California Legalization Update: Initiative Gains Key California Medical Association Endorsement

The California Medical Association (CMA), which represents more than 41,000 physician members in the state, publicly announced their formal endorsement of the ballot measure known as the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act ("AUMA"). [Link to full text of the initiative].

AUMU is backed by Facebook billionaire Sean Parker, WeedMaps head Justin Hartfield, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, 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, the California State NAACP, MPP of California, and others. While there are other competing legalization initiatives in the state, at present none have the momentum of AUMA.

Here are the initiative's highlights:

– Allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants within a secure area that isn’t open to public view.
– Require the Department of Consumer Affairs to oversee a system of licensed non-medical marijuana cultivators, manufacturers, testing facilities, distributors, retailers, and microbusinesses.
– Impose rules governing the labeling, packaging, advertising, testing, and tracking of marijuana.
– Establish a weight-based tax on the commercial cultivation of marijuana (which is $9.25 per ounce of flower or $2.75 per ounce of leaves), as well as a 15% sales tax (which is in addition to the standard sales tax) at the retail level. Tax revenues would primarily be used for youth substance abuse treatment, education, and prevention; law enforcement training; and environmental cleanup.
– Strengthen the medical marijuana law that was enacted by the state legislature and governor in September 2015 by (1) mandating that all patients obtain medical marijuana based on a doctor’s recommendation that meets the standards of the new medical marijuana law; (2) limiting fees for patient ID cards; (3) exempting medical marijuana from the state’s standard sales tax; and (4) protecting patient privacy.
– Specify that driving while impaired by marijuana — as well as the public use of marijuana — both remain illegal.
– Allow for local control of non-medical marijuana businesses, including the authority to ban commercial activity or to require businesses to obtain local permits or licenses in addition to state licenses.

The last attempt at adult use legalization in California was in 2010 when Proposition 19 failed 53.5% to 46.5%. However public support for legalization has increased dramatically since then with support of voters most recently over 55%. 

It's worth noting that even if this ballot initiative succeeds, it does not change the federal government's stance on the illegality of marijuana and thus help with banking, taxes (especially 280E), and federal trademarking. However if the country's most populous state votes to legalize it (along with other states that could similarly legalize it this year), it is hard to imagine that the federal government won't be forced to reconsider it's increasingly minority hardline position (big alcohol, tobacco and pharma lobbyists notwithstanding).

By: Wesley