California Hemp & Health Initiative 2008 gathering signatures.

Activists are circulating a sweeping legalization initiative for the 2008 ballot, the California Cannabis Hemp and Health Initiative. Sponsored by veteran hemp advocate Jack Herer along with Eddy Lepp and other activists, the initiative would repeal criminal and civil penalties for cannabis, ban drug testing for metabolites, and provide that marijuana be regulated in a manner similar to the wine industry. Also included is a controversial provision ordering the immediate release from jail of all non-violent marijuana offenders, which many believe goes farther than voters would be apt to support. The initiative closely resembles previous unsuccessful hemp initiatives that Herer has sponsored since 1990, none of which have come close to qualifying for the California ballot.

The initiative needs 434,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot; signature gathering continues through April 5, 2008.

California NORML supports Herer’s initiative although it is doubtful that it can succeed. Herer is not hiring professional signature-gatherers, but is calling on volunteers to circulate the initiative. A poll last year by California NORML found that California voters remain strongly opposed to legal marijuana by a 60-40 majority, even though a similar majority agree that marijuana users should be treated like alcohol users and not sent to prison.

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