The effort to legalize marijuana by ballot initiative this year just got a significant boost as the powerful California Medical Association — a professional association of some 41,000 physicians statewide — formally announced their endorsement of the measure yesterday. As the CMA announced in a press statement, while they do not endorse marijuana use or smoking of any kind, they "ultimately believe that the most effective way to protect the public health is to tightly control, track and regulate marijuana and to comprehensively research and educate the public on its health impacts, not through ineffective prohibition."

The conclusion follows on a white paper the group issued five years ago, in 2011, supporting the legalization of medical marijuana.

Says Dr. Steven Larson, the President of the CMA, "Medical marijuana should be strictly regulated like medicine to ensure safe and appropriate use by patients with legitimate health conditions and adult-use marijuana should be regulated like alcohol. He adds that the ballot measure, titled the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act, "will ensure the State of California does both — with the public health and public interest being paramount concerns."

Today, to counter the CMA, a new report from researchers at UCSF's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education calls the potential legalization of marijuana a significant public health hazard, because of the smoking aspect. "There’s research to show it’s not harmless, that it has similar cardiovascular effects to cigarettes," says lead researcher Rachel Barry, speaking to California Health Online.

Regardless, the CMA's endorsement is great news for the ballot measure, which most advocates think has a strong chance of passing eight years after CA voters last rejected a pot legalization measure by a fairly small margin — and several years after states like Oregon and Colorado have gone ahead have gone ahead with legalization.

A state with as huge and varied a population as California's — nearing 39 million, or more than seven times the population of Colorado — is going to have problems all its own with the proliferation of legal weed, and a task force led by Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom convened last year to begin designing guidelines for a California where you can buy pot without a dealer, basically anywhere. He said they'd be arguing for a "very regulated market," along the lines of how the state regulates breweries, and Newsom said, "We don’t want this to be the next Gold Rush."

Also, last month, San Francisco announced their own city task force working to prepare for the eventuality of legal pot and what it will mean for planning codes, etc. Other cities are likely to follow suit, if they know what's good for them.

Billionaire Sean Parker revealed in January he'd donated $500,000 so far to the legalization cause, as Forbes reported. Parker calls the measure, "a sensible reform based measure that protects children, gives law enforcement additional resources, and establishes a strong regulatory framework for responsible adult use of marijuana — one that will yield economic benefits for all Californians." I.e., a gold rush.

Previously: NorCal Likes Its Weed Uplifting, While SoCal Wants It Chill
Gavin Newsom And Marijuana Task Force Want To Regulate Legal Pot-Grows Like Breweries