California will vote on legalizing pot

March 24, 2010 at 8:59 PM
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LOS ANGELES, March 24 (UPI) -- California will again be the flashpoint in the smoldering debate on legalization of pot as officials said Wednesday the question will be on the November ballot.

Los Angeles County elections officials Wednesday submitted their official estimate of valid signatures collected in the county on a statewide legalization initiative, putting the number of signatures collected statewide over the 433,971 needed to put the measure on the ballot, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The move to legalize marijuana comes 14 years after California decided the controversial weed could be used for medicinal purposes. The initiative would permit people age 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of pot for personal use.

Proponents cite the financial and social cost of enforcing a marijuana prohibition and argue that marijuana isn't as dangerous and addictive as alcohol or tobacco. Opponents counter with statistics of marijuana-related crimes, rising use among teens and the physical harm pot can cause.

Polls indicate a majority of California voters favor legalization, but Mark Baldassare, the pollster for the Public Policy Institute of California, said that is no guarantee the referendum will pass.

"It's always easier for people to say no than to say yes for an initiative," he said. "Generally, all it takes is for people to find one reason to say no."

Chris Lehane, a strategist for the initiative, said voters "already accept" that marijuana is commonly used.

"They want to see a smart strategy," he said.

John Lovell, a lobbyist for law enforcement groups, said he believes that voters will reject the proposition.

"Why on Earth would you want to add yet another mind-altering substance to the legal array?" he asked.

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