On Tuesday, November 8, Californians will vote on a proposal to legalize possession of marijuana for adults, and, finally, legalize production and sale of marijuana. Proposition 64, The Adult Use of Marijuana Act, will legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and over; it also establishes a regulatory framework for the legal production, distribution and sale of marijuana and marijuana products.
Polls show that more than half of California voters support legalization of recreational marijuana. With support from Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, the Democratic Party, the California Medical Association, the NAACP, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and more, Proposition 64 is expected to pass. As noted by California NORML, Proposition 64 is supported by every major drug law reform organization, but opposed by a vocal minority of backyard growers and libertarian purists.
Libertarian “purists”-and others-object to the body of regulations embedded in the AUMA, and to the imposition of taxes on cultivation and sale of marijuana.
AUMA legalizes possession by adults of one ounce (28.5 grams) of marijuana flowers or leaves, or 8 grams of concentrate. Current law provides that possession of one ounce or less is subject to a civil fine: citation rather than arrest, no jail, no criminal record. So AUMA seems like little progress. But full legalization, even limited as it is, changes the fundamental legal position of someone who possesses marijuana.
AUMA reduces penalties for possession of large amounts, for unlicensed cultivation, transport, and sale. All are reduced from felonies to misdemeanors. AUMA also provides that individuals in prison, on parole or on probation for marijuana offenses can petition to have their sentences reduced in accordance with the lower penalties set by AUMA.
Unlike Proposition 215, the AUMA provides a framework for licensing legal producers, distributors and retail outlets. Since Proposition 215 did not address cultivation and sale, growers and dispensaries have operated in an unclear legal environment. Many cities have refused to allow dispensaries to operate, and some have closed down dispensaries who tried to operate while waiting for legal procedures to be established.
In addition to establishing a legally sanctioned market for marijuana and marijuana products, Proposition 64 embeds in the Constitution a legal right to grow 6 plants for personal use.
Proposition 64 states that rights of medical marijuana users established by Proposition 215 and subsequent legislation will not be abridged. This includes the right of medical marijuana users to grow marijuana beyond the six plants allowed for recreational users. While medical marijuana users will have to pay the 15% tax on retail sales of marijuana, they are exempt from paying the 7.5% sales tax.
The regulatory framework established by Proposition 64 is comparable to the regulatory framework for production and sale of alcoholic beverages. When Alcohol Prohibition was repealed, the government first legalized 3.2 beer – beer with an alcohol content of 3.2%. Stronger beverages remained illegal at first. But over time a large and varied legal alcohol industry has developed, and grocery stores carry large stocks of beer, wine and liquor, in competition with alcohol superstores and corner liquor stores.
The Adult Use of Marijuana Act marks real progress toward full legalization of production, sale and consumption of marijuana. Legalization of marijuana in California – the most populous state – will put pressure on the federal government to change its policies toward marijuana. Join Governor Gary Johnson and me in supporting passage of Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.