A proposal that would legalize recreational marijuana use in California has qualified to be put to a vote in November on the general election ballot.
The "Adult Use of Marijuana Act," backed by a coalition that includes former Facebook president Sean Parker and the state's Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, would allow anyone over 21 to possess up to an ounce of weed for private recreational use and grow up to six marijuana plants.
"This measure brings California's marijuana market out into the open — much like the alcohol industry. It will be tracked, controlled, regulated and taxed, and we will no longer be criminalizing responsible adults or incarcerating children," said a summary of the act.
If Californians vote in favor, the state would join Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, DC in legalizing recreational use. Eight other states are also voting on similar legislation in November.
Endorsed by the California Medical Association and the California Democratic Party, among others, the act would still give municipal governments the freedom to prohibit commercial sales of the drug within their borders and impose their own fees and taxes.
The proposed legislation would devote weed tax revenue to, among other things, expanding teen drug prevention and treatment programs, training law enforcement to recognize driving while high, and spurring economic development in communities that have been disproportionately affected by pot prohibition.
The act also includes anti-monopoly provisions, designed to protect small growers and prevent the industry from being taken over by massive corporations.
"Today marks a fresh start for California, as we prepare to replace the costly, harmful and ineffective system of prohibition with a safe, legal and responsible adult-use marijuana system that gets it right and completely pays for itself," initiative spokesman Jason Kinney said in a statement.
"This measure reflects years of hard work, diverse stakeholder input and broad, bipartisan public support," he said. "A growing majority of Californians support a smarter approach to marijuana and we're gratified that voters will finally have the opportunity in November to pass comprehensive, common-sense policy that protects children, local control, public health and public safety, saves state and local taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, funds critical local programs, and serves as a model for the rest of the nation."
On the other side of the debate is a coalition of police and health groups, like the California Police Chiefs Association, the California State Sheriffs' Association, and the California Hospital Association. They argue that legalization would lead to an increase in driving under the influence, and create a new space for convicted dealers of harder drugs by allowing them to get licenses to sell weed.
"The proponents were specifically advised by numerous law enforcement groups during the comment period about this huge flaw, but they deliberately chose to keep it in, and you have to ask 'Why?'" Tim Rosales, spokesperson for the opposition coalition, told the Los Angeles Times. "Who is that provision for? They got it wrong. Again."
A similar group helped shut down Proposition 19, which would've legalized recreational use in 2010.
California led the way in legalizing marijuana for medical use in 1996, and since then, opinion polls have shown public attitudes shifting more toward legalization. With nearly 39 million residents, California would be — by far — the most populous state to legalize weed.
Follow Tamara Khandaker on Twitter: @anima_tk