California’s Prop. 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), was approved by voters in the November, 2016 election.
The new law has benefits for people who want to grow small, recreational cannabis gardens, but in other ways it’s a step backwards.
Here’s the real story about so-called California recreational marijuana legalization…
- AUMA allows people 21 years old and older to procure, possess, give away, and transport up to an ounce of recreational cannabis.
- AUMA allows you to petition for reduction or erasure of past marijuana-related convictions. Take a free eligibility test here to see if you qualify.
- It allows adults to grow a maximum of six marijuana plants.
- Unlicensed manufacture of cannabis concentrates using volatile or poisonous solvents like butane (and not including CO2 or ethanol alcohol) are considered serious felonies.
- Possessing up to 8 grams of marijuana concentrates is legal in one section of AUMA’s 62 pages, but in another section, only 4 grams are allowed.
- You could cultivate up to six plants and possess the marijuana from these plants at your residence for personal use. Only six plants are allowed per residence, no matter how many adults live there. This is a big difference from California’s MMRSA (Medical Marijuana Safety and Regulation Act) recently signed by Governor Jerry Brown, which allows 100 square feet of growing space per patient, with collective gardens of up to 5 patients.
- If you’re currently running a huge medical marijuana or recreational marijuana garden, AUMA would force you to register it and be subject to taxes, government inspections, and other regulatory hassles and expenses.
- All plants (and harvested marijuana in excess of one ounce) must be kept in a locked space indoors or outdoors in the private property residence, but not visible from any public space.
- Cities and counties can regulate and prohibit cultivation outdoors, but cannot completely prohibit cultivation inside a private residence or other private structure that is fully enclosed and secure. Cities and counties can also ban licensed marijuana distribution and processing facilities.
- AUMA continues the illegality of publicly consuming cannabis except for in licensed dispensaries. Also forbidden is consumption within 1,000 feet of a school or youth center while children are present, except on residential property or on licensed premises, but even in those cases, consumption is banned if it can be detected by children.
- You can’t use vaporizers or e-joints in public places unless they’re designated “tobacco smoking areas.”
- You can’t use or display cannabis in any form while in a motor vehicle. AUMA states you can legally transport recreational cannabis in a hidden, sealed container, but there’s another law that contradicts this and makes it illegal… and AUMA leaves that law in place.
- Unlike in Hawaii, where recent marijuana law changes banned discrimination against the marijuana community, AUMA allows employers and landlords to continue discriminating against legal marijuana growers and users. Read here for more about Hawaii’s anti-discrimination marijuana laws.
- Illegal cultivation of six plants or less by minors 18-21 is a $100 infraction. Illegal cultivation of more than six plants is a misdemeanor punishable by $500 and/or 6 months. The current mandatory felony penalty for marijuana cultivation is eliminated, but felonies may be laid in the case of repeat offenders, offenders with violent or serious prior convictions, and in cases where cultivation is creating environmental harms.
- If you’ve been previously convicted of marijuana offenses that would not be a crime or would be a lesser offense under AUMA, you may apply to the court for a revision or outright dismissal of your sentence.
- AUMA would run alongside already-existing medical marijuana laws and creates headaches and confusion as a result. For example, it appears that AUMA would raise taxes on both buying and producing marijuana, whether you’re a medical or recreational user.
- AUMA follows the bad example of the MMRSA in that it establishes 19 licensing categories for all aspects of marijuana cultivation, processing, lab testing, selling, and distributing. It adds more layers of bureaucracy and government scrutiny to the marijuana growing, selling, and processing industries.
- Black market marijuana growers and sellers are particularly concerned that AUMA will allow licensed massive commercial marijuana farms (larger than the ½ acre indoor and one acre outdoor gardens currently allowed by the MMRSA), starting in 2023. There are no limitations on how large these marijuana farms can be. These kinds of large grow ops are what put many black market growers out of business in Colorado.
- Similar to Colorado regs, AUMA stipulates that the State has to establish a system for tracking every marijuana plant grown in an official licensed grow op.
- AUMA has a murky set of regs on whether people with past marijuana convictions can be granted official marijuana industry licenses.
- Legal, licensed marijuana sellers must have a warning label on all marijuana products they sell. The label language is: “GOVERNMENT WARNING: THIS PACKAGE CONTAINS MARIJUANA, A SCHEDULE I CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN AND ANIMALS. MARIJUANA MAY ONLY BE POSSESSED OR CONSUMED BY PERSONS 21 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER UNLESS THE PERSON IS A QUALIFIED PATIENT. MARIJUANA USE WHILE PREGNANT OR BREASTFEEDING MAY BE HARMFUL. CONSUMPTION OF MARIJUANA IMPAIRS YOUR ABILITY TO DRIVE AND OPERATE MACHINERY. PLEASE USE EXTREME CAUTION.”
- AUMA stipulates that people younger than age 21 can be used as bait narks to entrap marijuana sellers into illegal sales to minors.
