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California taking a close look at marijuana legalization

California was the first state to allow the use of medical marijuana. That was done by a ballot initiative and legislation in 1996. Since then, at least two states have legalized marijuana possession and distribution, and others have decriminalized its use in varying degrees. Even more states have approved the use of medical marijuana. The trend toward legalization seems to be moving forward, and state officials here have announced that they will hold forums at different locations throughout the state beginning in April.

The forums will seek input on proposals to legalize marijuana. The proposals contain strict tax and regulatory systems, according to the Lieutenant General of California, Gavin Newsom. He leads the work of a state commission on marijuana policy.

Newsom stated that legalization was "increasingly likely" and that the transition should be "thoughtfully constructed" and implemented "safely and effectively." The first forum will be held on April 21 at the University of California, Los Angeles, according to officials. Newsom echoed the public's increasing awareness that the government incarcerates too many nonviolent persons, at a huge financial expense and drain on the economy. Furthermore, several reports have verified that enforcement is slanted against the poor and minorities.

Newsom indicated that a poll taken by the Public Policy Institute of California shows 55 percent of Californians in favor of such legalization. That result reportedly is the highest in recent years. He said that the commission is particularly concerned about developing policy and programs for the protection of children, assuring public safety and setting up a taxing and regulatory system.

Such a change in California will usher in a new system of government monitoring and control over the manufacture and retail distribution of the drug. Manufacture of marijuana, processing into a final retail package and tax assessment on those activities will likely require a new bureaucratic segment of government. New criminal sanctions will likely be created for violations of the regulatory scheme.                           

Source: Reuters, "California plans public forums on marijuana legalization options", Daniel Wallis, March 26, 2015

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