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California marijuana legalization supporters to start collecting signatures for ballot measure

File: Marijuana plants grow at Perennial Holistic Wellness Center, a not-for-profit medical marijuana dispensary, on Sept. 7, 2012 in Los Angeles.
David McNew/Getty Images
File: Marijuana plants grow at Perennial Holistic Wellness Center on September 7, 2012 in Los Angeles.

Supporters of legalizing marijuana in California have been given the green light to start collecting signatures for a November ballot measure.

If passed, the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act for California would legalize recreational pot use for adults 21 and over. It would also strengthen existing medical marijuana laws and legalize hemp production.

"It stops putting 20,000 people a year in jail in California for low level offenses and it creates a diversion program," John Lee, a Silicon Valley businessman who heads the nonprofit Americans for Policy Reform, told KPCC. Americans for Policy Reform is one of the groups behind the measure. He said the law also opens up possibilities for medical research, as well as generating revenue from a variety of marijuana uses.

Lee said that the law covers all personal uses. "They're all intertwined, based on a single plant," Lee said.

Lee said that the law is structured in a somewhat similar way to the marijuana legalization in Colorado, but that it has its own unique infrastructure. The industry would be regulated by a seven-member Cannabis Control Commission appointed by the governor.

"We chose to create a commission that oversees all the cannabis and hemp production and fee structure, so that they gather information for the other various departments, such as health, agriculture, consumer affairs."

Lee said supporters plan to start collecting signatures within the next few days and noted that polls suggest a majority wants marijuana to be legalized. A poll released in September showed a majority of Californians supporting recreational legalization for the first time, with the percentage being even higher among likely voters

Lee said that this law differs from a previous attempt, Proposition 19, which was tied in with local tax initiatives, and also cites improved poll numbers since that attempt.

Lee also said that the federal government has provided guidelines regarding what states should do to avoid enforcement of federal drug laws, and said that they've made sure to include those guidelines in their proposed law.

Supporters must gather half a million signatures from registered voters to qualify for the ballot. The deadline is June 30.