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Legalization Initiative Gets Big Cash Boost

One of California’s last remaining attempts to legalize pot in 2014 has apparently secured a last-minute financial backer who could give the proposal the juice it needs to make the ballot.

Advocates behind the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act announced in a press release that they had found a backer among “California’s over 100 billionaires” who has committed $10 million to the cause.

That’s a lot more than the group had been looking for. Last month advocate Dave Hodges said he was seeking $2 million to keep the effort from dying. But it’s unclear whether even this sudden injection of money can save the MCLRA.marijuana leaf money

That’s because Hodges and his fellow supporters have an April 18 deadline to collect more than 500,000 voter signatures from across California. That effort will go into overdrive with millions of dollars behind it, but activists will still have to scramble.

“This is amazing news,” Hodges said in the press release. “We have been working extremely hard to ensure California voters have the ability to vote on this issue in 2014, and the polls prove Californians want legalization now. We needed a miracle, and it has come!”

The MCLRA is one of two initiatives still standing for 2014. There were originally four, but one fell short and another withdrew after supporters decided they couldn’t secure the necessary funding.

The fourth campaign, known as the Jack Herer act, is still collecting signatures but has almost no chance of gathering enough by the same April 18 deadline. That effort also needs several million dollars, and now that the big money has picked the MCLRA, it’s unlikely competing funds will reach Jack Herer supporters.

On top of which, that initiative is so liberal, with almost no limits on cultivation or possession, that voters would probably reject it. The group that withdrew, the Drug Policy Alliance, was widely considered the best bet for this year.

Once that organization quit its initiative, most observers gave up on the 2014 election. Activists have already been planning for another attempt in 2016, a presidential election when more young, pro-pot voters are expected to go to the polls.

Marijuana Control Legalization Revenue ActNow it appears there may be a chance for a different initiative to make the ballot this time around. If it does, it stands a fairly good chance of passing: Recent polls show Californians support legalization, and most say they’d vote for it this year.

The MCLRA was considered something of a long shot throughout most of the period when the four proposals were competing against each other. The initiative allows residents to grow up to six mature marijuana plants but places no cap on possession. That and many other rules would be left to a commission stacked with members friendly to the marijuana industry.

Notably, the MCLRA bars local governments from banning pot shops, prevents state and local police from working with the feds on anti-marijuana efforts, and protects parents who grow weed in their homes.

Whether such policies could get past middle-of-the-road California voters is an open question. Whether the federal government would tolerate a legal weed regime regulated by cannabis supporters is another.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on marijuanaandthelaw.com and californiamarijuanamarket.com.

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