This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.
A broadly-backed initiative to legalize marijuana in the country's most populous state will be on the California ballot in November. The secretary of state's office made it official Tuesday afternoon, certifying that a random sample of more than 600,000 signatures turned in showed there were enough valid signatures to qualify the measure.
[image:1 align:left]"Today marks a fresh start for California, as we prepare to replace the costly, harmful and ineffective system of prohibition with a safe, legal and responsible adult-use marijuana system that gets it right and completely pays for itself," said Jason Kinney, spokesperson for the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA).
"This measure reflects years of hard work, diverse stakeholder input and broad, bipartisan public support, Kinney continued. "A growing majority of Californians support a smarter approach to marijuana and we’re gratified that voters will finally have the opportunity in November to pass comprehensive, common-sense policy that protects children, local control, public health and public safety, saves state and local taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, funds critical local programs, and serves as a model for the rest of the nation."
California joins Maine and Nevada among states that have qualified marijuana legalization initiatives for the fall ballot. In two more states—Arizona and Massachusetts—legalization initiative campaigns are overcoming final hurdles and are almost certain to join them, but a valiant effort in Michigan faces an uphill battle, forced to rely on the courts to overturn a new state law and unfavorable election board rulings.
Pot is already legal in four states, voted in by residents in Colorado and Washington in 2012 and Alaska and Oregon in 2014. Washington, DC, approved possession and cultivation, but not a legal marijuana market, that same year.
Seeing more states go green in 2016 is one thing, but California is the Big Enchilada. With a population of 38 million, its market is more than twice the size of all the legal pot states combined, and it represents more than 10% of the entire country. What is currently a legal pot industry generating hundreds of millions of dollars in sales will easily tick over into multi-billion dollar territory once California joins in.
And it looks like that's likely to happen. A Probolsky Research poll in February had support for legalization at 59.6%. A Public Policy Institute of California poll in May had support at 55%, but at 60% among likely voters.
Poll numbers like these are encouraging for proponents, but skeptics can point to the failed Proposition 19 effort in 2010, which came up short with 47% of the vote after polling above 50% for months that year.
This year should be different, though. The AUMA has broad support, beginning with charismatic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), and including the state Democratic Party, at least three members of the California congressional delegation, a number of state assembly members and other elected officials, the state NAACP, the state ACLU, the California Cannabis Industry Association, and the California Medical Association, as well as prominent figures in law enforcement.
It also has money, and a winning initiative campaign in California will need millions. The AUMA has some deep pockets behind it, including tech billionaire Sean Parker and Weedmaps founder Justin Hartfield, both of whom have dropped million dollar chunks of change into the campaign. The Drug Policy Action Network, the lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, has also kicked in at least $500,000.
The AUMA's campaign fundraising committee has raised $3.7 million so far this year, which is a good start and dwarfs the amount raised by the opposition Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies, composed of law enforcement and health groups such as the California Police Chiefs Association, the California State Sheriffs Association, and the California Hospital Association. The cops and docs have only managed a paltry $125,000 so far, thanks to donations from groups such as the Association of LA Deputy Sheriffs and the LA County Professional Peace Officers Association.
And it isn't 2010 anymore. Since Prop 19 failed, marijuana legalization has now won in every state where it's been on the ballot, and the whole national atmosphere around seems to have relaxed. And unlike 2010, this is a presidential election year, with higher turnout, especially among young voters, than is seen in off-year elections. The omens are good.
So what would the AUMA do? According to the campaign website (read the complete initiative text here):
- Adults aged 21+ will be allowed to possess marijuana, and grow small amounts at home for personal use. Sale of marijuana will be legal and highly regulated to protect consumers and kids. [Possession of up to an ounce and cultivation of up to six plants]
- This measure brings California’s marijuana market out into the open – much like the alcohol industry. It will be tracked, controlled, regulated and taxed, and we will no longer be criminalizing responsible adults or incarcerating children.
- Includes toughest-in-the-nation protections for children, our most vulnerable citizens.
