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California marijuana advocates encouraged by legalization in Colorado, Washington

  • Attorney Joe Rogoway (PD file photo)

North Coast marijuana advocates are buzzing about the historic elections in Colorado and Washington where voters legalized marijuana for recreational purposes.

They say they're hopeful Californians will be persuaded to take a similar step when they see how the two western states benefit over the next few years.

Call it a contact high of sorts.

"Legalization of cannabis has been essentially green-lighted to go forward in California," said Santa Rosa attorney Joe Rogoway, who is part of a grassroots effort to make pot legal. "It's no longer a question of 'if' but of 'when'."

Rogoway isn't the only person who's giddy at the prospect of ending California's marijuana prohibition.

Supporters everywhere are anticipating a domino effect from the unprecedented vote -- which allows Colorado and Washington residents 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of pot and establishes future regulatory plans for retail sales, production and distribution.

Many believe California's time will come in 2016 -- the next election when a large number of young voters will go to the polls.

Aaron Smith, a former Santa Rosa resident and executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said people will be convinced it's the right thing to do when they see millions of dollars in tax revenue roll into Colorado and Washington.

As an anticipated windfall is spent on things like schools and roads, sentiment in California should grow strongly in favor of legalization, Smith said.

"We are in a completely different landscape now after what happened in Colorado and Washington," Smith said. "Support is growing exponentially."

But uncertainties remain, including the fact that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The Justice Department has not said whether it will block the new laws in Colorado and Washington but indicated its continued opposition.

And some question whether Californians really want to legalize pot. The idea was rejected by voters in 2010 and there's been nothing to indicate a change in that thinking, said Paul Armentano, deputy director of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

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