Current support for California’s marijuana legalization has taken flight and polls have shown that it is up 60 percent with California’s likely voters in the November presidential contest to support legal pot. The Adult Use of Marijauna Act (AUMA) initiative, has grown in support and off to a huge push for the Nov. 8 ballot by the likes of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Facebook President, Sean Parker.
For those who aren’t familiar with AUMA, the initiative will control, regulate and tax legal marijuana for those 21+, protect children, and establish laws to regulate marijuana cultivation, distribution, sale, and use, and will protect Californians and the environment from potential dangers. The annual tax revenue will be fairly high at 15 percent but could reach upwards of $1 billion annually.
“By establishing a legal, taxed and tightly regulated system, we can offer new protections for our kids, our communities and our environment, while adopting a best-practices framework for responsible adult marijuana use and its impacts,” said Newsome.
While California has been known to be at the frontier of cannabis laws by being the first state in the country to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 and lessen penalties for possession throughout two decades, current policies are becoming outdated and reform just may be necessary. The AUMA initiative can pave the way for reform and be beneficial to those in California who oppose it or not.
What AUMA may mean for California
Currently, marijuana growth and sale is not being taxed by the State of California which in turn can mean hundreds of millions of dollars that can benefit the state in various ways. Although, some cities do impose specific city tax they still have all benefited greatly from it on medical cannabis sales.
AUMA can help facilitate proper methods that will provide funds to be used to manage sectors in charge that create new laws and will provide funds to public health programs that educate youth to prevent and treat serious substance abuse, train local law enforcement to enforce the new law with a focus on DUI enforcement, invest in communities to reduce the illicit market, create a job market and finally protect public lands damaged by illegal marijuana cultivation.
Some cities in California have different laws pertaining to medical marijuana sales but we can bet anyone who’s driven across most of California’s cities have seen the numerous green crosses for medical cannabis dispensaries. It’s obvious that medical marijuana sales have become more abundant in California and with a state regulated format AUMA reports of hundreds of millions of dollars annually that could benefit California.
“It’s very encouraging to see a vibrant community of activists, many of whom have dedicated their lives to this issue, coming together around 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,” said Parker, who has invested over $500k to the initiative.
California AUMA compared to Colorado’s AUMA
With Colorado already years into legalization of recreational cannabis for adults 21+ it already has put many efforts into regulations amongst marijuana cultivation and sales but also differs from what California’s AUMA has proposed. Colorado’s Amendment 64 permits a person 21+ to consume or process limited amounts of marijuana; providing for the licensing of cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and retail stores; permitting local governments to regulate or prohibit such facilities.
While the rules seem to be less regulated than that of California’s AUMA Colorado’s legalization has thrived in terms of annual sales and taxes. According to new data released by Colorado and analyzed by the Marijuana Policy Group, Colorado’s recreational dispensaries were estimated to ring up $295 million in sales and $51 million in tax revenue in 2014.
With increasing support from other Alaska, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia – who have all voted to legalize adult marijuana use, they all have very important lessons for California.
“Last year, the Commission released its report with a series of recommendations and best practices for proponents to consider as various ideas were being discussed. While the report did not endorse any specific legislative proposal, it set clear guidelines for what a responsible and cost-effective policy would be,” said Newsome.
California Opposition of AUMA
California was the first state to vote on the legalization of marijuana with Proposition 19 in 1972 and again decades later in 2010 in a second Prop. 19 initiative. Both were narrowly defeated but current odds seem to fair better. While some are pointing for legalization there are some concerns by respected individuals in the cannabis industry towards the measure on big tobacco companies that can hamper the California cannabis industry. There can also be potential for opposition to the high tax in the measure.
“If the initiative filed today by Sean Parker were the only cannabis reform initiative on the ballot, I would vote for it. However, I think California can do better,” DeAngelo said in a statement. “I continue to believe our best strategy for victory in November is bringing the entire cannabis community together behind one initiative, and call on all initiative proponents to work towards that goal,” said Steve DeAngelo to SFGATE, executive director of Harborside Health Center, one of the biggest dispensaries in California.
California’s Possible Future of Legalization
AUMA currently has the backing of various organizations alongside Parker and Newsome, who chaired California’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, also says that the NAACP, the California Medical Association and the California Council of Land Trusts all support the objectives and will be urging voters to support in November.
While the potential for passing AUMA can come as soon November 2016 it only would be the start of the process of regulating adult use of marijuana for non-medical purposes. Pushing for this start would ignite the proper safeties and regulations to ensure California deals with other serious issues.
“AUMA strikes the right balance, setting in place strong protections for the public while allowing enough flexibility for regulators to tweak the marijuana market to make sure our kids and communities are safe,” said Newsome.
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