If you need to use marijuana in California for medical reasons, you can visit a doctor and obtain a prescription for medical marijuana to treat conditions such as back pain and anxiety. Nevertheless, it now appears that a single, well-funded marijuana legalization ballot initiative will be offered to voters next November to make marijuana in California entirely legal for adults for recreational use.
Supporters are now gathering signatures to put the initiative – the “Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act” (AUMA) – on the ballot in November, asking California voters if pot should be legal here as it is in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. AUMA is being financed by internet entrepreneur Sean Parker along with support from Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and a number of other well-known state and national figures. What will change if California voters approve the AUMA proposal in November? Here are answers to some of the questions California voters may have about AUMA:
IF AUMA PASSES, WHERE WILL MARIJUANA BE SOLD?
Beau Kilmer, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, told KQED News, “If adult legalization passes in California in November, you’re not going to be able to walk into a supermarket in December and buy a joint,” said Kilmer. Consumers who are age 21 and older would, however, be able to walk into licensed retailers and buy marijuana without a prescription, but how quickly that would happen after November remains unclear.
If voters approve the AUMA proposal, it will be easier to buy pot in some parts of the state than in others. Currently, municipalities can decide independently whether or not to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within their jurisdictions. The cities that do not may continue to ban pot shops under AUMA. People living in California municipalities where pot retailers are not allowed to do business could still have it delivered or travel out of town to buy it.
Marijuana would remain a cash business under AUMA because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and banks are federally regulated. Legalization under AUMA won’t mean that you can buy or possess an unlimited amount of pot, either. The limit on how much marijuana a person will be able to buy and possess at one time is 28.5 grams, or just slightly more than an ounce of marijuana, in plant form. If it’s concentrated marijuana, the limit will be 8 grams. People may still legally cultivate up to six marijuana plants, so if they end up with more than 28.5 grams of harvestable marijuana, no more than that amount can leave their property at one time.
IF AUMA PASSES, WILL PEOPLE SMOKE MARIJUANA IN PUBLIC?
Even if the AUMA proposal passes, no one will be allowed to smoke pot legally in public spaces, schools, or in any businesses unless the businesses are licensed to permit marijuana consumption. Public smoking will result in a $100 fine, smoking in a non-smoking area or within one thousand feet of a school will be a $250 fine, and possessing an open container of pot in an automobile will also be a $250 fine. Anyone accused of violating the AUMA regulations will have to pay the fine or obtain the services of a California criminal defense attorney.
Of course, it will continue to be against the law to drive a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. When someone is charged with driving under the influence of pot in California, it’s handled legally just as if the person had been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Marijuana-DUI is a serious charge in this state, and defendants will need to retain legal representation from a California criminal defense attorney. Employers will still be allowed to maintain “drug-free” workplaces, and landlords may ban marijuana possession and cultivation on their rental properties.
WILL THE STATE BENEFIT IF AUMA IS APPROVED?
In 2014, marijuana dispensaries in California brought in about $570 million, which resulted in about $49.5 million in taxable income. One study by the state projects that if marijuana is legalized for recreational use by adults, it could bring in more than $1 billion annually in taxes statewide. That money could be used to study the impact of marijuana consumption, to fight drug abuse, and to fund social welfare programs.
AUMA is a 62-page-long ballot initiative that includes hundreds of detailed restrictions, regulations, and exemptions regarding marijuana’s purchase, use, and cultivation in California. The AUMA proposal also includes a number of legal inconsistencies and glitches that will eventually have to be fixed by the courts or the state legislature. It additionally contains a number of complications and restrictions that users who’ve grown comfortable with the current laws may find objectionable. California NORML (this state’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) has not taken a position for or against the AUMA proposal.
Advocates say that AUMA reflects the creativity and innovative spirit that characterizes California and its economy. AUMA encourages a competitive market of small and mid-sized retailers and growers, and it enables a science-and-technology-based cannabis industry to find solutions to the challenges it will face in the future. But even with the AUMA proposal on the books, if it passes in November, a California criminal defense attorney will still have plenty of marijuana-related work. Marijuana-DUI arrests are likely to increase, and there will certainly be people who try to cultivate just a bit more pot than the law will allow.
IS LEGAL MARIJUANA SAFER MARIJUANA?
Unfortunately, legal marijuana will not necessarily be the equivalent of safe marijuana. One Colorado man recently filed a product liability lawsuit against LivWell, Inc., which owns and operates one of the largest marijuana cultivation facilities in the world. LivWell protects its marijuana with pesticides. The man’s attorney told the Los Angeles Times: “They are growing hundreds of thousands of plants indoors under lights, and now they are seeing spidery mites, fungus and other plant diseases they fear will wipe out millions of dollars of profit.” As far as product liability goes, legal marijuana is just as highly talked about as hernia repair mesh complications which continue to rise from state to state.
Commercial growers of legal marijuana may use pesticides and other dangerous chemicals in the cultivation process. The legal action in Colorado is the first product liability lawsuit against the marijuana industry, so California pot consumers are advised to check the ingredients list and to ask plenty of questions about where their marijuana comes from and how it’s grown.
Many consider the AUMA proposal to be a progressive legal step forward in a state that’s known for progress. We will not know until November if California voters will approve the AUMA proposal, but even if they do, it’s not going to end the many ongoing controversies surrounding marijuana and the law. Voters will approve or reject AUMA on election day, which this year is Tuesday, November 8. While no one can forecast the results, one thing is certain. If California voters reject AUMA, pot activists will be back with another legalization attempt in 2018 or 2020.