tom angell

U.S.: FBI Reports Marijuana Arrests Increased In 2014; First Increase Since 2009

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The annual number of arrests for marijuana offenses in the U.S. increased last year for the first time since 2009, according to the Uniform Crime Report released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

There were 700,993 marijuana arrests in the U.S. in 2014, according to a new report from the FBI. That's one every 45 seconds.

Marijuana arrests comprised 44.9 percent of all drug arrests, and drug crimes are the largest category of offenses people were arrested for, according to the FBI. Fully 88.4 percent of marijuana arrests were for possession alone.

In comparison, there were 693,482 marijuana arrests in the U.S. in 2013. Data on marijuana arrests for years prior to 2013 is at http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Marijuana#Total.

"It's unacceptable that police still put this many people in handcuffs for something that a growing majority of Americans think should be legal," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "A record number of states are expected to vote on legalizing marijuana next year, so we hope and expect to see these numbers significantly dropping soon.

"There’s just no good reason that so much police time and taxpayer money is spent punishing people for marijuana when so many murders, rapes and robberies go unsolved," Angell said.

South Carolina: Voters Want Next President To Respect State Marijuana Laws

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Voters in Three Early 2016 Primary States Want to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

New polling data has revealed that voters in the early presidential primary state of South Carolina overwhelmingly support ending federal prosecutions of people acting in accordance with state marijuana laws.

Among respondents, 65 percent agree that "states should be able to carry out their own marijuana laws without federal interference." Just 16 percent think that "the federal government should arrest and prosecute people who are following state marijuana laws."

The survey, commissioned by Marijuana Majority, is a follow-up to other recent polls from the organization that showed supermajority support for respecting local marijuana laws in Iowa and New Hampshire, which are also key early presidential primary states.

"Regardless of whether they personally support legalization, voters in these early primary states strongly support scaling back the war on marijuana so that local laws can be enacted without federal harassment," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "The Obama administration has made some helpful accommodations to let states start to move forward, but overarching federal prohibition laws still stand in the way of full and effective implementation.

"Presidential contenders in both parties would do well to make marijuana law reform a prominent issue in their campaigns, and they'd be better off doing it before other candidates realize just how much of a winning issue this is with voters," Angell said.

U.S.: Voters In Early 2016 Primary States Want Feds To Respect State Marijuana Laws

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Supermajority Support From Democrats & Republicans in Iowa & New Hampshire

New polling data reveals that voters in early presidential primary states overwhelmingly support ending federal prosecutions of people acting in accordance with state marijuana laws.

Among respondents, 71 percent in Iowa and 73 percent in New Hampshire agree that "states should be able to carry out their own marijuana laws without federal interference." Just 13 percent of Iowans and 15 percent of New Hampshirites think that "the federal government should arrest and prosecute people who are following state marijuana laws."

"Politicians running to become our next president should take note of just how uniformly voters in these key states want to end federal marijuana prohibition," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, which commissioned the poll. "Candidates who say they would send in the DEA to shut down legal, taxpaying marijuana businesses are effectively announcing that they're out of the mainstream and out of touch with the voters they need support from in order to get elected.

"That type of rhetoric is just not going to score any points in 2016," Angell said.

The new data shows that support for letting states set their own marijuana laws without federal interference is especially high among Democrats and independents in both states, although there is at least 60 percent support across all demographics, including Republicans, 2012 Mitt Romney voters, people older than 65 and those who identify as very conservative.

U.S.: Department of Justice Admits Lying To Congress About Medical Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The U.S. Justice Department warned Congress last year that a medical marijuana provision included in an appropriations bill could "limit or possibly eliminate the Department's ability to enforce federal law in recreational marijuana cases as well." But it turns out that was wrong, according to a just-revealed DOJ memo.

The "informal talking points" obtained by Marijuana Majority's Tom Angell were "intended to discourage passage" of the provision, which passed and was signed into law, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post.

The memo was written by the chief of the Justice Department's appellate section and dated February 27, 2015. In it, the DOJ says the provision does not place "any limitations on our ability to investigate and prosecute crimes involving recreational marijuana."

The memo's talking points were repeated by a number of House members who opposed the medical marijuana provision.