- Protects workers, small businesses, law enforcement and local communities.
- According to the independent Legislative Analyst and Governor’s Finance Director, these reforms will save the state and local government up to $100 million annually in reduced taxpayer costs – and raise up to $1 billion in new tax revenues annually.
- Majority of revenues will be allocated to teen drug prevention and treatment, training law enforcement to recognize driving under the influence of drugs, protecting the environment from the harms of illegal marijuana cultivation, and supporting economic development in communities disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition
- AUMA includes strict anti-monopoly provisions and protects small farmers, so California’s marijuana industry isn’t overrun by mega-corporations.
- The measure builds on the bipartisan legislation signed by Governor Brown to control and regulate California’s medical marijuana industry, and is modeled after national best practices, lessons learned from other states, and the recommendations of the Lieutenant Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy.
Whether the AUMA is the best way to go about legalizing marijuana in California is certainly debatable, and it does have its critics within the state's cannabis culture, but this is what's going to be before the voters in November.
The Democratic Party adopts a marijuana reform plank, scientists complain about marijuana research obstacles, Myanmar moves to reform a punitive drug law, the UN reports plentiful heroin supplies despite a bad harvest in Afghanistan last year, and more.
[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Democrats Approve Marijuana Reform -- But Not Outright Legalization -- Platform Plank. The Democratic National Committee panel drafting the party's 2016 platform has approved language supporting marijuana law reform, but failed to approve language calling for removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances act. The approved language is as follows: "We believe that the states should be laboratories for democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research to be done on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact, with arrest rates for marijuana possession among African-Americans far outstripping arrests among whites despite similar usage rates."
Scientists Claims US Government Still Limiting Marijuana Research. In a letter published in Science, a group of scientists say the US government is still holding back research into marijuana. "This has created a truly unique and an unnecessary paradox in modern medicine, in which physicians are authorizing treatments to patients, and patients are regularly using medication without a scientific basis of knowledge on patient outcomes, forced rather to rely only on scientifically invalid or anecdotal information," said lead signatories Sarah Stith and Jacob Vigil of the University of New Mexico. The letter comes as the DEA is considering whether to reschedule marijuana.
Maine Legalization Initiative Will Appear on Ballot as Question 1. The initiative from the Maine Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has been designated Question 1 on the November ballot by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. The final wording of the ballot question reads: "Do you want to allow the possession and use of marijuana under state law by persons who are at least 21 years of age, and allow the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?"
Massachusetts ACLU Endorses Legalization Initiative. The Bay State chapter of the ACLU has officially endorsed the initiative from the Massachusetts Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. The initiative is waiting for a second round of turned-in signatures to be counted before it is officially qualified for the ballot.
US Supreme Court Won't Hear Montana Medical Marijuana Appeal. The nation's high court refused Monday to hear a challenge to a state law that limits medical marijuana providers to selling it to no more than three patients. In refusing to hear the case, the high court let stand a Montana Supreme Court decision upholding most of a state law that effectively overturned a 2004 voter-approved medical marijuana initiative. New restrictions are now set to go into effect on August 31.
Pennsylvania Finishes Drafting Temporary Medical Marijuana Regulations. State health officials announced last Friday that they have completed drafting temporary regs that will allow child patients to use medical marijuana products from outside the state while the state's program is being set up. Applications should be available at the health department's website sometime next month.
Heroin and Prescription Opioids
UN Says Still Plenty of Heroin Despite Opium Production Decline. In its World Drug Report 2016, released last Thursday, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that global opium production declined by 40% last year because of a poor harvest in Afghanistan, the world's leading producer, but that the harvest there in 2014 was among the largest on record, meaning that last year's decline was "unlikely" to lead to "major shortages" of heroin because traffickers have built up huge stockpiles in past years.
