Advocates Submit Cannabis Tax Initiative for State Ballot

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Advocates in Oakland have submitted to the Secretary of State an initiative for the November 2010 state ballot to tax and regulate the sales of cannabis (marijuana) in California.

Advocates in Oakland have submitted to the Secretary of State an initiative for the November 2010 state ballot to tax and regulate the sales of cannabis (marijuana) in California.

"California's laws criminalizing cannabis have failed and need to be reformed," says Richard Lee, president of Oaksterdam University (OU), and one of the initiative's proponents. The second proponent is Jeff Jones, chancellor of OU Los Angeles.

The measure would enable California to tax and regulate cannabis like alcohol, allowing adults 21 years and older to possess and consume one ounce or less of cannabis.

"Cannabis is safer than alcohol," says Lee. "Cannabis doesn't cause overdose deaths or make people violent like alcohol. It makes sense to regulate cannabis like alcohol, instead of prohibiting it completely."

The initiative would also let cities and counties decide whether or not to tax and regulate cannabis sales and commercial cultivation. If a city or county decides not to, sales and cultivation within area limits would remain illegal, but possession and consumption of small amounts would be allowed.

Proponents also stress the fact that taxing cannabis would bring in billions of dollars to the state.

California's current market for illegal cannabis is approximately $15 billion a year. Taxing and regulating cannabis would generate billions in annual revenue that is desperately needed to fund jobs, health care, schools, libraries, roads, and more.

The City of Oakland has already taken the initial steps toward cannabis taxation and regulation. 80 percent of Oakland voters chose last week to increase taxes on the cannabis bought and sold in the city's medical cannabis dispensaries. The measure, which could generate $300,000 or more annually for the cash-strapped city, was supported by the cannabis dispensaries themselves.

Statewide initiative proponent Richard Lee also backed Oakland's local ballot measure.

"Hopefully it's a sign of things to come," Lee says. "Cannabis laws need to be changed, and our state is in serious need of revenue. Taxing cannabis will help solve both problems."

In September, initiative proponents will start gathering the 433,971 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. They will have 150 days to do so.

Contact: Greg Grimala: greg(at)odmediaco(dot)com, 510-238-9655

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