Andy Harris (R-Maryland), one of the worst enemies of medicinal cannabis in the entire House, claimed "the amendment as written would tie the DEA's hands beyond medical marijuana." Rep. John Fleming (R-Louisiana) claimed that the provision would "take away the ability of the Department of Justice to protect our young people ... it would just make it difficult, if not impossible, for the DEA and the Department of Justice to enforce the law."

U.S.: State Legislatures Demand Federal Govt. Allow States To Set Marijuana Policies

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The National Conference of State Legislatures on Thursday passed a resolution demanding that federal laws "be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies."

For a resolution to pass, it must be supported by a majority of participating legislators in each of 75 percent of the states represented at the conference's general business meeting.

The preamble to the resolution, introduced by New Hampshire State Rep. Renny Cushing, notes that “states are increasingly serving as laboratories for democracy by adopting a variety of policies regarding marijuana and hemp,” and it highlights the fact that “the federal government cannot force a state to criminalize cultivating, possessing, or distributing marijuana or hemp — whether for medical, recreational, industrial, or other uses — because doing so would constitute unconstitutional commandeering.”

The resolution states:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the National Conference of State Legislatures believes that federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act, should be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana and hemp policies without federal interference and urges the administration not to undermine state marijuana and hemp policies.

U.S.: Obama Administration Removes Crucial Barrier To Marijuana Research

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Big Win for Marijuana Reform Advocates but More Has to Be Done

Senate Hearing on Medical Marijuana Scheduled for Wednesday

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

In a long-sought move anticipated by many marijuana reform advocates, the White House on Monday announced that it was removing a major obstacle to marijuana research – the Public Health Service (PHS) Review.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) welcomed the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to eliminate its Public Health Service (PHS) Review Committee for non-federally funded medical marijuana research – an additional review process not applied to other Schedule I substances. Last year, Rep. Blumenauer led a letter, signed by 29 other members of Congress, to the Secretary of HHS Sylvia Mathews Burwell requesting that this PHS process be eliminated.

“Today’s decision by HHS is a significant step toward improving an antiquated system that unfairly targets marijuana above and beyond other substances in research," Congressman Bluemanuer said. "I applaud the Administration in heeding our request and the request of many to eliminate this barrier.

"I hope this action will facilitate easier access to marijuana for medical researchers,” Rep. Blumenauer said. “Considering the widespread use of medical marijuana, it is absolutely essential that we allow doctors and scientists to research the therapeutic benefits and risks of its use.

U.S.: Senate Panel Votes To Prevent DEA Interference In State Medical Marijuana Laws

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

In yet another huge victory for marijuana reform, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved an amendment to prevent the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. The vote was 20 - 10.

The amendment, offered by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) to the Senate version of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, prohibits the Justice Department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state laws that allow the cultivation, distribution, and use of marijuana for medical purposes.

It mirrors the amendment sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) that was approved 242-186 last week in the House of Representatives. Passage of identical amendments in the House and Senate typically indicates it will be included in the final spending bill Congress sends to President Obama.

The House also approved amendments to protect state industrial hemp laws and to reduce the DEA’s budget by shifting money away from marijuana eradication and toward better uses.

"We very narrowly lost a vote that would have stopped DoJ from interfering with all state marijuana laws, not just those that are limited to medical marijuana," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority.

U.S.: Senate Panel OKs Medical Marijuana For Veterans

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted 18-12 to approve an amendment to increase military veterans' access to medical marijuana.

The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to the must-pass Senate version of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, if signed into law, would prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from spending money to enforce a prohibition on V.A. doctors filling out medical marijuana recommendation forms in states where the drug is legal.

“This is a historic moment," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). "Passage of the amendment was the right thing to do for our veterans.

"We should not be preventing access to medicine that can help our wounded warriors deal with serious conditions, such as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries,” Blumenauer said. “Today’s passage coupled with the narrow defeat of my amendment to the MilCon-VA appropriations bill in the House signals there is real movement and bipartisan support in reforming outdated federal marijuana policies. We are now in a good position to be able to advocate for inclusion of this policy in a final appropriations bill.”

U.S.: House Narrowly Defeats Increasing Veterans' Access To Medical Marijuana

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The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday voted 213-210 to defeat an amendment to increase military veterans' access to medical marijuana.