Danes Favor Marijuana Legalization, Even as Government Vows Crackdown. A Gallup poll has support for marijuana legalization at 45%, with 41% opposed. The poll comes days after the most recent crackdown on Pusher Street in Copenhagen's hippy enclave of Christiania, and the government says it doesn't care what the survey found. "I do not support legal cannabis and the Gallup figures don't change that," said Health Minister Sophie Lohde. "It's possible that some things would be easier if we let loose but I fear that legal cannabis would result in more people developing a substance abuse problem. And that particularly applies to young people."
Myanmar Government Moves to Reform Punitive Drug Laws. The government will push to delete provisions of the country's drug law that require drug users to register with the authorities on pain of imprisonment if they don't. Colonel Zaw Win Tun of the Myanmar Police Force said the provisions violate the country's human rights obligations under the UN Charter. "The existing law states drug users shall register and if not, they shall be imprisoned. Now we are trying to amend the law and remove the provision [requiring drug users to register]," he said. A bill to change the law was submitted to parliament earlier but has not been acted on. The government said it will now move on the bill.
Colombia, FARC Rebels Sign Ceasefire Agreement. Colombia's 50-year-long civil war is now winding down. Government officials and FARC representatives signed a ceasefire agreement last week in Havana and agreed to work together on coca crop substitution programs. The FARC also agreed to combat cocaine trafficking and the government has promised to engage in massive spending for alternative development. Will either actually happen? Read on.
House Republicans blocked an effort to open up banking for marijuana businesses, an Oregon worker fired for medical marijuana use wins his job back, DEA agents get new marching orders on hookers, the Thai government grapples with methamphetamine policy, and more.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy
House Turns Back Effort to Give Pot Businesses Access to Banks. The Republican-led House Wednesday voted down an amendment to the FY 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act that would have blocked federal regulators from punishing financial institutions for working with state-legal marijuana businesses. A similar amendment had passed the Senate last week.
Nevada Legalization Effort Has Raised Nearly $300,000 This Year. The Nevada Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has raised $285,000 so far this year, with more than half coming in a two-day period earlier this month when local marijuana companies made significant donations. The campaign's legalization initiative has qualified for the November ballot. Opposition groups made no reports of donations this reporting period.
Oregon Takes in Nearly $15 Million in Pot Taxes So Far This Year. As of May 30, the state Department of Revenue had processed $14.9 million in marijuana tax payments this year, the agency said Wednesday. Medical marijuana dispensaries authorized to sell to any adult 21 or over began collecting the tax in January.
New Mexico Auditor Bemoans Delays in Processing ID Cards. The state auditor and the attorney general are investigating a backlog of medical marijuana ID card applications as requests for the cards surge. The state has 30 days to issue the issue the cards, but the Department of Health said it is taking 45-50 days, and the auditor's office said it had complaints of wait times of up to 90 days.
Oregon Worker Fired for Medical Marijuana Wins Jobs Back. An arbitrator has ordered Lane County to reinstate a worker it fired because he used medical marijuana to deal with the side effects of cancer treatment and it has ordered the county to give him nearly $22,000 in back pay. Michael Hirsh had been employed as a senior programmer for the county before he was fired in December after two employees reported smelling pot smoke on his clothing.
Heroin and Prescription Opioids
New York Governor Signs Heroin Bill Package. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) Wednesday signed into law a package of bills aimed at the state's heroin and prescription opioid problems. The bills, which address prevention, treatment, and insurance coverage, should produce an additional 270 treatment beds and more than 2,000 slots for drug treatment programs. The bills also require insurance companies to wait 14 days before denying coverage to drug users deemed in need of drug treatment, and it limits initial prescriptions for opioids for severe pain to seven days.
No Prostitutes for DEA Agents. In the wake of scandalous behavior by DEA agents in Colombia during the 2012 Summit of the Americas, the DEA has instituted a one-strike policy for agents caught patronizing prostitutes. "Solicitation of prostitution on duty or off duty, whether you're in a jurisdiction where it is legal or illegal, first time offense -- removal," DEA administrator Chuck Rosenberg told a Senate panel Wednesday.
