California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will lead a panel that will study how the state can legalize and regulate marijuana use, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.

Newsom and the California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced on Thursday that Newsom's group, comprised of legal and medical experts, would devote between 18 and 24 months analyzing the effects of legalization of the drug in Washington and Colorado, with the goal of producing recommendations for a possible ballot initiative for the 2016 election.

Results of a survey released on Oct. 7 indicate that for the first time, about 60 percent of likely state voters would support legalizing marijuana. Allen Hopper, director of drug policy and criminal justice for the state ACLU, alluded to this data in a statement on the organization's website.

"Marijuana prohibition has harmed communities and families by needlessly ensnaring hundreds of thousands of people in the overburdened criminal justice system, with people of color far more likely to be arrested and prosecuted," Hopper was quoted as saying. "California voters recognize that it’s time for change and will overwhelmingly support reforming marijuana laws provided it can be done responsibly with adequate safeguards and assurances that tax revenues will go to fund public schools and other important social services."

[Image via ABC News]