Written by Guest Blogger Morgan Tougas, University of California Berkeley
This November, voters in California will consider a number of ballot initiatives. One of these initiatives, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), seeks to regulate and legalize cannabis for adults over the age of 21. Although there were a variety of other initiatives hoping to gain support to regulate cannabis, AUMA is the most comprehensive and well-organized option for Californians striving to reform and regulate the adult use of cannabis — and is the only initiative likely to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot.
Recognizing the impact that ending cannabis prohibition in California will have on chipping away at the failed drug war, Students for Sensible Drug Policy is proud to endorse the Adult Use of Marijuana Act!
Throughout the years of prohibition of cannabis, thousands of California citizens have faced severe mandatory minimum drug sentences for marijuana-related incidents. The nation’s “War on Drugs” has resulted in skyrocketing incarceration rates yet has failed to significantly decrease either crime or drug use. The prison system removes drug offenders from their families and communities, effectively disrupting their lives and putting them in a situation where they can no longer care for their loved ones. If AUMA were to be enacted, those currently serving marijuana-related sentences would be given the option to appeal for sentencing-relief and possible release. AUMA would make many current misdemeanors legal, and reduce several felonies into misdemeanors. While California penalties for marijuana offenses by minors under the age of 18 are currently very similar to penalties for adults, AUMA would expand the use of counseling, community service, and evidence-based drug education for offending minors while protecting young people from the harms of the criminal justice system.
AUMA is unique in that it places great importance on the value of small businesses, and seeks to protect these businesses within its framework for legal marijuana in California. In order to prevent monopolization, AUMA requires that you must be a resident of the state to obtain a growing and selling license, prevents price-fixing, and creates a 5-year waiting period before large-scale business licenses can be issued. Those who have prior convictions for drug-related offenses will not be barred from obtaining a license or employment within the industry.
Cannabis prohibition is undercutting potential tax revenues that would be extremely beneficial to Californians. AUMA creates a California Marijuana Tax Fund for commercial tax revenues and establishes guidelines for the use of these proceeds. Under AUMA, specified amounts of tax revenues would be used for reasonable administrative costs of licensing, research of AUMA’s implementation by California universities, expanding California Highway Patrol’s tools to recognize and prevent impaired driving, grants and services such as job placement and mental health treatment in communities disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition, and research at the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. Remaining funds would be allocated to youth programs and education to prevent drug misuse, environmental restoration and protection, and local law enforcement. Local bans of licensed businesses are permitted but, because they inhibit sensible approaches to cannabis in communities, tax revenue funds would not go towards localities enforcing bans.
Overall, AUMA is the largest and most realistic effort for regulating and legalizing the adult use of marijuana in California. It is an extensive ballot initiative that works to destigmatize cannabis consumers and provide a pathway for later states to adopt their own sensible policies. AUMA would begin to make amends for the thousands of lives and families affected by marijuana prohibition by fundamentally changing the legal system as it currently stands. Tax revenues from marijuana legalization would provide California and its residents with valuable resources and opportunities. Californians are changing their attitudes towards marijuana, and AUMA can provide the much-needed framework to guide that change into a productive and effective movement.