Dude, Pot Could Totally Be Legal in Cali

In its early daze but state initiative would move medical marijuana forward

With a recent field poll showing that more than half of Californians support the idea, the movement to legalize marijuana is picking up steam and voters might finally get a chance to vote on it in 2010.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced a resolution Monday urging the federal government to end medical marijuana raids in California.

Senate Joint Resolution 14 calls for the federal government to ensure safe and legal access to medical marijuana, and also asks for the federal government to support research trials on the therapeutic use of medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana has been legal under California law since voters approved Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act, in 1996. It allows qualified patients and their primary caregivers to cultivate marijuana for medicinal use.

The ballot in November of next year would let people 21 and older possess an ounce and grow plants as long as the "garden" is no bigger than 5 by 5 feet. In return, counties would be able to tax and regulate it.

Proponents of the measure argue that a tax on marijuana could bring California a billion dollars a year in much-needed tax revenue.

The plan is start to start collecting signatures in August to meet the January deadline to get the measue on the ballot by November.

California State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has already presented a bill to legalize pot and next July, voters in Oakland will decide whether to approve Measure F, which would set a new tax rate for so-called "cannabis businesses."

Medical marijuana, however, remains illegal under federal law, leaving medical marijuana patients and providers open to prosecution in federal court.

"Patients and providers in California remain at risk of arrest and  prosecution by federal law enforcement, and medical marijuana facilities continue to be the subjects of federal raids," Leno said in a statement.

"When passed, this resolution will clearly state the Legislature's  opposition to federal interference with California's medical marijuana law  and support for expanded federal reform and medical research," he said.

Senate policy committees are expected to hear SJR 14 later this month.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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