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The Smoke Clears on California Marijuana Legalization as AUMA Takes Center Stage [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #914)
Politics & Advocacy

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

After several years of jostling since the defeat of Proposition 19 in 2010, the smoke has cleared in California and it now appears that a single, well-funded marijuana legalization initiative will go before the voters next November. That vehicle is the California Control, Tax, and Regulate Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), backed by Silicon Valley tech billionaire Sean Parker, WeedMaps head Justin Hartfield, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), and a growing cast of state and national players.

The AUMU has sucked all the air out of the room for other proposed initiatives, most notably the measure from the California Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (ReformCA), which had been widely assumed to the effort around which the state's various cannabis factions could coalesce.

Instead, more than half of the ReformCA board members have now endorsed the AUMA, including Oaksterdam University founder and Prop 19 organizer Richard Lee, California Cannabis Industry Association director Nate Bradley, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) head Neill Franklin, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) deputy director Stacia Cosner, and Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap head David Bronner.

That move came earlier this month, after proponents of the AUMA amended their initial proposal to provide safeguards against child use and protections for workers, small businesses, and local governments that also bring it closer in line with Newsom's Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy.

"These amendments reflect a collaborative process of public and expert engagement and make an extremely strong measure even stronger," Dr. Donald O. Lyman, MD, the measure's lead proponent said in a statement. "This measure now includes even more protections for children, workers, small business, and local governments while ensuring strict prohibitions on marketing to kids and monopoly practices."

"We have carefully reviewed amendments submitted by the proponents of the AUMA, and we're convinced it's time to endorse that initiative and unite everyone behind a single, consensus measure to achieve a legal regulated system, which a majority of voters have consistently said they want," Bronner said in a statement.

Here's what the AUMA would do:

Local control. Cities and counties can regulate or totally prohibit commercial marijuana cultivation, processing, sales, and deliveries, but they can't ban deliveries merely passing through their jurisdiction. They can ban even personal outdoor grows, but not indoor ones.

Personal possession. Adults 21 and over can possess up to an ounce or eight grams of concentrate.

Personal cultivation. Adults can grow up to six plants per household, if their localities don't ban personal outdoor grows. Also, landlords maintain the right to ban cultivation or even possession on their property. Growers can possess all the fruits of their harvest.

Social consumption. Localities may allow on-site marijuana consumption at designated businesses.

Public consumption. Not allowed.

Taxation. A 15% excise tax on marijuana products, plus state and local sales taxes, plus a $9.25 an ounce cultivation tax on buds and a $2.75 one on leaves. Also, counties may impose additional taxes, subject to a popular vote.

Regulation. The state agencies empowered to regulate medical marijuana under this year's three-bill regulation package have their briefs expanded to include non-medical marijuana as well.

Licensing. Provides tiered licensing based on business type and size, but to protect small businesses bars the issuance of the largest tier of cultivation licenses for five years and creates a special licensing tier for "microbusinesses."

Employee drug testing. Still allowed.

Criminal offenses. Possession of more than an ounce, cultivation of more than six plants, unlicensed sales, and possession for sale are all six-month misdemeanors, reduced from felonies, although they can still be charged as felonies in some cases.

Tech billionaire Sean Parker has vowed to match MPP donations for California. (
This past weekend, the AUMA picked up the support of Tim Blake, organizer of the Emerald Cup in Santa Rosa, which this year drew a record crow to the annual growers' competition/trade show.

"You know what, I'm going to endorse this thing," Blake told activists assembled for a legalization debate.

His endorsement drew a mixed reaction from the crowd, many of whom want to see a more wide open form of legalization. That's a sentiment that's shared by some prominent figures in the state's marijuana community. Dale Gieringer, a ReformCA board member and long-time head of Cal NORML is one of them.

"This is like 60% legalization," he said. "Some people on the board endorsed it, but I didn't endorse, and Cal NORML doesn't endorse it. We're a consumer organization, and from the standpoint of consumers, the AUMA is the worst drafted one," he said, ticking off a list of issues.

"Cities can still ban dispensaries, deliveries, and outdoor cultivation," he noted, "and it makes it illegal to consume publicly. There are a lot of medical marijuana users in San Francisco where the only legal place they can smoke is the street. And it treats vaping like smoking, which is totally outrageous and unjustified in our opinion."