The appropriations amendment, offered by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and a bipartisan group of co-sponsors, would have prevented the Department of Veterans Affairs from spending money to enforce a prohibition on V.A. doctors filling out medical marijuana recommendation forms in states where the drug is legal.

"While there is no single approach to aiding our nation's veterans, medical marijuana is proven to help in treating post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries frequently suffered by veterans," Blumenauer said. "States are listening to their residents on the benefits of medical marijuana, including veterans, and are changing their laws.

"It is unacceptable for our wounded warriors to be forced out of the VA system to simply seek a recommendation on whether or not medical marijuana is a good treatment option," Congressman Blumenauer said.

But weed-phobic throwbacks to the bad old days of the 20th Century stood in the way. "So, why in the world we we give a drug that is addictive, that is prohibited as a Schedule I, that is not accepted for any medical disease or disorder, and enhances psychosis and schizophrenia?" asked Rep. John Fleming (R-Louisiana), who, excuse my saying so, is clearly a moron.

U.S.: New Poll Finds 53% of Americans Support Legalizing Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new poll from Pew Research Center finds that 53 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, with 44 percent opposed. As recently as 2006, just 32 percent supported legalization, while nearly twice as many -- 60 percent -- were opposed, according to Pew.

Crucially, the poll finds that people are much more likely to change their minds from opposing legalization to supporting it than vice versa. Among the general public, 21 percent of people support legalization now, but once opposed it. In contrast, just 7 percent of people used to support legalization but now oppose it.

Millennials (currently 18-34) lead the change, with 68 percent in favor. But across all generations, with the exception of the Silent Generation (ages 70-87), support for legal weed has risen sharply over the past decade.

“The more that people learn about marijuana and look at the benefits of legalization, the more likely they are to support reform," Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority told Hemp News on Tuesday. "Our opponents sure do have a lot to say about what they see as the benefits of continuing prohibition, but voters don’t want to hear it."

The most frequently mentioned reasons for supporting marijuana legalization are its medical benefits (41 percent) and the belief that cannabis is no worse than other drugs (36 percent), with many specifically mentioning they think pot is no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco.

U.S.: President Obama Says Pressure Will Increase To Change Marijuana Laws

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President Obama has said that as more states move away from the criminalization of marijuana, pressure will increase on Congress to change federal pot laws.

"We may be able to make some progress on the decriminalization side," Obama said. "At a certain point, if enough states end up decriminalizing, then Congress may then reschedule marijuana.”

The comments come from an interview the President taped last week with VICE’s Shane Smith. The video is at https://news.vice.com/video/president-barack-obama-speaks-with-vice-news .

Even with the positive prediction about the future of federal policy, the President also seemed taken aback by Smith saying that marijuana was the #1 most suggested topic from VICE readers and that if Obama led the way toward legalization, it would be the biggest part of his legacy for young people.

“It shouldn’t be young people’s biggest priority,” Obama said. "Let’s put it in perspective. Young people, I understand this is important to you, but you should be thinking about climate change, the economy, jobs, war and peace. Maybe way at the bottom you should be thinking about marijuana."

“The President is right that as voters force more and more changes to state marijuana laws, national policymakers will have no choice but to catch up," Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, told Hemp News Monday afternoon. "But he should think again about how important this issue is.

Alaska Becomes Fourth State To Legalize Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Alaska on Tuesday became the fourth U.S. state to legalize marijuana, joining Oregon, where voters had approved a legalization measure earlier the same day, and Colorado and Washington, both of which legalized in 2012.

Measure 2, which was approved by 52 percent of Alaska voters, allows adults 21 and older and possess up to an ounce of cannabis, grow up to six plants at home, and transfer up to an ounce at a time to other adults "without remuneration," reports Jacob Sullum at Reason. State-licensed growers, cannabis product manufacturers, and marijuana retailers will be regulated by the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board or a separate agency created by the Legislature.

"Now that it's been shown that putting marijuana legalization on the ballot can succeed even in midterms, we can expect to see a huge surge of additional states voting to end prohibition during the 2016 presidential election," Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority told Hemp News early on Wednesday. "And because the issue has been proven to be mainstream as far as voters are concerned, we may even see lawmakers in several states jumping ahead to legalize marijuana legislatively in the meantime."