UN Releases Annual Global Drug Report -- 250 Million Adults Used a Drug Last Year. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime has released the World Drug Report 2016, and notes that 5% of the adult population has used at least one drug in the past year. The UN also reported that the number of people classified as suffering from a dependency disorder climbed to more than 29 million, up from 27 million the previous year.
Thailand Won't Legalize Meth, But Will Remove it From List of Dangerous Drugs. Thai Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya has walked back talk about legalizing the amphetamine, but now says the country will work to reform its drug laws by removing meth from its list of hard drugs like heroin and recognizing a distinction between traffickers and users, workers, and addicts.
Relative Addictive Properties of Various Commonly Used Drugs
Source: Dr. Jack E. Henningfield, Ph.D. for NIDA. Reported by: Philip J. Hilts, New York Times, Aug. 2, 1994 "Is Nicotine Addictive? It Depends on Whose Criteria You Use."
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Top Stories On The Web
The Union, 27 Jun 2016 - Medical marijuana advocates bristled at a Monday meeting over suggested grow regulations, saying the proposed plant count restrictions go too far. Grow supporters also opposed the creation of a per-plant, per-day fine for violators of any new marijuana ordinance, though some advocates indicated they'd support the fines if their implementation was postponed a year.
The Daily Astorian, 27 Jun 2016 - Supreme Court Won't Hear an Appeal Challenging Montana Law That Limits Medical Marijuana Providers to Selling the Drug to Three Patients Each WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal challenging a Montana law that limits medical marijuana providers to selling the drug to a maximum of three patients each.
The Mail Tribune, 27 Jun 2016 - SALEM (AP) - Sales and tax figures collected by state agencies may finally solve one of Oregon's long-running farm crop questions: whether marijuana is indeed the state's most valuable crop, as cannabis advocates have maintained. Tight controls and reporting requirements by the Oregon Department of Revenue and Oregon Liquor Control Commission should result in accurate information about pot, said Bruce Pokarney, spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture. The department compiles an annual list of the state's most valuable crops.
The Mail Tribune, 26 Jun 2016 - RESIDENTS COMPLAIN DURING POT HEARING Threats to put anti-pot measures on the ballot were juxtaposed against complaints about overregulation during a packed meeting Thursday evening about the future of the burgeoning marijuana industry in Josephine County.
Albuquerque Journal, 26 Jun 2016 - Former Sheriff Who Uses Medical Cannabis Can't Legally Own a Firearm Former Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White says he is no longer a certified law enforcement officer, doesn't have a concealed handgun carry license but does own a firearm.
Washington Post, 26 Jun 2016 - THEY ALL WANT TO PROFIT FROM MEDICAL MARIJUANA IN MARYLAND The people lining up to profit from Maryland's legal medical-marijuana market include former sheriffs and state lawmakers, wealthy business executives and well-connected political donors, according to previously undisclosed public records obtained by The Washington Post.
Port St. Lucie Tribune, 24 Jun 2016 - The 1936 film "Reefer Madness" wound up becoming a campy cult classic because the movie, originally designed as a warning about the dangers of marijuana use, so overdramatized the issue that it's message simply couldn't be taken seriously. Now, with a slew of new polls showing Floridians overwhelmingly support the legalization of medical marijuana, opponents of Amendment 2 - the proposed constitutional amendment to legalize medical pot - are themselves edging closer to unintentional satire.
Los Angeles Times, 25 Jun 2016 - When Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012, opponents of the new law warned that more teenagers would start using the drug. But teen use of marijuana has held steady, according to a new survey of nearly 17,000 high school and middle school students by the state Department of Public Health and Environment.
The Salinas Californian, 25 Jun 2016 - Commercialized medical pot is a go in Salinas, but businesses are a ways from hanging a shingle. Since it started accepting applications for commercialized medical marijuana on June 6, the city has not received any applicants. The deadline for applications is Wednesday, July 6. But City Attorney Chris Callihan said he isn't worried.