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Local California Governments Driving Marijuana Policy

HHC Plus, flickr

Medical marijuana

HHC Plus, flickr

While several Western states are considering or have already legalized marijuana, California is still struggling with how to regulate it for medical use. But increasing local action could push the issue beyond that.

Washington and Colorado have already legalized recreational marijuana. Oregon and Alaska voters will decide on legalization in November. But in California, medical marijuana is still being debated. And local governments are driving the policy. Thirteen local measures will go before voters this fall.

Political Consultant Mike Madrid says that’s far more than voters have seen in the past. He says, while the state has avoided the issue, local California governments are increasingly taking it on.

"It’s no longer possible to just ban medical marijuana dispensaries. That’s really becoming an untenable situation," he says. "And frankly that’s not good public policy no matter who you feel about the issues, because, frankly, it’s happening."

Madrid thinks there could be state legislation soon. He compares it to the recent state-wide plastic bag ban.

"What made the plastic bag issue finally tip was when over 100 cities passed bans and the legislature finally realized we’d better act or we’re going to be irrelevant," he says. "That’s exactly what’s going to happen with this issue, along with other issues."

Madrid says it’s likely there will be a state-wide measure on the 2016 ballot to legalize marijuana. And he says once California approves, it’s just a matter of time before the rest of the country follows.