After twenty years of medical marijuana, California is taking the next step towards legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
In November, California voters will have the opportunity to vote for the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). The initiative received major funding from Sean Parker and Drug Policy Action.
“This November, California voters will finally have the opportunity to pass smart marijuana policy that is built on the best practices of other states, includes the strictest child protections in the nation and pays for itself while raising billions for the state,”
said Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom in a statement. Newsom’s office has been collaborating with AUMA organizers and other groups petitioning for legalized marijuana, ensuring that any proposal that appears on the November ballot will have been vetted by lawmakers.
Opposition to the proposal is coming from law enforcement and groups that opposed the previous ballot measure.
“This is bad for our communities. This is bad for our youth and it’s a broad commercialization [of drugs], a for-profit, money-making model,”
said Ventura Police Chief Ken Corney, who fears legalization would lead to widespread addiction. However, the California Medical Association supports the AUMA, stating,
“The most effective way to protect the public health is to tightly control, track and regulate marijuana and to comprehensively research and educate the public on its health impacts, not through ineffective prohibition.”
California legalized medical marijuana back in 1996. Since then, efforts have been made to legalize recreational use, most recently in 2010. That proposal failed by a narrow margin, but polling suggests Californians are more likely than ever to vote in favor of legalization.
California’s Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has created the Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy to examine and investigate the issue of full recreational legalization in the state. Because the issue will be on the 2016 ballot in California, Newsom and his fellow committee members are holding a series of town hall meetings in communities throughout California — especially those known for their production of cannabis.
One such meeting was held on May 31 in Garberville, a small community in Humboldt County. It included Humboldt Sheriff Mike Downey and was attended by more than 200 people. The public forum attracted people from all parts of the Emerald Triangle, including Mendocino and Trinity counties.
From left, Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey, Assemblyman Jim Wood, Rep. Jared Huffman, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos discuss pot legalization at a town hall meeting in Garberville on Friday, May 31, 2015.
It has been estimated that marijuana accounts for one out of every four dollars in Humboldt County’s economy.
The most common theme among the feedback provided by local growers, trimmers, and advocates was a fear that they would be pushed out of the burgeoning industry by big corporations.
Jonathan Baker, a 25-year-old marijuana farmer from Humboldt County reported:
“We do not want big industry. I don’t have millions of dollars. Make it viable for all of us.”
Another attendee, Mary Ann Lyons, owner of Sunboldt Farms, reminded those present of the value of their reputations with the statement:
“We are the premier name brand in the entire world.”
Newsom said the meetings have been of value and that much feedback has been gathered. He said he believes that the needs of Northern California’s small pot farmers are unique. When speaking to the Humboldt group about the need to protect the small growers of the area, Newsom received a standing ovation.
The commission expects to release a report on issues related to cannabis legalization, regulation, and taxation within 60 days.