Fate of Legalizing Pot in Calif. Near

LOS ANGELES, March 24 (UPI) — California may be the flash point again in the smoldering debate over marijuana legalization as officials decide whether the question should be on the ballot.

Los Angeles County elections officials must submit their count of valid signatures collected in the county on a statewide legalization initiative Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported. State election officials keeping a tally said the county’s number is almost guaranteed to be enough to qualify the initiative to be on the November ballot.

The move to legalize marijuana comes 14 years after California decided the controversial weed could be used for medicinal purposes.

Proponents cite the financial and social cost of enforcing a marijuana prohibition and argue that marijuana isn’t as dangerous and addictive as alcohol or tobacco. Opponents counter with statistics of marijuana-related crimes, rising use among teens and the physical harm pot can cause.

To be on the ballot, the measure needs 433,971 valid signatures and was 15,000 short Tuesday, the newspaper said. Los Angeles County, where 142,246 signatures were collected, is expected to put it over the top, the Times said.

“They already accept that it’s out there. They want to see a smart strategy,” said Chris Lehane, a strategist for the initiative.

But John Lovell, a lobbyist for law enforcement groups, said he believes that voters will reject the proposition.

“Why on Earth would you want to add yet another mind-altering substance to the legal array?” he asked.

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