Marijuana legalization efforts in California got a boost this week after competing ballot forces joined together behind the stronger of the two, supported by billionaire Sean Parkers, who was a former president of Facebook Inc.
The initiative gained the support of Democratic Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform. Antonia Gonzales, who is the coalition board member and president of the Latino Voter League, said the coalition withdrew its rival initiative after Parker’s measure was modified to protect children, workers and small businesses.
The move ends weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations aimed at closing the gaps between the initiatives, amid concerns that neither would succeed if both of them wound up for the ballot for 2016.
Marijuana use is illegal under federal law in the United States but 23 states allow pot to be used for medical purposes. Colorado, Washington and Oregon have recently approved recreations use and Alaska is set to follow them next year.
Voters is Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada and Arizona could face ballot initiatives next year for marijuana legalization.
In California, the amendments filed this week to Parker’s proposal would allow local governments a greater say in where marijuana can be sold, toughen protections for children, including a ban on marketing to minors and explicit warning labels on marijuana products, and require safety standards and enforcement of labor laws for people who live in the industry.
Proponents say that the measure would tax marijuana sales and cultivation, raising hundreds of millions of dollars for the state.
According thing the research group IBIS World, California has the largest market place for medical marijuana sales in the United States. The company says it is expected that recreational and medical marijuana sales will bring in $3.6 billion nationwide in 2015, growing to $13.4 billion over the next five years.
Public opinion is shifting in favor of marijuana legalization, after an initiative failed in California in 2010.
Parker’s measure would legalize recreational marijuana use for adults over 21 and set up a framework for regulating and taxing sales.
Campaign finance records do not show any contributions on Wednesday but Parker’s deep pockets suggest that his initiative will be well-funded.
In 2010 supporters invested $3.5 million in Proposition 19, outspending opponents nearly 8-1. But the measure failed amid concerns that it did not protect children or guard against driving under the influence.