Here's Why 2016 Could Finally Be The Year Weed Is Legalized In California
Pot smokers in the California are crossing their fingers this year in hopes of changes in state laws that would legalize recreational marijuana.
The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) — nicknamed the Parker Initiative due to its sponsor, former Facebook President and founder of Napster, Sean Parker — would unfold a series of provisions to control, regulate and tax nonmedical marijuana.
Currently, the sale and consumption of medical marijuana is legal in California. But the Golden State is yet to catch up to others like Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Colorado when it comes to recreational pot.
Of the various marijuana reform initiatives proposed in the past, the AUMA is considered one of the most strict and comprehensive presented to California voters yet. Some of the highlights include the following:
• Allows adults over 21 to possess, transport, and consume up to one ounce of nonmedical marijuana • Privileges for medical marijuana patients remain largely intact • Establishes a series of license types for small-, medium- and large-scale cultivation • Designates oversight by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Department of Public Health and Department of Food and Agriculture • Prohibits marijuana sales by businesses that sell alcohol and tobacco • Prohibits advertising aimed at minors • Requires delineation of marijuana products into serving sizes
The list continues extensively, but an important area to study is how marijuana would be taxed under the AUMA.
Effective January 1, 2018, a 15 percent tax would be imposed on all marijuana sales.
This may be of concern to medical marijuana patients, however, "medical marijuana purchased by patients with ID cards will be exempted from regular sales taxes," according to the fine print.
Still, a tax of $9.25 per ounce would be imposed on growers, which may trickle down onto medical patient's costs.
Ultimately, these taxes are expected to raise more than $1 billion annually, with the AUMA allocating the funds into several public services, including law enforcement, research, education and environmental protection.
While the AUMA promises to open a new channel of revenue, it also has plans to save the state some cash when it comes to criminalization. Allowing adults to carry up to an ounce of weed would relieve police of having to enforce the most common marijuana crime: possession.
Additionally, those convicted of marijuana offenses that are no longer crimes — or have been reduced to lesser crimes — would be able to petition for penalty reductions. That is why the California NAACP, who argues that marijuana crimes are enforced in a racially biased manner, endorses the AUMA.
The AUMA has also received support from Californian legislators on both sides of the aisle.
“Given the high cost and ineffectiveness of the status quo, you don't have to be pro-marijuana to be anti-prohibition,” says California Lieutenant Governor, (D) Gavin Newsom.
For republicans like congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), supporting the AUMA is a matter of standing up for individual liberty and advocating small government.
Past marijuana reform initiatives have died bloody deaths on the path to enactment. Often there is a concern about who is benefiting — the consumers, the growers, the dispensaries or corporate interests. Some fear a company like Monsanto monopolizing the marijuana industry and shutting out small-time growers.
The thought of a billionaire like Sean Parker backing the AUMA might be enough to scare away some votes. But one safety net for small business is that the AUMA delays the issuance of large-scale cultivation licenses (which permit 22,000 square feet of plants) for its first five years.
This means that an abundance of small- to mid-sized growers could become established in the market and build relationships with dispensaries before competing with large-scale operations or choosing to expand themselves.
With $2.5 million in funding and a bulletproof base of endorsements, the AUMA has emerged as a shoe-in for California voters in November.