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California’s Secretary of State announced the proponent, of an initiative that would limit punishment to a $250 fine for possession, cultivation, sale or transportation of up to two ounces of marijuana, can begin collecting signatures to try to get it on the 2012 ballot.

The Reduced Marijuana Penalties initiative is backed by Bill Zimmerman, a political consultant who also championed the state’s 1996 Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. In addition, he supported Proposition 36, passed in 2000, which gave some drug offenders the choice of a jail sentence or undergoing treatment for substance abuse.

The newspaper notes the new measure, by limiting the allowed amount of marijuana to two ounces or less, would make it difficult for law enforcement officials to argue it would benefit drug cartels. The initiative would not change existing penalties and laws for having marijuana on school grounds, selling to a minor, using a minor to sell marijuana, driving under the influence or using the drug in the workplace.

A statement by the office of the California Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, notes Zimmerman must collect signatures of 504,760 registered voters (equivalent to five percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2010 election) in order to qualify for inclusion on the ballot. The signatures must be collected by April 5.

“I have no idea what our chances are,” Zimmerman told the newspaper. It “will depend on whether people are willing to give up on the prospect of full legalization next year and devote themselves to a practical objective.”

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