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Marijuana Advocates Circulate Petitions Despite Apparent Backlash

Lake County marijuana advocates are circulating petitions to create a statewide ballot initiative to legalize marijuana, despite an apparent public backlash against the abuses associated with growing it for medicinal uses.

The proposed initiative, which won state approval for circulation late last week, would prohibit marijuana's use for anyone under the age of 21 unless it was for medical reasons.

It also would bar anyone from being subjected to state criminal or civil penalties for the possession, cultivation, transportation, distribution or recreational use of marijuana.

Use of marijuana, however, would remain in conflict with federal laws prohibiting its use.

While outright legalization of pot has been tried before, proponents of the California Cannabis Hemp and Health Initiative of 2008 are optimistic.

"We're going to pass it. I guarantee it," said Eddy Lepp, a co-author of the initiative. He is known to pot activists worldwide for his advocacy, which resulted in his arrest for growing 32,500 marijuana plants in plain sight along a Lake County highway in August 2004. The case is pending.

The petition needs 433,971 signatures by registered voters -- representing 5 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election -- to make it on the ballot.

Clearlake Oaks resident Jack Herer, the initiative's primary author, has been trying unsuccessfully to qualify similar measures for ballots in California, Oregon, Alaska and Washington since the early 1970s.

He said people will vote for it if he can convince them of its benefits, which he claims include adding several years to the average life span.

Herer and Lepp also worked successfully on California's Proposition 215, the 1996 voter-approved law that legalized marijuana for medicinal use.

But even marijuana proponents question whether a measure legalizing marijuana for all uses could pass today.

"I don't see majority support for legalization of marijuana at this time," said Dale Gieringer, the Northern California coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.

NORML is not supporting the initiative, he said.

Mendocino County Supervisor Mike Delbar noted the backlash against marijuana cultivation makes support for total legalization unlikely.

"I seriously doubt whether Proposition 215 could pass today given what voters know versus what they think they voted for originally," he said.

"A lot of people couldn't argue with making available marijuana as a medicine for those who are gravely ill. What they didn't expect was the rampant exploitation of the law that we're living with now."

Proposition 215 has led to a proliferation of backyard marijuana gardens where law enforcement officials say pot is grown not for medical use but commercial sale.

They said pot enterprises attract crime, such as last week's Santa Rosa home-invasion robbery that resulted in the shooting death of a 20-year-old man and the arrests of several others for possession of more than 300 pounds of processed marijuana.

Pot gardens also attract complaints about pungent, skunklike odors.

Cities and counties throughout California are struggling with ordinances aimed at controlling marijuana cultivation and associated problems.

Ukiah officials Wednesday made it a misdemeanor to violate its ordinance against growing pot outdoors, and Mendocino County supervisors next week will consider limiting the number of plants grown per parcel.

Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Contact: letters@pressdemo.com
Copyright: 2007 The Press Democrat
Website: Santa Rosa Press Democrat
 
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