This November, California voters will finally get the chance to vote on statewide legalization. The Sean Parker-led Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) has been endorsed by the state’s medical association, state legislators and most pro-cannabis supporters.
However, not every sector of California society finds the state’s perhaps imminent legalization so appealing and the main opponent is a familiar foe. California’s police officers and prison guards have raised about half of the money to the tune of $60,000 intended fight AUMA.
Considering that $60,000 is a mere fraction of the over $2.25 raised by industry heavy hitters for AUMA’s campaign, this effort will likely prove futile. But it’s significant in seeing who exactly is fighting legalization on a state level because that fight will translate to a federal level.
Afraid legalization will halt California’s drug war and cause these state employees to “lose the revenue streams which they have become so deeply addicted” to, the Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies received its money from a variety of local and statewide police and even hospital associations.
The group’s fear of legalization stems from a pretty simple fact: they’d lose money. Fewer people would go to jail for cannabis, less raids would be executed on cannabis-related entities, and fewer individuals would be needed to work in jails.
Additionally, these police groups would lose “federal grants from the Justice Department to help fund drug enforcement efforts.” In the decade from 2002 to 2012, California police agencies raked in over $180 million in cannabis-related asset seizures; those seizures would plummet if cannabis goes legal in California.
Losing finances is a natural fear and fighting that fear is even more natural–it’s just probably a pointless fight. AUMA is polling well so far with about 60% of statewide voters stating they will vote in favor of legalization.
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.
The proposed legislation would allow for the use of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over. Californians would be allowed to possess up to one ounce and grow up to six plants. A 15% sales tax would help pay for regulation and control of marijuana. The AUMA has officially been endorsed by Lt. Gov. Newsom as well as groups like California NAACP, Drug Policy Action, California Medical Association, Marijuana Policy Project of California and the California Cannabis Industry Association, among others.
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.
Known for creating Napster and being the first president of Facebook, tech billionaire Sean Parker is now lending a hand to the campaign to legalize cannabis in California.
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the organization leading the campaign, announced in an email to supporters that Parker will match every donation made to the California chapter.
Mason Tvert, the Communications Director of MPP, shared his reaction to Parker’s generosity,
“We’re very excited about the generosity he’s shown. This is someone who wants to see marijuana prohibition end and helped bring a lot of folks together, and now he’s putting his money where his mouth is.”
All donations, which can be for any amount but will not be tax deductible, will be matched dollar-for-dollar by Parker. With California having the world’s eighth largest economy, the total cost of cannabis legalization could reach $20 million. Tvert pointed out that this fundraising effort will be crucial for taking the next steps towards legalization,
“This is going to be a very large and very expensive campaign and so I believe we really need to raise as much money possible to ensure we get it done this coming year.”
Parker is no stranger to philanthropic donations, as he has previously contributed to research funds for conditions like cancer, diabetes and autoimmune diseases. Recognizing that cannabis prohibition does more harm than good, Parker is now contributing to the initiative in California.
With 700,000 people arrested each year on non-violent marijuana charges in the United States, issues such as drug law reform and eliminating mass incarceration are gaining support from a new generation of activists.
According to Marijuana Law and Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance Amanda Reiman,
“This younger generation of activists — many millennials, many entertainers — are feeling less stigma about coming out about this issue. It’s safer. Folks our age care about this stuff — some just happen to have billions of dollars.”
San Francisco attorney Matt Kumin, received the MPP email last week and shared his thoughts.
“The more people contribute to it, the more it gains support. You start to generate grassroots enthusiasm when you get them involved in fundraising,”
he said. “There are things in this initiative I like and don’t like, but if California votes 60% for legalizing cannabis — you can affect the pace of change in the rest of the country.”
While the generous donations from Parker do not guarantee that legalization will become a reality in California, it will likely have a powerful impact the future of the initiative.
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photo credit: Stanford