The state of California has approved a ballot initiative that will let California voters decide whether or not to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the initiative received 600,000 signatures, well above the 402,000 required to make it on the state ballot. If it passes, California will become the fifth state to allow marijuana for recreational use after Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.
Details of the Initiative
The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), as the pro-marijuana initiative is called, would allow adults over the age of 21 to possess 28.5 grams of marijuana, eight grams of concentrated cannabis such as cannabis oil, and six marijuana plants.
Adults could use the marijuana for their own recreational use or give it as a gift to other adults. They are not allowed to sell marijuana unless approved as a formal business or receive any form of compensation for giving out marijuana.
AUMA also places restrictions on where marijuana users can use their product and stresses that the sale of marijuana will be “highly regulated to protect consumers and kids.” Marijuana smokers will face the same public restrictions as tobacco smokers, which means that marijuana cannot be smoked in offices, bars, or within a thousand feet of schools or other youth centers. Furthermore, citizens cannot use marijuana or possess any open marijuana products when operating any kind of motor vehicle.
Even in the case of a violation, punishments in most cases will be a fine and possible mandated community service and drug education. However, those who possess more than the legal limit could serve six months in jail.
Likely to Pass
California proposed a recreational cannabis initiative in 2010, but that was defeated by voters. This time, marijuana advocates are more confident that the initiative will pass as national attitudes towards marijuana have liberalized.
Supporters of the initiative include the California NAACP, the state Democratic Party, and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. Pro-legalization advocates have raised $3.5 million, much of that coming from Silicon Valley billionaire Sean Parker.
Advocates argue that the initiative will end a war against marijuana that has unfairly discriminated against racial minorities. By legalizing marijuana, the drug can be taxed, which AUMA states will raise up to $1 billion while also reducing state and local government costs by $100 million. The money raised would be used for protecting the environment from the harms of illegal marijuana cultivation, teen drug treatment, and for helping communities that have been negatively impacted by the War on Drugs.
Initiative opponents include the California Republican Party and police officers, but they have raised just $116,000 to fight it. They argue that decriminalization will not end the illegal marijuana trade and will make a potentially harmful drug easier to obtain for children and vulnerable groups.
Opinion polls show that 60 percent of California voters are in favor of marijuana legalization. And on a national level, 54 percent of Americans also support legalization, with Democrats being much more in favor of it compared to Republicans.
And California will not be the only state to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana this November. Nevada and Maine will also have a vote on this topic. Maine’s largest city, Portland, passed a local bill legalizing recreational marijuana back in 2013. If Maine’s initiative passes, it would be the first state east of the Mississippi River to allow recreational marijuana.
While these three states debate the merits or harms of marijuana, California voters could be voting on other initiatives in November. These initiatives could include raising taxes on cigarettes, speeding up death row executions, and limiting the maximum amount hospitals can pay their executives.
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