2016 is California’s year to legalize cannabis, and with multiple initiatives hoping to make it onto the ballot, there’s never been a better time to get informed. To make sure you know the ins and outs of legalization, we’ve compiled a four-part series, which began last month with an overview of the major initiatives.
In this month’s part two, we’re discussing why legalization is important and looking at the leading initiative, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Part three will look at some concerns surrounding the legalization of cannabis and how it could affect the medical marijuana market, while part four will offer insight into the current cannabis market and advice on how to vote.
To uncover the truth about legalization, we spoke with three cannabis experts about this multifaceted issue. For Tomer Grassiany, CEO of The Art of Edibles, the legalization of cannabis is about improving the industry and changing perceptions. “We are invested in an industry that has been demonized for decades, and we have a unique opportunity to break down the stigma around cannabis and take a big step towards social acceptance,” said Tomer. “If done well, legalization can help diminish black market activity, decrease distribution and sale to minors, and help to ensure a clean and safe product reaches the consumer. It is also our hope that legalization will help ensure proper testing and labeling of all cannabis products, help prevent unnecessary and costly Federal raids, and provide relief to anyone in jail for a cannabis related felony or misdemeanor, as well as to the system and state which has to pay for their imprisonment.”
Daniel Shortt, a Legal Intern at Harris Moure in Seattle Washington, sees cannabis legalization in California as a stepping-stone. “In fact, according to World Bank, if California were a country, it would have the eighth largest economy in the world,” Daniel said. “California legalization could influence the entire country, and, in my mind, it’s a major domino that needs to fall in the fight for legalization at the federal level.”
As for Lynne Lyman, the California State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance, the legalization of cannabis is not a drug issue; it’s a social issue. “13,000 felony marijuana arrests happen every year in California. Of those felony arrests, the vast majority are African-American and Latino young men,” shared Lynne. “So, it’s clear, marijuana prohibition is still having a detrimental impact on people of color. They are still being targeted, arrested, convicted, and incarcerated for engaging in marijuana use, sales, and cultivation at the same levels as white people. This is a racial justice issue. Neither medical marijuana nor decriminalization have reduced the racially disparate impact of marijuana prohibition. That’s what we hope to do with full legalization.”
With these three separate and yet connected cannabis legalization issues at stake, will the leading initiative, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, make an impact? The California Lieutenant Governor, Gavin Newsom, and former Facebook President, Sean Parker, seem to think so, but how about our experts?
“AUMA lays out a well-regulated cannabis marketplace,” said Daniel. “There are a few things that stand out. First, this initiative allows for ‘home grows.’ Second, the bill leaves open the possibility of having ‘cannabis clubs’ where adults could consume cannabis at an establishment similar to a bar, but with cannabis instead of alcohol. These are both major flaws of Washington’s market. Third, AUMA allows prior cannabis crime expungement, where individuals may get sentences reduced or eliminated for cannabis charges that are no longer crimes.”
Lynne also supports AUMU. “There’s a lot I love about the initiative,” said Lynne. “One of the things we did intentionally is that we made it flexible, so that things that need to be changed can be changed in the future by the legislature. I also think the fact that we got $50 million a year to go into the community is a huge win. It’s the first initiative to ever do something like this.”
As for Tomer, he’s still looking into the initiative, but he has some concerns. “I want to get behind an initiative that would work towards breaking the stigma around cannabis, and that will be based on actual science and research, rather than outdated scare tactics and misinformation,” said Tomer. “I would find it hard to support a bill that would treat cannabis much harsher than alcohol, especially when added restrictions contribute more to stigma than to enforcing a proven safety standard.”
Clearly there’s a lot to love about the legalization of cannabis in California, but it’s not all chocolates and dabs. Next month we’ll dive into legalization’s effect on the medical market and some concerns regarding the current legislation and initiatives.