The medical patients and recreational users of cannabis in California, the nation’s largest and most populous state, have a serious fight this election season. The fight is for the legalization of recreational marijuana. One of our favorite investigative reporting websites, The Intercept, released a scathing report titled “Police and Prison Guard Groups Fight Marijuana Legalization in California”
A quick excerpt from the article;
“ROUGHLY HALF OF the money raised to oppose a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana in California is coming from police and prison guard groups, terrified that they might lose the revenue streams to which they have become so deeply addicted.”
Those groups are now funding against the AUMA legislation aimed for 2016. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), is a questionable step in the right direction:
If AUMA passed, what does this mean for current marijuana growers and sellers? Here’s the real deal…
- AUMA allows people 21 years old and older to procure, possess, give away, and transport up to an ounce of recreational cannabis.
- It allows adults to grow a maximum of six marijuana plants.
- Unlicensed manufacture of cannabis concentrates using volatile or poisonous solvents like butane (and not including CO2 or ethanol alcohol) are considered serious felonies.
- Possessing up to 8 grams of marijuana concentrates is legal in one section of AUMA’s 62 pages, but in another section, only 4 grams are allowed.
- You could cultivate up to six plants and possess the marijuana from these plants at your residence for personal use. Only six plants are allowed per residence, no matter how many adults live there. This is a big difference from California’s MMRSA (Medical Marijuana Safety and Regulation Act) recently signed by Governor Jerry Brown, which allows 100 square feet of growing space per patient, with collective gardens of up to 5 patients.
- If you’re currently running a huge medical marijuana or recreational marijuana garden, AUMA would force you to register it and be subject to taxes, government inspections, and other regulatory hassles and expenses.
- All plants (and harvested marijuana in excess of one ounce) must be kept in a locked space indoors or outdoors in the private property residence, but not visible from any public space.
- Cities and counties can regulate and prohibit cultivation outdoors, but cannot completely prohibit cultivation inside a private residence or other private structure that is fully enclosed and secure. Cities and counties can also ban licensed marijuana distribution and processing facilities.
- AUMA continues the illegality of publicly consuming cannabis except for in licensed dispensaries. Also forbidden is consumption within 1,000 feet of a school or youth center while children are present, except on residential property or on licensed premises, but even in those cases, consumption is banned if it can be detected by children.
- You can’t use vaporizers or e-joints in public places unless they’re designated “tobacco smoking areas.”
- You can’t use or display cannabis in any form while in a motor vehicle. AUMA states you can legally transport recreational cannabis in a hidden, sealed container, but there’s another law that contradicts this and makes it illegal… and AUMA leaves that law in place.
- Unlike in Hawaii, where recent marijuana law changes banned discrimination against the marijuana community, AUMA allows employers and landlords to continue discriminating against legal marijuana growers and users. Read here for more about Hawaii’s anti-discrimination marijuana laws.
- Illegal cultivation of six plants or less by minors 18-21 is a $100 infraction. Illegal cultivation of more than six plants is a misdemeanor punishable by $500 and/or 6 months. The current mandatory felony penalty for marijuana cultivation is eliminated, but felonies may be laid in the case of repeat offenders, offenders with violent or serious prior convictions, and in cases where cultivation is creating environmental harms.
- If you’ve been previously convicted of marijuana offenses that would not be a crime or would be a lesser offense under AUMA, you may apply to the court for a revision or outright dismissal of your sentence.
- AUMA would run alongside already-existing medical marijuana laws and creates headaches and confusion as a result. For example, it appears that AUMA would raise taxes on both buying and producing marijuana, whether you’re a medical or recreational user.
- AUMA follows the bad example of the MMRSA in that it establishes 19 licensing categories for all aspects of marijuana cultivation, processing, lab testing, selling, and distributing. It adds more layers of bureaucracy and government scrutiny to the marijuana growing, selling, and processing industries.
- Black market marijuana growers and sellers are particularly concerned that AUMA will allow licensed massive commercial marijuana farms (larger than the ½ acre indoor and one acre outdoor gardens currently allowed by the MMRSA), starting in 2023. There are no limitations on how large these marijuana farms can be. These kinds of large grow ops are what put many black market growers out of business in Colorado.
- Similar to Colorado regs, AUMA stipulates that the State has to establish a system for tracking every marijuana plant grown in an official licensed grow op.
- AUMA has a murky set of regs on whether people with past marijuana convictions can be granted official marijuana industry licenses.
