Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Backers of an initiative to legalize marijuana and hemp have received authorization to begin gathering signatures, Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced Monday.

The initiative would impose sales and use taxes on marijuana, including some medical marijuana, and allow the Legislature to adopt laws to license and tax commercial marijuana activities.

The initiative would permit some local regulation of marijuana possession, cultivation, or consumption. It would also create a commission to make recommendations to the Legislature.

Passage of the initiative would result in net additional state and local tax revenues of potentially up to the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually, according to an analysis made by the Legislative Analyst’s Office and Department of Finance.

The initiative requires one-third of the revenue generated to be spent on education from preschool through 12th grade, another third on substance abuse counseling and education services and the other third to fund the operation of the California Cannabis Commission and marijuana research.

The analysis also found there would be reduced costs ranging from tens of millions of dollars to potentially exceeding $100 million annually to state and local governments related to enforcing certain marijuana-related offenses, handling the related criminal cases in the court system, and incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders.

Valid signatures from 365,880 registered voters — 5 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2014 general election — must be submitted by May 9 to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot, according to Padilla.

The initiative is the 10th in circulation seeking to legalize marijuana. There are six others awaiting authorization for their backers to begin gathering signatures.

— City News Service

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