In March, John Hoeffel of the Los Angeles Times reported a man named Richard Lee, an Oakland marijuana entrepreneur, is leading the chard in the debate over legalizing the possession and use of the drug outside of medical need.
In order to have an issue placed on the ballot in California a minimum of 433,971 signatures are needed to be turned in to a certified official. County officials said of the 694,248 signatures gathered from all over California 523,531 were approved to be valid.
With $1.3 million dollars of his own money invested in the cause, Mr. Lee is serious about assembling some heavy hitters from Washington to see this issue through including Chris Lehane, an operative with experience not only on the campaign trail, but in The White House as well. However, Mr. Lee and his group face off against some tough opponents starting with President Obama's drug czar, R. Gil Kerlikowske, who railed against legalizing pot in a speech in San Jose to a group of police chiefs. In addition to Kerilikowske, John Lovell, a lobbyist from Sacramento representing the Police Chiefs Association of California. Lovell was quoted saying in Hoeffel's interview, "We'll educate people as to what this measure really entails."
If this passes it would allow any adult 21 years or older to keep an ounce of pot for their own use. One important point Mr. Lee and his team have not explained is how they plan to get around the federal law that states "No one shall be in possession or sell cannabis." With only weeks away this debate will continue to draw fire from both sides. The opportunity here is the generating a tax revenue from the sale of legalized marijuana. The harmful effects of pot on the human body and brain are as well still under debate. Mr. Lee stated the use of pot possesses no greater threat than the use of alcohol. To what extent of expertise Mr. Lee has to make this claim is unknown.
It is interesting to point out 13 states have decriminalized marijuana possession down to the equivalent of a minor traffic violation. Seventeen states have Medical Marijuana Programs, and eighteen states have passed resolutions allowing research into alternative industrial uses of hemp. In the event California passes their pot issue and finds a way around the federal government, this could set a precedent for other revenue strapped states to follow. California Proposition 19 could have states and counties looking at other drugs as well.