- Legal, licensed marijuana sellers must have a warning label on all marijuana products they sell. The label language is: “GOVERNMENT WARNING: THIS PACKAGE CONTAINS MARIJUANA, A SCHEDULE I CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN AND ANIMALS. MARIJUANA MAY ONLY BE POSSESSED OR CONSUMED BY PERSONS 21 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER UNLESS THE PERSON IS A QUALIFIED PATIENT. MARIJUANA USE WHILE PREGNANT OR BREASTFEEDING MAY BE HARMFUL. CONSUMPTION OF MARIJUANA IMPAIRS YOUR ABILITY TO DRIVE AND OPERATE MACHINERY. PLEASE USE EXTREME CAUTION.”
- AUMA stipulates that people younger than age 21 can be used as bait narks to entrap marijuana sellers into illegal sales to minors.
- AUMA authorizes a steep tax increase on any white market marijuana purchase, whether you possess a medical marijuana card or not, beginning in 2018. If you have a licensed grow or retail facility, you also pay a tax based on the weight of your harvests or processed marijuana material. What’s even worse is that cities and counties are allowed to impose any amount of marijuana-related taxes on anyone licensed to grow, process, sell, store, distribute, or donate marijuana.
- AUMA doesn’t allow marijuana to be marketed to minors. There won’t be cannabis advertising billboards along interstate highways. Also prohibited in marijuana advertising is use of cartoon characters, language, or music known to appeal to kids.
- Minors under 18 will not face any criminal sanction for marijuana offenses, but will be channeled into drug education and community service options.
- Another AUMA factor that greatly troubles marijuana growers: it legalizes industrial hemp. This is a problem because industrial hemp pollen will pollinate high-potency marijuana flowers. Read here about problems that come from legalized hemp growing. – Summary from bigbugsmagazine.com
Coming to a State in Near You…. Get Registered to Vote, and Vote for Local Elections for those that support your positions (and we hope the legalization of marijuana)
“California is only the latest state in which law enforcement unions have led the opposition to ending marijuana prohibition across the country in recent years. During the 2014 election, Florida law enforcement officials successfully campaigned against a medical marijuana ballot measure by arguing that the initiative would promote a range of problems,from teenage use of the drug to respiratory disease.”
- Police unions. The revenue from waging the War on Drugs has become a significant source of financial support for local law enforcement. Federal and state funding of the drug war – as well as the property officers seize as a part of drug raids – have become significant supplements to the budgets of local forces. While unions exert more influence at the local level, they have a presence in Washington as well. Every year since 2008, the National Fraternal Order of Police has spent at least $220,000 as a lobbying client. The National Association of Police Organizations has spent at least $160,000 a year. The International Union of Police Associations has laid out $80,000 every year. And the International Association of Chiefs of Police has spent $80,000 each year since 2009.
- Private prison companies. Private prisons are in the business of filling beds, and they make millions by incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders along with violent offenders and white-collar criminals. One private prison company, the GEO Group, Inc., is particularly successful at this: In its 2014 annual report, GEO noted that it had, on average, a facility occupancy rate of 95.7 percent. One of the largest for-profit prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America, stated in a 2010regulatory filing that laxer drug laws could shrink its bottom line: “[A]ny changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.” Since 2008, the Corrections Corporation of America has spent at least $970,000 a year on lobbying. However, in its federal lobbying reports, the corporation includes a disclaimer that it does not lobby for or against policies that would determine whether an individual is incarcerated.
- Prison guard unions. Like for-profit prison companies, prison guard unions also have a vested interest in keeping nonviolent drug offenders behind bars. On the federal level, many prison guards are represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), one of the most politically active labor unions. During the 2014 election cycle, AFSCME gave more than $11 million to federal candidates, parties and committees. The union also spent $2.4 million to lobby in 2014.
- Pharmaceutical corporations. Retired police officer Howard Wooldridge, now an anti-drug war lobbyist, told the anti-corruption blog Republic Report in 2012 that one of the biggest opponents to marijuana legalization is the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), given that marijuana can replace drugs from “Advil, ibuprofen all the way to Vicodin, pills for nausea – I mean expensive store-bought pills.” PhRMA is certainly an organization to be reckoned with: In 2014 alone,PhRMA spent about $16.6 million on lobbying, ranking it 11th in spending among all lobbying clients that year. And the drug manufacturing industry as a whole poured $14.7 million into the 2014 election cycle.
- Big booze. If legalized, marijuana would compete with alcoholic beverages for consumers seeking a buzz. Since 2009, the beer, wine and liquor industry has spentat least $20 million each year on lobbying efforts, most of which have been focused on alcohol taxes and regulations. And during the 2014 election cycle, the industry gave $17 million to federal candidates, parties and committees.