Legal marijuana lands on November ballot

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and others Wednesday announced that an initiative legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for adults has collected enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Supporters said the measure, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, has collected more than 600,000 signatures, well over the 365,880 it needs to qualify for the Nov. 8 ballot.

The measure would allow adults 21 and older to possess, transport and use up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes and grow up to six plants. It would also tax retail sales at 15 percent, although it allows local communities to opt out of licensing retail sales.

Speaking today at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Newsom said the measure had been carefully developed to address issues that had emerged in other states where marijuana has been legalized, and to provide flexibility to lawmakers to address any problems as they emerge.

“We’re not doing this lightly, we’re doing it very thoughtfully,” Newsom said.

He said the legislation was essential to address the failed war on drugs, and its costs both in dollars and in impacts on the lives of those arrested for marijuana use.

“You do not have to be pro-marijuana to be pro-legalization, that’s not what this is about,” he said, noting that he personally was not a fan.

Newsom spoke today with a group of backers that included U.S. Rep.

Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, University of California at San Francisco Hematology-Oncology division chief Donald Abrams, former Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Stephen Downing and state National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Alice Huffman.

A previous measure seeking to legalize marijuana, Proposition 19, was defeated by 53.5 percent in 2010. In the time since then several other states have legalized marijuana and backers of this measure said they believe public opinion has shifted.

A Bay Area Council poll of Bay Area residents released today found that 50 percent supported legalizing recreational use of marijuana in California and another 10 percent answered “don’t know.” The measure would require a simple majority to pass.

Support was strongest in San Francisco at 56 percent and in the North Bay at 54 percent. Support was weakest in San Mateo County, the only county where opponents slightly outnumbered supporters, at 43 percent.