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Two Legalization Petitions Die in California

Two ballot initiatives seeking to legalize marijuana for personal use in California have come to an end.

Marijuana PlantChad M. and Marinda D. Hanes, both grassroots activists pushing for cannabis reform, withdrew two related petitions in late December. Their plan would have legalized possession, cultivation, production, transportation, processing, manufacture, and sale of marijuana.

The couple, who were mostly unknown in California’s larger cannabis community, filed the Responsible Use Act of 2016 in April. The proposal leans heavily toward the wishes of low-level activists such as the Haneses, with a large possession limit of 24 ounces and a cultivation limit of 12 plants.

Backers of the Responsible Use Act described it on their webpage as “a grassroots effort to effectively reform California’s marijuana laws by promoting a level playing field for consumers and small businesses, while also emphasizing the importance of public safety within our communities.”

Small $6 tax per ounce sold

According to the group the Haneses created, GrowUpCalifornia, their initiative would have created an enforcement bureau funded entirely by a small $6 tax on each ounce sold. That works out to roughly a 2 percent sales tax on the average ounce, much smaller than those imposed in the four states that have already legalized recreational use.

The first petition the Haneses withdrew would have enacted legalization, while the second would have set “procedures for release or resentencing of persons convicted of marijuana offenses.” Neither was given good odds of making the ballot, a process that typically costs millions of dollars and requires nearly 600,000 valid voter signatures.

It wasn’t immediately clear why the petitions were withdrawn, but an inability to raise adequate funds likely played a part. The Hanes proposal was one of several currently contending for a spot on the ballot in November 2016, proposals that represent a wide range of financial resources.

Sean Parker’s leading proposal

Sean Parker California
Sean Parker

The legalization plan pushed by tech billionaire Sean Parker, founder of Napster and former president of Facebook, has attracted the strongest, best-financed support. Its odds increased recently when the group behind a substantial competing proposal joined forces with Parker.

It remains unclear whether Parker and his group can bring in the support needed to get on the ballot. But his own deep pockets and a growing list of big-name endorsements make him the front-runner.

Another marijuana proposal, this one involving medicinal cannabis, was also withdrawn in late December. The 11 activists behind it said they could not gather enough signatures to qualify. That plan would have barred state and local governments from limiting patient ability to grow, buy, and transport medical pot “in any way that does not apply equally to other plants.”

Several unrelated initiatives also died in late 2015, including a plan to create a President of California and a petition that would have punished anyone behind any ballot question that “advocates the killing of gays and/or lesbians” by requiring the person receive “sensitivity training and donate money to a pro-gay or pro-lesbian organization.” A California man filed paperwork for such an initiative last year.

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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