Californians Will Decide Whether to Legalize Cannabis This Fall

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act qualifies for the ballot.


AUMA campaign

Yesterday the Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) officially qualified for this November's ballot in California. The initiative, whose backers include Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Facebook president Sean Parker, would belatedly allow recreational use of marijuana in the first state to recognize the plant as a medicine and more than triple the number of Americans who live in jurisdictions that see fit to tolerate cannabis consumption without a doctor's note.

Like the legalization measures approved by voters in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, the AUMA would let adults 21 or older possess up to an ounce of marijuana at a time. Like all of those states except Washington, it also allows sharing (up to an ounce) and home cultivation (up to six plants per household). Unlike the four states that have legalized marijuana so far, the AUMA explicitly allows deliveries to consumers and on-site consumption at businesses licensed for that purpose. Both of those options would be subject to approval by local governments, which also could ban marijuana businesses entirely and regulate (but not ban) home cultivation.

In 2010, the last time California voters considered a marijuana legalization measure, it lost by seven points. According to the Los Angeles Times, "Advocates say the new measure has a better chance because it adds more regulation at the state level rather than letting locals dictate what happens, and comes after the state has approved a regulatory system for medical marijuana growing, transportation and sales." The AUMA is indeed highly prescriptive, weighing in at 30,000 words, 10 times as long as California's 2010 initiative and 50 percent longer than Washington's 2012 initiative, which was itself quite detailed compared to the initiatives in Colorado and Alaska.

It's not clear whether size matters to voters, but the AUMA's supporters are bending over backward to assure the public that they have thought things through. The campaign's official name is Californians to Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana While Protecting Children, and its slogan is "Let's Get It Right, California!" In this case, getting it right means "the toughest regulations of any adult-use marijuana proposal submitted to date," including a constitutionally questionable ban on many forms of advertising, detailed packaging and labeling requirements, and pretty harsh treatment for possessing more than an ounce, which would be a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine and up to six months in jail. Marijuana would be taxed twice: $9.25 per ounce collected from growers plus 15 percent of the retail price. The initiative requires state regulators to begin licensing producers and distributors by January 1, 2018, giving preference to existing medical marijuana businesses.

Organizations supporting the AUMA include the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the California Cannabis Industry Association, the California NAACP, and the California Medical Association. As in 2010, the opposition, known as the Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies, is led by law enforcement groups such as the California Police Chiefs Association and the California State Sheriffs' Association. It has raised about $125,000 so far, much less than the $3.7 million in the initiative campaign's war chest.

Another anti-AUMA group, Stop Pot 2016, may be actively undermining the prohibitionist case with its outlandish claims. The group's president, Roger Morgan, recently told Reason TV "almost all of the mass murders we've had in recent years" were caused by marijuana. 

Support for marijuana legalization has grown since 2010 nationwide and in California. This year the Public Policy Institute of California found that 55 percent of California adults think pot should be legal, up from 47 percent in September 2010. Support was even higher among likely voters, 60 percent of whom said marijuana should be legalized. A February poll by Probolsky Research likewise found that 60 percent of California voters want to "legalize marijuana for recreational use."

In addition to California, legalization initiatives have either qualified for this year's ballot or are expected to do so in Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, and Arizona.

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  1. Yesterday the Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA)….

    Control and TRAUMA.

    More accurate.

    1. Maybe you can slip through a libertarian policy by giving it the most statist title possible.

      1. TRAC — Tax, Regulate And Control Act.

  2. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. Which means that all libertarians should vehemently oppose it and hold their breath until they pass out and bang their head on the coffee table.

    1. “Does it solve more problems than it causes?”

      “Man, you libertarians are impossible to please. Nothing is ever good enough!”

      1. One problem it solves is changing sales or distribution of marijuana from felonies into licensed activities.

        1. Oh, one problem? One whole problem?

          Hey, guys, it solves one self-inflicted state problem. Clearly, if it solves one problem then any objections are sheer cussed foolishness.

          1. So would you prefer that CA continue to throw people in prison for cultivating and selling marijuana rather than give them some kind of legal option for doing so?

          2. As a Californian it is far from a perfect bill, but I think there’s a pretty decent benefit to be gained by not allowing “I thought I smelled marijuana” to automatically allow a search of any person or place. With that law it’s more akin to “I thought I smelled fresh baked bread.”

            (Yes, I’m sure they will come up with something, but this was so easy and just never verifiable.)

        2. It’s already a licensed activity. Medical marijuana is legal, and it’s an open secret that most of that activity is only notionally medical.

          1. And it was those folks trying to protect their legally granted cartel who helped defeat it last time.

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    1. Wow. That’s fucking awful.

  4. Marijuana would be taxed twice: $9.25 per ounce collected from growers plus 15 percent of the retail price. The initiative requires state regulators to begin licensing producers and distributors by January 1, 2018, giving preference to existing medical marijuana businesses.

    So it won’t make a significant dent in the black market.

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  6. Roger Morgan is the new Harry Anslinger.

  7. I eagerly await the denunciations of this referendum from all those folks who were slagging referenda after the Brexit vote.

  8. They’re also trying for a CalExit ballot measure in 2020.

  9. Jesus fucking christ. Any “legalization” that doesn’t feature legal home growing is some FUCKING BULLSHIT.

    Fuck this state.

    1. Like all of those states except Washington, it also allows sharing (up to an ounce) and home cultivation (up to six plants per household)

      It does

  10. My question, as a voter, is does it supercede or clash with the laws already on the books in California regarding medicinal use and distribution. If it doesn’t – if the system that it sets up is intended to exist alongside the medicinal system already in place, then this does in fact look like at least a step in the right direction, and I see no reason not to vote for it, and hopefully correct its imperfections later. If not – if this is intended to replace the regulations currently in place regarding medical use and distribution – that may be a different story.

    Anyone know the answer to that question?

  11. Why Not?
    The state is figuratively going to pot, it might as well be going there literally too.

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