Oakland Legalization Drive Has Shot at Ballot

Supporters of a campaign to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Oakland, Calif., said they have the required signatures to get the initiative on the November ballot, the Oakland Tribune reported June 22.

According to the Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance, more than 32,000 signatures have been obtained, 12,000 more than the number required to get the Oakland Cannabis Initiative on the ballot.

Officials in the City Clerk’s Office said the signatures must be certified before the proposal can be placed before voters.

“It makes us feel really good and confident that we’re headed to the ballot in November,” said Alliance member Joe DeVries.

While the measure wouldn’t decriminalize marijuana in the city unless recreational use of the drug is legalized by the state, it would prompt the city to examine ways to tax and regulate sales if and when legalization occurs.

The measure also would require the Oakland Police Department to treat the private adult use of marijuana as its lowest priority.

Police officials dispute the alliance’s claim that legalizing marijuana would be beneficial to the city. “It’s not going to solve all the problems they say it’s going to solve,” said Oakland police narcotics Lt. Rick Hart. “How much would it cost in stores? How difficult will it be to get it? There’s still going to be a black market if it’s too expensive in the store and you can get it for less on the street.”

Hart added that children would still be able to obtain the drug. “You’ll still have the under-21 folks interested in purchasing it, and where are they going to get it? Because stores would presumably be carding, young people couldn’t get it there and would still buy it on the street. So you won’t have less dealers. As long as it’s a lucrative business on the street, it’s gonna be out there,” he said.

Hart also noted that personal adult use of marijuana already is a low priority in the city. “If we stop someone and they have less than an ounce, if they have one joint in the car, they only get a citation anyway,” he said. “Even now, we’re not handcuffing people and taking them to jail for that. So the only thing that would change would be the amount they could have.”