Prop 64 is a sign that the California cannabis community is growing up.
Understanding Prop 64 means looking back two decades when voters passed the Compassionate Use Act in 1996. Long before Colorado, Oregon and Washington had any type of cannabis legislation, California created their own home-grown medical marijuana program, and voters approved the initiative. With no roadmap or support, the CUA contained minimal regulation and made obtaining a doctor’s recommendation almost too easy. The result is a medical marijuana market that outpaces every other state, and has many of the hallmarks of a recreational market.
The downside of this open program means there are legal grey areas, some of which have been exploited by law enforcement. Legislatively, the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) has tried to patch the loopholes and provide clarity, but even the AUMA is addressing some of the missteps made by the MMRSA last fall. For those interested in a tightly controlled medical marijuana program, California serves as cautionary tale.
But it can also predict what recreational marijuana will look like if the AUMA passes: a state that has a medical marijuana program so open that it supports a recreational market will now have legitimacy under the law.
By all accounts, Prop 64 is expected to pass. The initiative has huge support from donors and has been endorsed by the Lieutenant Governor of California, the California Democratic Party and a variety of organizations not affiliated with cannabis (and plenty that are). The usual opponents have shown themselves, which are mainly law enforcement and conservative groups. Some information has surfaced indicating big alcohol and big pharma oppose legalizing cannabis. Tobacco companies have both lobbied against legalization and tried to join the cannabis industry. Opposition has also come from those within the industry who want California’s medical marijuana program to stay exactly the same, which is impossible.
Overall, it’s great for patients and cannabis users. It’s complicated for those working in California’s cannabis industry (so much so that I’ll detail it in other posts). Here’s what it means for you.
What it means for patients
The AUMA preserves the rights and allowances made by the original Compassionate Use Act. When it comes time to renew your medical marijuana recommendation, you may face more scrutiny thanks to SB 643 that passed in October 2015, which threatens doctors who over prescribe medical marijuana with penalties through the state’s medical board. You may also notice separate pricing for medical patients, which will be less than recreational pricing.
What it means for recreational users
This depends on how you acquire cannabis. If you have a medical recommendation but don’t have a condition that falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you might have trouble renewing your recommendation in 2018 when a lot of the legislation would go into effect. The ADA covers a wide range of conditions and disabilities, but things like “my foot hurts” may no longer earn you a medical recommendation in California.
If you’re growing your own, you’ll be limited to six plants. If you’re acquiring it elsewhere, you’ll face these penalties.
Proponents have claimed that legalizing cannabis in California will put a dent in the black market. At one point, the organizers of the AUMA stated,
“A regulated system of responsible adult use will diminish the black market, and move marijuana purchases into a legal structure with strict safeguards protecting children.”
I believe it’s irresponsible to make this claim, especially if you have even a cursory understanding of how capitalism works. With a 15% tax on recreational sales, black market customers may continue with their current arrangement.
What it means for everyone else
If you are not currently a medical cannabis patient in California, or are not part of the recreational cannabis culture, you may not notice a thing as recreational use currently exists in practice. You may notice friends and colleagues acknowledging their cannabis use more openly. If demand is strong, you may notice more dispensaries opening.
What it means for the drug war
The authors of the AUMA are attempting to compensate for the damage that cannabis prohibition has caused. First, no person under the age of 18 can be charged with possession. Instead, they will be fined no more than $100 and receive drug counseling. However, the penalty for selling cannabis to a minor are severe, and law enforcement will be allowed to use undercover personnel to entrap those suspected of selling to minors.
For those already convicted of drug crimes, the AUMA provides resentencing guidelines that can remove prior convictions, shorten sentences or end them all together. For information on the specifics, this link contains the section of the AUMA that describes resentencing. While this can’t undo the damage the drug war has caused to victims and families, it’s a step in the right direction.
What do you think of the AUMA? Let me know in the comments, or send a tweet to @the_LAlady