In 2016 we've arrived at a broad consensus: cannabis prohibition has failed. It has been a costly failure that has produced severe environmental and social impacts. It is time to end prohibition and allow adults to use cannabis.
This consensus is why so many people are surprised to learn that leaders in cannabis policy are deeply divided on Proposition 64. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) is an extensive initiative, more than 60 pages in total. It is a detailed legislative proposal, but the voters will vote on it—all or nothing. Still, there are many details that are cause for concern.
A simple vote to authorize adults to possess and consume cannabis while relying on the Legislature for the details would seem a sure thing. Unfortunately, that is not what AUMA offers. Instead, Proposition 64 takes a very different approach to regulating commercial cannabis than current law. The initiative is decidedly more friendly to big business and will lead to rapid consolidation of the industry. This is an avoidable and undesirable outcome. In fact, according to the Pathways Report published by a Blue Ribbon Commission chaired by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, "the goal should be to prevent the growth of a large, corporate marijuana industry dominated by a small number of players."
Yet buried in the pages of the proposition is a specific change to the licensing framework. In just a handful of words, the AUMA creates a new cultivation license with no limit on the scale of cultivation, effectively repealing protections for small farms that were enacted by the state Legislature.
This November, California voters will be forced to give a simple answer to a very complicated proposal. While the opposition is being led by the traditional law enforcement and "reefer madness" types, stakeholders throughout the state are deeply divided. California is ready to end prohibition. It will be interesting to see if Propositions 64's billionaire backers can convince voters that the AUMA is the right way to achieve that goal.
Hezekiah Allen is the executive director of the California Growers Association. calgrowersassociation.org.
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