Oregon: Victory At The Polls! Voters Make State 3rd To Legalize Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

And now there are three: Oregon voters on Tuesday chose to make their state the third in the U.S. to legally regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana. Passage of Measure 91 accelerates the nationwide momentum in favor of legalizing marijuana and ending the wider Drug War, according to proponents.

"With Oregon and D.C. coming on board, it's clear that Colorado and Washington voting to legalize in 2012 was no anomaly," Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority told Hemp News on Tuesday evening. "The trend is clear: Marijuana prohibition is coming to an end.

"As 2016 approaches, we can expect to see many more ambitious national politicians finally trying to win support from the cannabis constituency instead of ignoring and criminalizing us," Angell said.

The new regulatory system will be overseen by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, in consultation with the State Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Health Authority and will allow adults over 21 to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana and grow up to four plants. DUI and public consumption will still be illegal and localities may ban marijuana businesses through ballot measures.

Revenue from the measure will first go to oversight of the industry and then to schools, mental health and drug treatment services, and local and state law enforcement.

D.C.: Nation's Capital Votes To Legalize Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

In an exciting and ironic twist to America's 77-year-old War On Marijuana, the voters of Washington, D.C., on Tuesday decided to legalize marijuana in the nation's capital. Voters approved Initiative 71, a ballot initiative that legalizes possession of up to two ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and older, and allows individuals to grow up to six marijuana plants in their home.

"With marijuana legal in the federal government's backyard it's going to be increasingly difficult for national politicians to continue ignoring the growing majority of voters who want to end prohibition," Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority told Hemp News on Tuesday evening. "I've been saying for a while that 2016 presidential candidates need to start courting the cannabis constituency, and now the road to the White House quite literally travels through legal marijuana territory."

D.C. laws prevented the ballot initiative from addressing the taxation and sale of marijuana, but the D.C. Council is currently considering the Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2013, a bill that would tax, regulate and strictly control the sale of marijuana to adults.

Florida: Medical Marijuana Narrowly Fails At The Polls

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Florida's voters have narrowly rejected the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. A big majority of state voters voted in favor of medicinal cannabis, but state law requires a 60 percent majority to amend the Florida Constitution.

The Associated Press has projected that Amendment 2, Florida's medical marijuana constitutional amendment, which needed 60 percent of the vote to pass, has narrowly failed. With nearly 90 percent of precincts reporting, about 57 percent of voters voted yes.

The campaign was among the most expensive ballot measures in the country, reports the Associated Press, with millions spent on both sides. Twentieth-century Reefer Madness myths were pulled out and aired as fact as part of the misleading tactics used by the No On 2 side, funded largely by Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Florida lawmakers had passed a very limited, CBD-only "medical marijuana law" earlier this year to allow non-psychoactive strains of cannabis for epilepsy patients. But Amendment 2 supporters argued a more inclusive law was necessary to make medicinal cannabis available to a broader group of patients.

U.S.: Marijuana Legalization Supported By Growing Majority of Americans

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new survey shows that a growing majority of Americans continue to support marijuana legalization in the United States.

The CivicScience survey, released last week, asked more than 450,000 adults over the last two years: "Would you support or oppose a law in your state that would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol?"

Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they support cannabis legalization, with 39 percent saying they "strongly support" and 19 percent saying they "somewhat support" it, reports Matt Ferner at the Huffington Post. Thirty-five percent oppose marijuana legalization, with 29 percent "strongly opposing" and 6 percent "somewhat" opposing the move. Seven percent were too wishy-washy to even express an opinion on the issue.

When breaking out the data from the last three months of responses, from May to August this year, CivicScience saw an increase in support and a decrease in opposition to marijuana legalization. Of those who responded most recently, 61 percent said they strongly or somewhat support cannabis legalization, while just 30 percent said they were opposed.

Sixty percent of men and 55 percent of women support legalization, according to the survey. Support was strongest among those between 25 and 34 years old; the only age group which opposed legalization was people over 65.

U.S.: New York Times Called Out For Drug Testing Employees While Favoring Marijuana Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The New York Times this week, in what is widely seen as an epochal event, called for marijuana legalization in an editorial. But The Times drug tests its own employees, including for cannabis, despite its strong stance against marijuana prohibition.

