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CA Marijuana Legalization Clears First Step to Ballot Measure

Full marijuana legalization in California inched one small step closer to reality on Monday when advocates were cleared to collect signatures to qualify a measure for the 2016 ballot.

Supporters of the Responsible Use Act of 2016 have 180 days to collect 365,880 signatures from Californians before the measure can appear on next year’s ballot, reports Reuters.

The measure, one of at least four being worked on for the 2016 ballot, would impose an excise tax of $8 per ounce of dried marijuana sold in the state, and would allow local governments to tack on an additional sales tax of up to two percent of retail price. The proposal would also set new parameters for marijuana-related criminal offenses and would allow those convicted of marijuana-related crimes the ability to have their sentences reviewed.

The proposal would not affect medical marijuana’s tax exemption.

A recent analysis commissioned by the Legislative Analyst’s Office and the California Department of Finance found that the state could face a tax revenue windfall if the measure passes. According to City News Service, the state could potentially earn hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from the taxation of recreationally legal weed. A significant portion of the revenue would be spent on drug education and counseling, medical research, and regulation.

After the narrow defeat of Proposition 19 on the 2010 ballot, marijuana advocates decided to wait until 2016 to try again. Activists watched as Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington all legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Oregon’s law takes effect on Wednesday.

Marijuana-related businesses, like the online dispensary-finding tool WeedMaps, have poured millions into backing ballot measures for 2016.

The increased activity in California comes as support for the legalization of marijuana in the state reached record highs earlier this year. According to a March Public Policy Institute poll, 53 percent of Californians believe the drug should be made legal for recreational purposes, while 45 percent believe it should remain illegal.

The legal marijuana industry was valued at $2.7 billion in 2014, up 74 percent from $1.5 billion in 2013, according to the ArcLight Group. The organization predicts that by 2015, marijuana will be the fastest-growing industry in America.

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