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Initiative would regulate, tax medical marijuana

February 16, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Should the state of California take over regulation of medical marijuana outlets and collect taxes from all of them? The voters will get a chance to decide if a new initiative gets on the ballot. Many pot shops are backing the idea as an alternative to being shut down.

Medical marijuana supporters hold weekly vigils in front of federal buildings throughout California to protest the Obama administration's recent raids on dispensaries.

They hope the president hears about them during his fundraising trip to the Golden State.

"One of the most frustrating things is that there is no rhyme or reason or any kind of formula that they're going by and who they're going after," said Courtney Sheats, a representative for Americans for Safe Access.

While California voters legalized marijuana for medical use in 1996, it remains a federal crime to sell or possess it.

The Obama administration stepped up enforcement last fall to rein in the explosive spread of medical marijuana outlets, even though as a presidential candidate, Barack Obama said no such raids would take place.

A new citizen initiative, which just got approval for signature gathering, hopes to change that. It creates a new state agency that regulates medical marijuana and allows taxation of up to 2.5 percent, superseding most local tax rates in effect. But local fees can be added.

"Our lack of uniformity, the looseness of our medical marijuana system has invited federal participation," said Roger Salazar, Californians to Regulate Medical Marijuana. "I think tightening those things up hopefully would get the feds out of our hair in California."

Bishop Ron Allen is furious. He wants the raids on pot clubs to continue. His coalition doesn't think more oversight will curb recreational use.

"We just believe people want to get high and make it an excuse to smoke marijuana," said Bishop Ron Allen, founder of the International Faith Based Coalition. "If there is some medicine in so-called medical marijuana, let the FDA tell us that, not those that smoke pot."

The initiative also bars state and local assistance in any federal enforcement against medical marijuana. Supporters need to gather enough signatures by mid-July to qualify for the November ballot.


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