A look at three potential marijuana initiatives in California

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In 2010, Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Act, received enough valid petition signatures (nearly 700,000) to qualify for the November ballot, but failed to become law with 53% of Californians voting “No” and 46% voting “Yes.” This election cycle, there have been at least three proposals for ballot initiatives to soften the Golden State’s laws on marijuana.

Let’s take a look at all three:

The Marijuana Penalties Act of 2012

According to its filing, this initiative would increase the amount of marijuana that can be possessed, cultivated, sold, or transported by someone over the age of 21 without committing a misdemeanor from one ounce (which is currently merely an infraction in California) to two ounces. The initiative would reduce penalties for possession, cultivation, or sale of up to two ounces of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, while making it a misdemeanor for those under the age of 21.

The Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act of 2012

This initiative would use the model of alcohol regulation and control to introduce marijuana into a legal, regulated market. It would decriminalize the possession, cultivation, sale, transportation, and recreational use of marijuana plants, retroactively dismiss court cases pending against defendants that are inconsistent with the new policy, and authorize the sale of products with THC (the psychoactive substance in marijuana). According to one supporter:

“We’re taking something that’s unregulated and we’re replacing it with a known successful program implemented by the California alcohol beverage control board. We know it works great with wine. It’s already in place.”

The Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act of 2012

Finally, this initiative would decriminalize the possession, cultivation, sale, transportation, and recreational use of marijuana plants by adults aged 19 or older in the state of California, create a California Cannabis Commission to regulate commercial cultivation and sale of the plant, but allow up to three pounds per person of marijuana to be exempt from taxation and regulation for personal use.

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates the fiscal impact of the first initiative above to be entirely uncertain, while pegging the second and third initiatives above at potentially “hundreds of millions of dollars” in new tax revenue, tens of millions in savings to state and local governments for the “regulate like wine” initiative, and the “low hundreds of millions” in savings for the “repeal prohibition” proposal.

To qualify for the November ballot, each of the three proposals’ supporters will need to collect 504,760 signatures for their respective proposals by April 19, 2012.