The legalization of marijuana for recreational use will be on the ballot on Nov. 8 in California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts and Maine, according to Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML. Legalization for medical use will also be on the ballot in Florida, Missouri and Arkansas on that same day.
"This is really a watershed year for marijuana legalization, so I'm hoping that we'll see some big changes in November," said F. Aaron Smith, co-founder and executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.
Smith said he's "especially excited" about California. It's the most populous state in the country and the sixth largest economy in the world, surpassing France.
"California really is the linchpin for hemispheral legalization," said St. Pierre of NORML, hoping that a green light in California could trigger a snowball of legalization throughout the country.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla confirmed on Tuesday that the legalization initiative exceeded the 402,468 signatures required to put the issue on the ballot.
If the initiative is approved by voters, it would impose a 15% sales tax on retail sales of pot with additional taxes on the growers.
The supporters of the initiative, like Dale Gieringer of the California chapter of NORML, say this could raise more than $1 billion in annual tax revenue and estimate that law enforcement costs could be reduced by at least $100 million. This is based on the assumption that retail sales would be at least $7 billion a year.
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Susan Soares has written for Cannabis Now Magazine, Alternet, and Sensi Magazine.