- AUMA authorizes a steep tax increase on any white market marijuana purchase, whether you possess a medical marijuana card or not, beginning in 2018. If you have a licensed grow or retail facility, you also pay a tax based on the weight of your harvests or processed marijuana material. What’s even worse is that cities and counties are allowed to impose any amount of marijuana-related taxes on anyone licensed to grow, process, sell, store, distribute, or donate marijuana.
- AUMA doesn’t allow marijuana to be marketed to minors. There won’t be cannabis advertising billboards along interstate highways. Also prohibited in marijuana advertising is use of cartoon characters, language, or music known to appeal to kids.
- Minors under 18 will not face any criminal sanction for marijuana offenses, but will be channeled into drug education and community service options.
- Another AUMA factor that greatly troubles marijuana growers: it legalizes industrial hemp. This is a problem because industrial hemp pollen will pollinate high-potency marijuana flowers. Read here about problems that come from legalized hemp growing.
AUMA was supported by the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, California Cannabis Industry Association, California Medical Association, California NAACP, and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
It’s also backed by elites like Facebook billionaire Sean Parker.
Most black market marijuana growers are against it, just like they were against the MMRSA.
Ironically, but as you might expect, the police, prison, and alcohol industries are also against California recreational marijuana legalization.
The following italics text is from an article by Lee Fang on The Intercept, which is one of few places where authentic investigative journalism can still be found.
The Intercept was founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, and other journalistic heroes, some of whom were involved in bringing the Edward Snowden documents to the world.
Here’s what Fang wrote:
Half the money raised to oppose a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana in California is coming from police and prison guard groups, terrified that they might lose the revenue streams to which they have become so deeply addicted.
Drug war money has become a notable source of funding for law enforcement interests. Huge government grants and asset-seizure windfalls benefit police departments, while the constant supply of prisoners keeps the prison business booming.
Opposition to the marijuana legalization initiative, slated to go before voters in November, has been organized by John Lovell, a longtime Sacramento lobbyist for police chiefs and prison guard supervisors. Lovell’s Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies, a committee he created to defeat the pot initiative, raised $60,000 during the first three months of the year, according to a disclosure filed earlier this month.
The funds came from groups representing law enforcement, including the California Police Chiefs Association, the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, the Los Angeles Police Protective League’s Issues PAC, and the California Correctional Supervisor’s Organization. Other donors include the California Teamsters union and the California Hospital Association, as well as Sam Action, an anti-marijuana advocacy group co-founded by former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., and former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum.
Law enforcement officials in Minnesota, Washington, and other states that have debated relaxing the laws surrounding marijuana have said that they stand to lose money from reform. Police receive federal grants from the Justice Department to help fund drug enforcement efforts, including specific funding to focus on marijuana.
Asset forfeiture is another way law enforcement agencies have come to rely on marijuana as a funding source. Police departments, through a process known as asset forfeiture, seize cash and property associated with drug busts, including raids relating to marijuana. The proceeds from the seizures are often distributed to law enforcement agencies. From 2002 to 2012, California agencies reaped$181.4 million from marijuana-related asset seizures. As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2014, pot legalization in Washington state led asset forfeiture proceeds to go up in smoke.
Law enforcement lobbyists in Sacramento, including Lovell, have steered Justice Department grants into marijuana eradication. Last year, Lovell successfully worked to defeat measures to reform asset forfeiture in California.
Prison guard unions have also played a part in defending lucrative drug war policies. In California, the prison guard union helped finance the “three strikes” ballot measure in 1994 that deeply increased the state prison population. In 2008, the California prison union provided funds to help defeat Proposition 5, a measure to create prison diversion programs for nonviolent offenders with drug problems.
For their part, the groups say they fear the dangers of legalized pot for non-selfish reasons.
“The membership of the CCSO opposes the full-blown legalization of marijuana,” Paul Curry, a lobbyist for the California Correctional Supervisor’s Association, told The Intercept. Curry said prison guard supervisors do not want to see a society that encourages pot use and said many of his members are grandparents who are concerned about their children. “If marijuana is not a dangerous drug, the federal government would have made a change, but the fact remains that it’s a federal crime,” he added.
California is only the latest state in which law enforcement unions have led the opposition to ending marijuana prohibition across the country in recent years.
During the 2014 election, Florida law enforcement officials successfully campaigned against a medical marijuana ballot measure by arguing that the initiative would promote a range of problems, from teenage use of the drug to respiratory disease.
In 2010, Lovell successfully organized a campaign to defeat a similar marijuana legalization ballot measure in California. That year, he raised funds from police unions, local prosecutors, and the California Beer and Beverage Distributors Association, in addition to several individual donors. (Presumably the beer distributors see legal pot as cutting into their business.) The initiative was defeated, even though Lovell was outspent by pro-legalization campaigners.
As we saw on election night, 2016, California voters rejected the police and prohibitionists.
But did they really legalize marijuana in California? No. They voted in a complex set of regulations.