce of weed and grow six mar­i­juana plants at home. Pot sales would be sub­ject to var­i­ous tax rates that would be de­posited into the state’s Mar­i­juana Tax Fund. Most of that money would be spent on sub­stance-abuse ed­u­ca­tion and treat­ment. Some would be used to re­pair en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age caused by il­le­gal grow­ers.

Op­po­nents ar­gue that the mea­sure will do more harm than good by open­ing a mar­i­juana mar­ket dom­i­nated by small farm­ers to cor­po­rate in­ter­ests and en­cour­ag­ing chil­dren to use the drug through pot-laced sweets like gummy bears, cook­ies and brown­ies.

The pro­posal “fa­vors the in­ter­ests of wealthy cor­po­ra­tions over the good of the ev­ery­day con­sumer, adopt­ing poli­cies that work against pub­lic health,” said Kevin Sa­bet, co-founder of the Cal­i­for­nia-based ad­vo­cacy group Smart Ap­proaches to Mar­i­juana.

Nap­ster founder and early Face­book in­vestor Sean Parker has con­trib­uted more than $3 mil­lion to the le­gal­iza­tion ef­fort, which has also at­tracted siz­able con­tri­bu­tions from an or­ga­ni­za­tion backed by bil­lion­aire Ge­orge Soros and an­other backed by Weedmaps, which rates pot stores through­out the state.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Cus­tomers buy prod­ucts at the Har­vest Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana Dis­pen­sary in San Fran­cisco in April.

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