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Legalize It: ACLU Names Gavin Newsom to Lead Marijuana Panel

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By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on October 18, 2013 10:59 AM

California often leads the charge on social issues, but sometimes it's ahead of its time; that may have been the case with the attempt to legalize marijuana.

In November 2010, Proposition 19, a ballot measure to legalize marijuana was defeated by a slim margin of 53.5% of voters voting "no," reports the San Jose Mercury News. Attempts to legalize marijuana in Colorado and Washington last year were successful, and these victories at the poll have renewed efforts in California to do the same.

New Research Shows Support for Legalization

Yesterday, the ACLU released a new study by Tulchin Research which shows that a majority of Californians, who are likely to vote in 2016, support legalization of marijuana. While pot legalization has support across racial, gender and political party lines, drug laws are not enforced equally across these categories.

The Director of Criminal Justice and Drug Policy at the ACLU, Allen Hopper, stated: "Marijuana prohibition has harmed communities and families by needlessly ensnaring hundreds of thousands of people in the overburdened criminal justice system, with people of color far more likely to be arrested and prosecuted."

To gain public support, new laws would have to outlaw use by minors, and have DUI penalties.

The Game Plan for Legalization

The survey shows that to gain support for marijuana legalization, proposed laws are "coupled with a comprehensive regulatory system and an ability to collect revenues to fund public services." The panel has chosen 2016 as the year to put a measure on the ballot because it is a presidential election year, which normally has higher voter turnout, reports the Mercury News. The two years in between allow for time to study the Washington and Colorado laws (and their effect), along with conducting more research, panel discussions, and town hall meetings.

Gavin Newsom, as the highest ranking California elected official to publicly support the legalization of marijuana, was named as the lead of the Blue Ribbon Panel. He stated in an ACLU press release:

The prohibition of marijuana has had an enormous human and financial cost in communities across this state .... It is far past time for Californians take a serious look at smarter approaches to marijuana, and it is imperative that happen before any marijuana ballot initiative gets underway.

He is joined on the panel by academic, legal and policy experts.

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