Back in 2010 California voters took to the ballot box to vote for what was then a historic measure: legalizing the recreational use of cannabis.
This was two years before states like Washington and Oregon legalized marijuana on their own terms. Californians, regrettably, fell victim to voter apathy, lack of funding and threats of a federal backlash– effectively ending Proposition 19 before proponents could initiate public support.
Six years later, with hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in grassroots fundraising and signature-gathering paid for by wealthy donors and activist groups like the Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance, the state is once again getting its chance to vote for legal pot.
Proponents of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act announced in June that state officials had qualified the ballot initiative to appear in the November General Election. Through the efforts listed above, the group succeeded in collecting more than the 365,880 valid petition signatures to place AUMA on the ballot.
The AUMA will allow all adults 21 and over to legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis or seven grams of cannabis extract, as well as grow up to six plants on their own.
Support of the AUMA is at an all-time high. While former legalization efforts were arguably misguided, public backing remained steadfast. Current legalization polls are strikingly similar, with numbers running in the mid to high 50 percentile for those in favor.
While it’s very likely the AUMA will be put on this Novembers ballot, it is by no means a certain victory for marijuana proponents.
Anti-marijuana advocates such as the state police, rehab clinics, and politicians in both parties supported by drug war lobbyist are gearing up for an ugly, contentious battle as they look to fight over not only issues of morality but the very real effect marijuana legalization will have on their funding.
And it’s not just “The Man” who’s worried. Pot growers and many in the medical marijuana industry also fear decreased profits under legalization.
Even if marijuana were legalized in California for recreational use, there are still thousands who will remain incarcerated for non-violent marijuana related offenses.
About 20,000 Californians are arrested each year for cannabis, and tens of thousands more receive tickets for marijuana infractions. A large percentage of these people are persons of color.
These individuals will find entry into the legal cannabis industry, both as patron or employee, virtually impossible due to federal laws barring felons from working with or possessing illicit substances.
The “They Got It Wrong Again” campaign recently stated that “This new initiative (AUMA) will specifically allow felons convicted of dealing up to 20,000 heroin doses to receive marijuana licenses.”
Unfortunately, this is fundamentally false. State regulators can (and probably will) bar anyone from receiving a commercial cannabis license for a wide range of issues like past hard drug dealing.
So how likely is it that we Californians will turn out to vote for the AUMA in large enough numbers to put it into law?
Polls show that a majority (55%) of Americans favor unfettered legalization, up from a paltry 12% in the 1960’s. Millennials are clearly on board (68%) and, in total, 94 million Americans acknowledge trying cannabis at least one time or another.
While these numbers are encouraging, we Californians are notoriously fickle and could have easily passed Prop 19 with equal national support.
So it’s rather disappointing to see that we are currently the 3rd state most likely to vote for legal pot this fall, even with a projected $1 Billion dollars in annual revenue from legal weed sales:
Odds on the next state to legalize recreational cannabis use
Nevada: 9/4 (30%)
Maine: 5/2 (28%)
California: 9/2 (18%)
Massachusetts: 7/1 (13%)
Arizona: 20/1 (5%)
Michigan: 24/1 (4%)
Montana: 49/1 (2%)
North Dakota: 500/1 (<1%)
Florida: 500/1 (<1%)
With odds like that, we are going to need all the turnout we can get come this November 8th.
The official Title and Summary of the initiative that voters will read states:
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Legalizes marijuana and hemp under state law. Designates state agencies to license and regulate marijuana industry.
Imposes state excise tax on retail sales of marijuana equal to 15% of sales price, and state cultivation taxes on marijuana of $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves. Exempts medical marijuana from some taxation. Establishes packaging, labeling, advertising, and marketing standards and restrictions for marijuana products. Allows local regulation and taxation of marijuana. Prohibits marketing and advertising marijuana to minors. Authorizes re-sentencing and destruction of records for prior marijuana convictions.
Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Net reduced costs ranging from tens of millions of dollars to potentially exceeding $100 million annually to state and local governments related to enforcing certain marijuana-related offenses, handling the related criminal cases in the court system, and incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders. Net additional state and local tax revenues potentially ranging from the high hundreds of millions of dollars to over $1 billion annually related to the production and sale of marijuana. Most of these funds would be required to be spent for specific purposes such as substance use disorder education, prevention, and treatment. (15-0103.)