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Pot legalization campaign begins advertising

March 31, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Just days after supporters of legalized, recreational marijuana got their initiative on the fall ballot, campaign ads are being rolled out.Radio ads are just the beginning of what promises to be an intense and expensive campaign. One supporter promises to spend a million dollars of his own money to legalize marijuana. If successful California would become the first state this century to legalize marijuana, and tax it.

Proponents say legalizing the use of marijuana in California is one way to help solve the state's budget problems. And they say it's one way to make life easier for police. So supporters of what is being called the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 have a former reserve sheriff's deputy and school policeman as their voice.

A radio advertisement broadcasts: "Like many other cops, I've seen firsthand that the current approach on cannabis is simply not working. It's led to violent drug cartels, dealers in our schools and our streets."

Covina Police Chief Kim Raney represents the California Police Chiefs Association. The association opposes legalizing marijuana in California. Raney says they just don't spend their time on cases involving less than an ounce.

If you are caught with less than an ounce of pot now it's a citation with a small fine.

"What law enforcement in the state and nationally is focused on is the cultivation and the large-scale smuggling operations of marijuana," said Ramey.

Millionaire Richard Lee bankrolled much of the petition drive that got the measure on the November ballot. He started using marijuana medicinally after a back injury. Now he sells medical marijuana and promises to raise at least $20 million to legalize marijuana.

"I've always thought since I grew up in the '70s that cannabis prohibition is unjust and hypocritical," said Lee.

Lee believes that taxing marijuana will make the proposition more attractive to voters.

Raney asks if we as a society want another intoxicant legalized.

"Once we get a consistent voice, I think the public will realize what's really at stake here is the social fabric of the state," said Raney.

With feelings as strong as those you can get some idea how tough the campaign will be on both sides of the legalization issue. Fourteen states, including California, allow marijuana for medical use. Alaska tried legalizing it for recreation in 1978. The law was repealed in 1990.