Californians to vote on marijuana legalization

Californians to vote on marijuana legalization

IN November, Californians will vote whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

The measure, called the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), was drawn up by grassroots coalition Let’s Get It Right led by former Facebook President Sean Parker.

Promising hefty regulation and restrictions, the measure would allow Californians aged 21 years or older to purchase up to an ounce of marijuana or edibles at licensed dispensaries and would be allowed to grow up to six plants for personal use.

Notably, if the bill is passed, it would decriminalize possession of less than 1 oz. of marijuana, a prevalent criminal offense. In 2014, there were over 600,000 arrests made on marijuana possession; possession alone makes up for 88 percent of marijuana law violations, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

The issue comes to ballot after activists and supporters garnered enough signatures to call for a vote, according a press release from California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

AUMA has received over a hundred endorsements from elected officials, non-profit organizations, public safety organizations and individuals and community leaders.

“Our current marijuana laws have undermined many of the things conservatives hold dear – individual freedom, limited government and the right to privacy,” U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California, 48th District), said in a statement. “This measure is a necessary reform which will end the failed system of marijuana prohibition in our state, provide California law enforcement the resources it needs to redouble its focus on serious crimes while providing a policy blueprint for other states to follow.”

The measure is projected to raise as much as $1 billion per year and reduce costs for police, courts, jails and prisons by tens of millions, state officials say. Per the initiative, most of the proceeds would be allocated to regulatory costs, research, environmental measures and youth drug prevention and treatment programs.

According to Let’s Get It Right, the measure would enact the “strictest” protection for children.

“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 off,” Jason Kinney, a spokesman for AUMA, said in a statement.

Marijuana use would be prohibited in areas where tobacco use is off-limits, such as restaurants and bars.

Although supporters are rejoicing in the possibility of legalized marijuana, the initiative is still opposed by those who see the negative effects of the drug.

“The dangers of marijuana are pretty clear in terms of motorist safety, criminal activity and impacts on society,” Cory Salzillo, legislative director of the California State Sheriffs’ Association told CBS News LA. “We don’t believe that decriminalization will upend the black market.”

California voters rejected a similar measure in 2010, Proposition 19, by a narrow margin of 7 percentage points. But supporters of the new bill say that the measure is likelier to be passed because there are more regulations at the state level “rather than letting locals dictate what happens, and comes after the state has approved a regulatory system for medical marijuana growing, transportation and sales,” according to a Los Angeles Times report.

This time around, AUMA has more leverage because since the Proposition 19, other states in the west have legalized recreational use of marijuana.

“This is six years later,” Taylor West, director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, told the Times. “We’ve already seen legalization pass and be successful in other states. So it’s a different world in talking about this issue than it was.”

If passed, California would be the fifth state to legalize the taxing and regulation of marijuana, joining Alaska, Colorado, Washington and Oregon. California would also be the 21st state to decriminalize the drug by eliminating criminal penalties for possession of small amounts for personal use.

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