Recreational Marijuana Initiative Qualifies for the November Ballot

On Tuesday, June 28, the California Secretary of State announced that proponents of the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” (“AUMA”) submitted enough valid petition signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

The AUMA, if approved by voters, would legalize recreational use of marijuana by adults age 21 and older, regulate and tax recreational marijuana, revise criminal penalties for marijuana-related crimes, and provide relief for prior offenders convicted of offenses that would not be a crime or that would be a lesser offense under the AUMA.

As we have previously covered, in October 2015, Governor Brown signed into law three bills (AB 243, AB 266 and SB 643) that together established a comprehensive state regulatory system for the commercial cultivation, processing, manufacturing, transportation and distribution of medical marijuana products. The law, known as the “Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act” (“MMRSA”), became effective January 1, 2016. State and local agencies have been working since then to adopt local ordinances and develop the statewide regulatory systems MMRSA calls for.

In contrast to MMRSA, which legalizes and regulates marijuana for medical use only, AUMA would legalize and regulate marijuana for recreational use. In other words, if passed by voters in November, AUMA would allow any adult over 21 years of age to possess, process, transport, purchase, obtain, or give away up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use. No medical marijuana card would be required. The AUMA would also authorize cultivation, processing, manufacturing, transportation, and distribution of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use.

The AUMA would not replace MMRSA. MMRSA would remain in effect and, in fact, implementation of the AUMA would be largely overseen by the same agency created to implement MMRSA. The AUMA and MMRSA programs should be seen as complementary, not competing arms of California’s overall marijuana regulatory program. As with MMRSA, however, the AUMA is complicated and lacks important working details that will need to be resolved by the Legislature, through regulations, and in the courts.

The AUMA appears likely to pass in November. Proponents submitted more than 600,000 petition signatures, far more than the 365,000 required to qualify for the ballot, and a poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California in May found that 60 percent of likely voters believe that marijuana should be legalized, whereas only 37 percent opposed legalization.

The full text of the AUMA is available here.

To link to a downloadable version of this article, please click here.

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