California's Biggest Union Backs Legalizing Marijuana

Thursday, 23 Sep 2010 10:33 AM

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The California initiative to legalize marijuana, which had been relying on stoking grass-roots support, so to speak, got a major spark when the Golden State’s largest labor union endorsed Proposition 19 on the November ballot. The backing of the Service Employees International Union could be a boon to the effort, according to the Los Angeles Times, which reported that the campaign has not been able to generate enough money for TV ads.

California, legalize, marijuana, Proposition 19, SEIUThe 700,000-member SEIU is considered a major force in California politics, although the Times noted that it’s not clear whether the union will add financial and human resources to its endorsement.

Union President Bill A. Lloyd wrote a letter to the campaign saying, "As you know, our primary objective in the 2010 election is targeting the top of the ticket. The lion's share of our focus and resources are targeted at electing Jerry Brown as our next governor, but we look forward to joining you in any way we can to help pass Proposition 19."

The union decided to back the initiative because of its potential to raise money to avoid budget cuts healthcare, home care, education and services for children, families, the elderly, and people with disabilities, Lloyd wrote. "These new revenues will help the state and local governments protect and invest in jobs we need to provide for our families," he wrote.

The initiative, which would allow people 21 and older to grow and possess marijuana, would not authorize any state taxes but rather, would allow cities and counties to approve selling marijuana and taxing the proceeds.

Opposition spokesman Roger Salazar said the initiative does not guarantee new revenues, and the Times quoted him as saying, "It strikes me that they have been sold a bill of goods."

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