"These are all major disappointments," he said. "This was an opportunity for California to move ahead of the rest of the country, but instead they blew it with excessive language. This is 60 pages of text. We'll be looking at years and years of litigation."

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is on board with the AUMA. (
That doesn't necessarily mean Cal NORML will oppose it, though, Gieringer said.

"If it ends up being the only thing on the ballot in November, I suspect we would support it," he conceded.

At this point, that looks extremely likely to be the case. None of the other initiatives are showing any signs that they have the organization or the funding to go out and get the 365,000 valid voter signatures needed to make the ballot.

Gieringer also conceded that passage of the AUMA would be progress.

"If it passes, it will do three valuable things," he said. "Adults can grow six plants and possess an ounce. Just allowing for personal use is extremely important. The AUMA decreases mandatory felony penalties for cultivation or possession with intent to sell down to misdemeanors in most cases, and that's important. And it establishes a legal marketplace for adult use."

The AUMA may not be perfect, but unless Californians are willing to go another election cycle or wait for the legislature to legalize it, this is most likely what they'll have a chance to vote for.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


saynotohypocrisy (not verified)

Doesn't mean I wouldn't vote for it, but the interests of users in conservative counties were sold down the river by coastal liberals. Not to mention the effect on the environment, which doesn't appreciate energy intensive indoor growing.

Wed, 12/23/2015 - 7:53pm Permalink
John Thomas (not verified)

In reply to by saynotohypocrisy (not verified)

No. -  Marijuana consumers, even in the conservative counties will be MUCH better off than they are now.  They will be legally able to possess and grow sufficient amounts of marijuana. -- Nothing is carved in stone.  We will continue to refine marijuana policy until it reaches its optimum form - just as we did with alcohol after ending ITS prohibition.  The near end-game is marijuana being grown outdoors in the best climates and shipped everywhere else.  So the environment will be in good shape from marijuana.  Also, the 'prohibition premium' will be gone and economies of scale will operate.  Average quality marijuana will sell for around $50 an ounce - or less.  It's just a plant.

But we cannot enact this refining of policy until we PASS legalization.  -  That's why it's so important we all get behind AUMA and have California join the four (and growing) Free States - ASAP!

Thu, 12/24/2015 - 10:22pm Permalink
RickyM (not verified)

I'm really surprised nobody ever brings up the fact that weed is going to get really.....really expensive in this State. Considering the taxes at 25% and the amount of hands and steps a bag of weed must now go through from farm to store .................. it's going to get really ugly. Oh well .. I guess the black market will get bigger than ever.

Thu, 12/24/2015 - 1:19pm Permalink
John Thomas (not verified)

In reply to by RickyM (not verified)

Most of the current price of marijuana is comprised of the "prohibition premium"  -  that amount which compensates the growers and sellers for the risk of going to jail.  -  After re-legalization, of course, that premium disappears and legal economies of scale will reduce the costs and price even further.  -  Average quality marijuana will sell for around $50 an ounce, or less.  -  There will be no room for a black market to undercut.

Thu, 12/24/2015 - 10:25pm Permalink
borden (not verified)

In reply to by wachicha (not verified)

If it's being grown, distributed, sold, possessed and used legally, it's legal. The bad things some businesses are the things those businesses do. Not every form of legalization has everything in it that we'd like -- some are better than others.

Thu, 12/24/2015 - 6:45pm Permalink
Goblin (not verified)

In reply to by borden (not verified)

The ability to ban outdoor grows of even the 6 plants permitted otherwise is a non-starter, and clearly placed there to force people into Sean's proposed retail outlets.  So long as that provision remains, I will campaign, and vote, against this "Ohio-style" initiative.  Too much of CA is composed of hick counties who demonize MJ and MMJ.  Those folks need to be grabbed by the scruff of the neck, and forced to accept the change in times.  There is no value to drawing out the fight, nor was there any reason for Sean to place that restriction in there other than self-interest.

Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:54pm Permalink
Miles Monroe (not verified)

In reply to by Goblin (not verified)

Oh, come on Goblin--or is it "Haywood Jeblowme"?--you know perfectly well why *non-criminal offense* local bans will still be allowed: Eliminating them is a "non-starter" for the League of California Cities, which has considerably greater ability to sink a legalization initiative than you and your "locally-sourced artisanal" grower pals, who just can't be bothered with all that respectable business stuff like licenses, testing, and taxes, and still dream of the "good old days" when decent weed cost $400/oz ...  Please explain to us how letting *everyone* grow, at least indoors, will "force people into Sean's proposed retail outlets"--and BTW, where did you see those "proposed", again?!  (*As if* how or where people will obtain their legal weed is the main issue, anyway!)

