California's largest group of practicing doctors has endorsed a 2016 ballot initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Initiative supporters have until July 5 to collect nearly 366,000 signatures to qualify for the November ballot. (Justin Sullivan, Getty Images file)

California’s largest doctors group backs recreational marijuana plan

Doctors with the California Medical Association announce support of marijuana legalization, saying that regulation would serve public health better than 'ineffective prohibition'

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s largest organization of practicing physicians, the California Medical Association, announced Monday that it is backing a proposed 2016 ballot initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

A coalition of entrepreneurs, activists, environmentalists and state politicians are backing the initiative, led by billionaire technology investor Sean Parker.

CMA said in a statement that its members believe controlling, tracking and studying pot will better protect public health than “ineffective prohibition.”

Spokeswoman Molly Weedn said the medical association is most interested in provisions of the proposal that would expand marijuana research.

“We feel that this initiative specifically is in line with the concerns we had for better monitoring and research of cannabis,” Weedn said.

CMA has also supported legalizing medical marijuana, although it disapproves of physicians playing gatekeeper for public access to the drug.

The California initiative would allow anyone age 21 or older to purchase up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six pot plants. An excise tax of 15 percent would be imposed on all non-medical sales.

California’s legislative analyst and finance director estimate that legalizing marijuana for recreational use could net as much as $1 billion in new tax revenue for the state and local governments.

CMA hopes legalization would help reduce the number of non-symptomatic people in California’s medical marijuana system.

One of the initiative’s proponents is physician Donald Lyman, a member of CMA who chaired the association’s 2010-2011 committee that wrote a white paper on the group’s positions on marijuana, Weedn said.

Initiative supporters have until July 5 to collect nearly 366,000 signatures to qualify for the November ballot. A dozen similar proposals have also been approved to collect signatures.