The online dispensary-finding company WeedMaps has just launched a petition on Change.org which calls out the newspaper for its hypocritical policy.

"Whether we're going to continue testing for marijuana or not, I don't know," Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal said last night on MSBNC. "If they ask me, I'll stop."

Drug policy experts believe the petition stands a good chance of impacting the newspaper's drug testing policy, at least to the extent of convincing them to remove marijuana from the list of substances on the test.

"If The New York Times believes it is wrong to discriminate against people for using marijuana, then they should stop doing so. Full stop," said Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority. "Forward-thinking companies in the emerging legal marijuana industry, such as WeedMaps, are leading the way toward a post-prohibition approach to hiring and human resources by focusing on job performance and not on the content of their employees' urine.

U.S.: Bill Clinton Says States Should Experiment With Marijuana Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Former President Bill Clinton, who once infamously said he "didn't inhale" when he tried marijuana, said on Sunday that he thinks states should be able to legalize cannabis regardless of federal law.

"Look, I think there's a lot of evidence to argue for the medical marijuana thing," Clinton said in a "Meet the Press" interview with NBC's David Gregory, after being asked if it's time to "give pot a chance." "I think there are a lot of unresolved questions."

"This really is a time when there should be laboratories of democracy, because nobody really knows where this is going," Clinton said, reports Dylan Stableford of Yahoo News. "Are there adequate quality controls? There's pot and there's pot; what's in it? What's going to happen? There are all these questions."

States like Colorado and Washington, where voters in 2012 chose to legalize marijuana, should be allowed to experiment with their cannabis laws, Clinton said.

"I think we should leave it to the states," Clinton said. "If the state wants to try it, they can. And then they'll be able to see what happens."

Back in 1992, Clinton was a Democratic candidate for President when he commented on his own marijuana use during a campaign forum in New York. "When I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two and didn't like it," Clinton said of his time as a student at Oxford University in the late 1960s. "I didn't inhale, and I didn't try it again."

Mexico: Ex-President Says Marijuana Could Be Legalized In 5 Years

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Mexico could legalize marijuana within the next five years, former President Vicente Fox said on Friday. The move could strip the nation's notoriously brutal drug cartels of a major source of income.

Fox battled the drug cartels while president between 2000 and 2006; he has since become an advocate of reforming Mexico's drug laws, reports Gabriel Stargardter at Reuters. Fox now argues that drug prohibition has helped create the criminal market that sustains the cartels.

Six years ago, under Fox's successor, President Felipe Calderon, Mexico launched a military offensive to crush the cartels, but the violence only increased. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the Drug War since the start of 2007.

Legalization is the best way of ending the drug gangs' "butchery," Fox said, as he hosted a conference in his home state of Guanajuato in central Mexico.

New President Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office in December, said he opposes legalization, but added that the decision by Colorado and Washington state to legalize cannabis has given him a more open mind.

"I think it's going to happen much sooner," Fox said, when asked by Reuters whether Mexico could legalize cannabis by the time Pena Nieto's term ends in 2018. "Once California gets into this, Mexico is going to be obligated to speed up its decision process."

California: L.A.'s New Mayor Says Legalizing Marijuana Is 'Not A Problem'

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Los Angeles Mayor-Elect Eric Garcetti, who was elected last month on the same day that voters approved capping the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in town, on Sunday said that he would be OK with legalizing cannabis for general use.

During a short interview with Jorge Ramos of Univision on Sunday, Garcetti was asked if he thought marijuana should be legalized, reports Jacob Sullum at Reason.com. He replied that marijuana is important for medical use, "But if in the future, California's voters want it for casual use, for me, it's not a problem."

Garcetti, currently a member of the Los Angeles City Council, went on to suggest that enforcement of the marijuana laws is diverting law enforcement personnel from more important tasks.

"I want to use the police department's resources for more serious crimes, but they are usually tied up in these crimes that aren't as important," Garcetti said. "Still, it would need to be decided by a statewide vote."

Californians rejected legalization measure Proposition 19 by a seven-point margin in 2010. Last year, voters in Colorado and Washington approved legalization by a margin of more than 10 points in both states.

Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority notes that Garcetti made similar comments before winning the mayoral election.

"I'll respect the voters on that," Garcetti said. "If folks wanna do that, it would be fine for recreational use."

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