Talk about a "need to be grabbed by the scruff of the neck, and forced to accept the change in times", not to mention "self-interest"; oh, and nice sense of outreach and inclusion with that "hick counties" remark, too; no wonder your "grassroots" initiative hasn't *ever* come close to even making the ballot in *any* of the years past--how many is it, now?--you've been "advocating" it ... !

Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:39pm Permalink
Miles Monroe (not verified)

In reply to by fuzz (not verified)

Yes, unfortunately the courts in CA have ruled counties and cities can enact zoning codes banning outdoor cultivation, same as they can prohibit you from running a hog farm or auto junkyard in your front yard; and have also ruled such codes are civil offenses only, *not criminal*, so despite the fear mongering disinformation from "Goblin" and his off-the-books grower pals, *no one gets arrested*, let alone SWAT raids, jail, criminal record, etc; and indoor grows are *still* protected, including the non-commercial "recreational" ones allowed by AUMA.
Considering that "I smell marijuana" or even evidence of cultivation, like leaves and stems in the trash, will not be probable cause for entry, searches, etc--because weed will no longer be illegal, remember?--it's kind hard to imagine how you'd get in trouble even if you had more than the six plants Goblin & Co. seem to think are such a crime against humanity, or even were growing outside, as long as you're not doing something stupid like stealing electricity or letting your weed get taller than your backyard fence; remember that *currently* a doctor's recommendation is *only* an admissible defense *after* you're hauled before a judge, they can still kick down your door, shoot your dog, throw you in jail, etc, etc ... !
Tue, 12/29/2015 - 5:04pm Permalink
fkseanparker (not verified)

In reply to by Miles Monroe (not verified)

actually ; prop 215 protects you from those raids... you fucking idiot :) 

AUMA will not. 

just leave california you conservative boomer :) 

voting for hillary i bet? 

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 11:54am Permalink
John Thomas (not verified)

In reply to by wachicha (not verified)

No.  Legalization comes with the end of all criminal penalties for marijuana possession.  -  Now we will just have to fight for our civil rights taken by means of 80 years of the world's largest propaganda and demonization campaign. 

It won't take long to get our basic rights - like employment - back.  -  Smart employers of the near future will prefer their employees consume near harmless marijuana (at home, after work) rather than addictive, very harmful, hangover-producing alcohol.

Thu, 12/24/2015 - 10:31pm Permalink
borden (not verified)

In reply to by John Thomas (not verified)

John, ending penalties for just possession is what we would call decrim, rather than legalization.

But the Parker initiative is plainly in the legalization category -- legal growing, distribution, sales and possession of it. Within that definition, some laws go further in ways we'd like, some go less far, but all examples of legalization.

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 5:23pm Permalink
jontomas (not verified)

In reply to by borden (not verified)

Right.  You misunderstand when I say, "Legalization comes with the end of all criminal penalties for marijuana possession."

I didn't mean to imply that's the only thing AUMA legalization does.  I was noting the reforms AUMA enacts are much more significant than the detractors in this article paint.  -  One legal ounce, home-growing, recreational dispensaries, allowing for venues of public consumption:   all are earth-shattering improvements that move as at least 90 percent down the road to the ideal marijuana policy.

AUMA will not only free California consumers, but it will break the back of the fraudulent federal prohibition - as soon as 2017. - And because marijuana prohibition is an (insane) U.S. export, AUMA can literally save the world!

Mon, 02/22/2016 - 3:08am Permalink

One person stood in the way of medical marijuana patients being exempt from a positive test for marijuana in the workplace. That person is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Cannabis is medicine to me. I'm lucky to have found a part-time job as an independent contractor. Why doesn't this bill help me out at all? Even Red-State Arizona has some protections drafted in their medical cannabis bill. How am I a lesser human being, considered unfit for work, just because I use medicinal pot every day? How is that not cruel and unusual punishment to us? Constitution trumps Fed BS.

