Ballot Initiative Filed to Legalize Marijuana in California

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SACRAMENTO --

A ballot initiative filed Monday is the most viable effort to legalize marijuana for recreational use in California in years.

The initiative, filed Monday for $200 with the state's attorney general, still has a lot of process to go through. But the goal is to have it up for a vote in the presidential election in a year.

And a spokesman for the coalition that wrote the law says he thinks it will be the only legalization option voters have on that ballot.

"I don't believe in the premise that there's going to be multiple measures on the ballot,” said spokesman Jason Kinney.

So here's what legalization in California would look like:

You'd have to be 21 years old or older to buy, possess or use pot for recreational purposes. You'd be allowed up to one ounce. You could grow it yourself in hidden gardens in limited amounts or buy it from a dispensary.

But don't break-out the bong just yet -- legalization wouldn't take effect until 2018.

"We wanted to take the time to do it right," Kinney said.

Kinney represents the coalition that wrote the law. He says that, for years, drug policy has been a failure at both the state and national levels.

But this law will make good on some of that -- offering people already convicted of marijuana offenses a chance to go back and reduce sentences or even have their convictions expunged.

"To have that on their permanent record can be a life and a career ruiner. So we wanted to create flexibility," Kinney said.

But he said there is zero flexibility about the prohibition against selling or marketing pot to kids. It will be sold from only licensed dispensaries.

Marijuana will become the subject of a multi-million dollar state study. And emphasis will be put on making sure no one's driving around stoned.

To do all that, the $500 million to $800 million dollars in tax revenue the initiative generates doesn't go into the state's general fund. Instead it gets plowed into state infrastructure that will support marijuana management.

And of course it remains illegal under federal law. The state law can’t do anything about that.

“We think strong, restrictive rules, modeled after what we've done on the medical marijuana side, will pass muster with the federal government," Kinney said.

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