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Monday, November 2, 2015

Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed, Guess What's Missing?

Posted By on Mon, Nov 2, 2015 at 4:15 PM

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Election Day 2016 is a year and one week away, but the star of the ballot has announced its arrival: California's best-organized, best-funded, and best shot at legalizing marijuana is here.

Adding its name to a crowded field of would-be cannabis legalization efforts is the "Adult Use of Marijuana Act." Unlike other efforts, some of which are already collecting signatures, this legalization initiative is expected to attract significant funding from the likes of the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project, and Silicon Valley technology magnates (some of whom are currently investing in marijuana business enterprises).

This effort is notable because of the money behind it, and because of famous endorsers like Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who signaled his support earlier today.

Also noteworthy is what's missing: some business-unfriendly restrictions that were present in the medical cannabis regulatory bills passed earlier this year, as well as the words "Sean Parker."

Parker, the man widely said to be the angel investor cannabis legalization desperately needs, is still not officially involved.

First, the voter initiative itself. If it collects the necessary 365,000 signatures, makes the ballot, and is approved by voters next November, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act would:

*Allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of cannabis;

*Allow adults 21 and over to grow up to six plants at home;

*Create a "Bureau of Marijuana Control" within the Department of Consumer Affairs;

*Keep intact the state's just-regulated medical cannabis industry;

*Allow recreational stores to operate with a license, and open their doors in 2018;

*Punish most marijuana-related violations by a fine of no more than $250;

*Create strict environmental regulations for how cannabis is grown;

*Provide cash to state universities to study legalization and to the California Highway Patrol to establish "cannabis DUI" standards;

*Allow "cannabis POWs" to apply to have sentences reduced or convictions expunged.

Sounds pretty rad, right? Well. Depends on who you ask.

Not everyone is on board: There is talk already of cannabis activists, including some of the hard-liners who opposed the Prop. 19 marijuana legalization initiative in 2010, organizing to oppose this effort.

Speaking of Prop. 19, the effort also would seem to undermine the efforts of Reform California, a group consisting of the Prop. 19 veterans, California NORML, and the state NAACP. Reform California released its own ballot language last month, but no significant fundraisers followed.

Also absent from Reform California, and present for the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, were the other major national drug policy reform groups — and their attendant money. Drug Policy Alliance, which has access to the fortune of late Progressive Auto Insurance chairman Peter Lewis, and the Marijuana Policy Project, on the board of which sits an heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, are both backing AUSA.

That Hyatt Hotels heir, Joby Pritzker, is also an investor in cannabis via Tau Capital Partners.

MPP, remember, paid for legalization in Colorado in 2012, and a political action committee called New Approach, which uses Lewis's money, bankrolled legalization in Oregon last year.

The measure's official proponents are Dr. Donald O. Lyman, a member of the California Medical Association, and Michael Sutton, an environmental attorney who served as president of the California Fish and Game Commission.

The state's cannabis industry likes this bill, California Cannabis Industry Association executive director Nate Bradley said, because it does not include a restriction on how many licenses one entity can have, allowing for "seed-to-sale" vertical integration. It also removes the "distributor" permit seen in the medical marijuana regulations, a middleman requirement that was included at the behest of organized labor.

About that organized labor. Labor is notably absent from this current coalition. As is Parker, who, according to coalition spokesman Jason Kinney, is not currently involved.

Parker, along with fellow early Facebook employee Dustin Moskovitz — the two of whom shared the company's Palo Alto crash pad in the early days — both donated to Prop. 19 in 2010, as did employees of Google and other ventures. These same types will be tapped to pay for legalization this time around, although they're a bit skittish.

In a statement released via a spokesman on Monday afternoon, Parker praised the effort... but also stayed noncommittal.

"I've been following this issue with great interest for some time,' the Parker statement reads. "It's very encouraging to see a vibrant community of activists, many of whom have dedicated their lives to this issue, coming together around a sensible reform based measure that protects children, gives law enforcement additional resources, and establishes a strong regulatory framework for responsible adult use of marijuana—one that will yield economic benefits for all Californians. I'm cautiously optimistic that a coalition is forming around these shared goals.”

There's much drama yet to unfold. But in the meantime, check out the initiative below.

Adult Use of Marijuana Act

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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