Thu, 12/24/2015 - 6:46pm Permalink
John Thomas (not verified)

Because we have to gain our freedom politically, there are some demands we can't make initially -  like the end of employer drug testing.  -  The large employers have, obviously, much political power and could bring fatal resistance.  --  That will change in the near future as employers realize marijuana is FAR less harmful than alcohol (and no hangovers at work)  

But things will  improve greatly for marijuana consumers at work immediately because the seriousness of being "detected" as a marijuana consumer is reduced exponentially - from being a criminal activity, to just being one some employers don't like.  -  Passing AUMA is the single greatest thing we can do to move employers in the direction of abandoning drug testing for marijuana.

Thu, 12/24/2015 - 10:42pm Permalink
James benton (not verified)

I cannot believe the people that are backing this it's like here vote for the lesser evil this bill is a joke I guess if you got money you can do whatever you want in good ole merica!!!!! I will not vote for this bill and neither should you!!!
Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:33pm Permalink
TCA (not verified)

It's a sad reality when the will of the people means nothing without some rich asshole to fund it. No surprise coming from Fedbook's own. Why is anyone trusting the head of an organization that has lied and obfuscated it's true intentions since it's very inception making a joke out of the bill of rights and the American constitution. Fedbook is a criminal organization and one of its leaders is far from the person or people we should trust on this issue. This is not legalization its Big Brother allowing us to have a puff with a leash on because God forbid this industry should grow to have real political power (Money). It's a sad day when it takes a rich asshole to get anything done.
Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:58pm Permalink
Degé Coutee (not verified)

It's easy to take center stage when you can buy it.  AUMA is NOT a voter initiative.  It's a ballot measure, written by the politicians in Sacramento.  Gavin Newsome is using Sean Parker as his pawn in this.  Sean couldn't tell you one thing about the real history of California's unique cannabis heritage and what provisions need to be in place to protect it.  He's simply been brought in to destroy it.  And when you follow the money for this campaign and realize that the primary funder is funded himself by Big Pharma...  Open your eyes and don't be fooled by the slick packaging.

The comprehensive version of the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2016 has over 20 proponents including attorneys Omar Figueroa, Edie Lerman and J. David Nick.  It removes all criminal penalties and doesn't create new ones.  MCLR allows for a fair process for ALL types of cannabis businesses, and personal use, whether medical or adult use.  I encourage you to read and compare:

Authentic cannabis advocates killed Prop. 19 and we can kill AUMA.  The fact that Newsome had to pull in Parker demonstrates how scared Sacramento is of The Grassroots.  Let's support real legalization in 2016!

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 5:11am Permalink
borden (not verified)

In reply to by Degé Coutee (not verified)

By "authentic cannabis advocates," Degé, you really mean prohibitionist advocates. Defeating an initiative that provides for legal cultivation, distribution, sale and possession of marijuana is a prohibitionist objective. The fact that the initiative doesn't go further in ways that you think it should, doesn't change that. People are being arrested and incarceration for marijuana in California today. This is what the organizers of the initiative believe they can get passed at the ballot in 2016.

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 5:21pm Permalink
Miles Monroe (not verified)

In reply to by Degé Coutee (not verified)

Prop 19 wasn't "killed" by "cannabis advocates" (!); it failed because 1) Urban voters, especially in LA, were fear-mongered by law enforcement and "civic leaders" that there would be a "pot shop" on every corner--which is why AUMA still allows for local control, negating that argument; 2) Governor Ahh-nold and the CA legislature rushed through a decrim bill, effectively removing a major social justice issue for legalization; and 3) Federal officials, including octogenarian cop-groupie Feinstein and especially USAG Holder, threatened state officials would be prosecuted if they tried to implement the law should it pass.

The primary "contribution" of those "authentic cannabis advocates"--we just threw up in our mouth a little bit--was to convince the major reform organizations like DPA and MPP that there was too much vested self-interest in CA's "gray market" medical weed industry that prefers working "off the books"--no regs, quality standards, taxes, etc--to support a system that works, like Colorado's; and what do you know--the very same "advocates", who will no more be able to even put their pet initiative on the 2016 ballot, let alone pass it, than they have in years past, are trying to screw it up for the rest of us, again!

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 5:51pm Permalink
fkseanparker (not verified)

In reply to by Miles Monroe (not verified)

hahahaha; you have NO IDEA!!

the hippies HATED prop 19 like they HATE AUMA... Are you EVER going to pay attention?

California MIGHT be to liberal for you; ok ?

Fri, 05/06/2016 - 12:01pm Permalink

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