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California Pot Bill Gaining Support For 2012 Ballot

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Marijuana, pot

A bud on a marijuana plant. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SACRAMENTO (KCBS) – Recreational marijuana advocates are once again ready to try to win the support of California voters.

The secretary of state’s office has cleared supporters of legalizing recreational marijuana to once again begin circulating ballot petitions for next November.

But this time, advocates will argue that pot growers should be treated the same as vineyard owners or microbrewers; those who grow marijuana for their own use would not be taxed, but those who sell it would be regulated by the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

KCBS’ Jeff Bell Reports:

One of those advocates is retired Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray.

“We will have an initiative on the ballot in November of 2012 called ‘Regulate Marijuana Like Wine’,” Gray said.

The new idea came to Gray as he spent years on the bench, watching how the courts handled marijuana issues.

“Churning low-level drug offenders through the system for no particular good purpose is very expensive along the way,” he said.

But the argument doesn’t hold up for Joe Russoniello, the former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California.

“The courts are not being clogged because of recreational users getting caught and insisting on a jury trial,” he said.

Russoniello said the idea of treating pot like wine is naive and is convinced that legalizing marijuana would only increase crime in California.

“Those organized criminal syndicates that are on public lands will continue to grow thinking that if they can get the marijuana into the mainstream, that somehow, they’ll be insulated from prosecution,” said Russoniello.

Proponents of the measure need to gather 504,760 signatures by December 19 to put the initiative on the November ballot in 2012.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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