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If California Legalizes, It May Not Be by Much

All signs point to victory for marijuana policy reformers in November. A public referendum to legalize the drug will probably appear on the statewide ballot, and recent polls suggest voters are likely to pass it if it does.

Voting at Ballot BoxMany industry insiders agree, but with a note of caution. Don’t be too surprised, they say, if the tables flip and legalization loses in the end. Even if it does pass and marijuana does become legal, it may not be by the wide margin many people expect.

Mike Ray, founder of Bloom Farms of San Francisco and a board member at the California Cannabis Industry Association, thinks it’s going to be a close question in the end. Bloom Farms is a company that makes vape pens, and Ray stands to gain a lot if cannabis goes legal in the Golden State. Reform needs to happen, he says, but he wants people to know it’s not a done deal.

Eventual legalization is inevitable

“At the end of the day, we will see it happen,” he says, but it probably won’t pass by as wide a margin “as some people think.” Ray won’t bet 100 percent on success Nov. 8, but “the odds are in favor” of it happening, he says.

“I’ve really had my ear to the ground over the past 12 months in trying to understand and guide this in the right way,” he says. “Right now, the way that it’s set up, it’s not perfect, almost not perfect, but it’s the best we have right now. We need to stop putting people in jail. We need to get people out of jail.”

Watch the interview with Mike Ray in the video from the Cannabist below.

Strong voter support for legalization

marijuana leaf clearTech billionaire and former Facebook president Sean Parker is heading the effort to push the AUMA into law. Parker’s group has raised more than enough voter signatures to put the initiative on the ballot, and a recent poll shows 60 percent of likely voters support legalization.

The AUMA would build on California’s existing medical marijuana market by creating, regulating, and taxing a parallel industry for recreational pot. Adults over 21 would be allowed to buy, possess, and use up to one ounce of marijuana, while they could grow up to four plants at home.

Parker’s group has already raised more than $2 million to support the reform campaign, compared to the $60,000 or so raised by law enforcement lobbyists and other legalization opponents. The ballot drive will likely cost many millions of dollars more before Election Day.

Two previous attempts to legalize cannabis failed in California. The first died at the ballot box in 2010 amid weak voter backing. The second, in 2014, never appeared on the ballot because competing reform groups couldn’t agree on a united plan that would appeal to big-wallet donors.

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