Capitol Alert

Marijuana legalization advocates to start raising money for 2016 initiative in California

The Marijuana Policy Project, which backed efforts to legalize marijuana use in Colorado, said Wednesday it will start raising money for a 2016 ballot initiative in California.

The announcement comes four years after California voters rejected a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. But support for legalization appears to have grown in recent years. A December Field Poll found 55 percent of voters favored legalizing the drug for recreational use.

California currently allows the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The debate over legalization has divided Democrats in this liberal-leaning state. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is a supporter, while Gov. Jerry Brown has expressed reservations. In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” this year, Brown said the nation requires a more alert citizenry “than some of the potheads might be able to put together.”

The Washington D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project on Wednesday filed paperwork with the California secretary of state, forming a campaign committee in California. The group said it will immediately begin raising money to put the measure on the 2016 ballot, seeking to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol.

“Marijuana prohibition has had an enormously detrimental impact on California communities,” the group’s executive director, Rob Kampia, said in a prepared statement. “It’s been ineffective, wasteful, and counterproductive. It’s time for a more responsible approach.”

Related stories from Sacramento Bee