10 Reasons to Support AUMA

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The cannabis legalization initiative best positioned to get on the November ballot in California is the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). Its comprehensive nature means there are a lot of details to absorb. Assuming it does make it onto the ballot, here are 10 good reasons to vote yes on AUMA.

  1. It Protects and Expands Current Medical Marijuana Laws

PrintFirst and foremost, AUMA reinforces existing protections for cannabis patients in California, and adds parental and custodial rights, privacy rights and the right of adults to grow a small garden at home. Most people don’t realize that California case law generally treats medical use as a court defense, not a legal right. That’s led scores of local governments around the state to ban sales of medical marijuana, and even home grows. AUMA will give all California adults (21 or older)—patients included—the right to grow six plants and use, store or give away the harvest, and it ends local bans on discreet, enclosed gardens (indoor grow rooms and greenhouses). To grow more than that amount, you’ll need a doctor’s approval.

Citizens are afforded new legal rights within the framework of the laws AUMA will create. Local governments will still be able to ban outdoor gardens, and ban or regulate commercial activity, but not personal use, sharing and discreet enclosed gardens, or gifting marijuana among friends. However, it will cost the local government to have bans: The Board of State and Community Corrections shall not make any grants to local governments that have banned the cultivation, including personal [outdoor] cultivation, or retail sale of marijuana or marijuana products. Local governments are required to track how their policies affect illicit traffic in marijuana and shift the illicit market to legal access.

  1. It’s Not Merely Decriminalization; It’s Real Legalization

GavelDecriminalization laws remove criminal penalties, but leave fines, infractions and social stigma. AUMA will completely legalize possession, transportation and sharing/gifting of small amounts of cannabis, allow home growers to keep their entire harvest and restrict police searches and seizures. The industry will be legal and regulated—more so than I wish—but people who follow the rules and get licenses will not risk criminal charges. Remaining penalties are mostly downgrades of existing penalties, although wobblers—charges that can be filed as misdemeanors or as felonies—remain for some repeat offenses, such as sales, aggravating circumstances (environmental destruction) or sales involving minors.

  1. It Enfranchises the Cannabis Community

HandcuffsOver the years, hundreds of thousands of Californians have been arrested, prosecuted and stigmatized for possessing, selling or growing cannabis, resulting in the loss of freedom, voting rights, education, housing and other social benefits. AUMA provides sentencing relief, resentencing and release for cannabis POWs, clearing records and removing barriers for reentry into society. Minors under 18 will not get a criminal record for youthful indiscretions. Prior offenders can get jobs and licenses in the industry.

Ending the social stigma surrounding cannabis is central to the advancement of civil rights. The ability to advance further legislative reforms will be greatly increased after AUMA passes. Regulators will smooth out the licensing kinks, municipalities will receive new tax revenues, communities will reconsider bans on legal cannabis businesses and attitudes will change. 

  1. It Seeks to Preserve the Cottage Industry

PrintThe underground cannabis economy has helped people pay their rent and bills for several generations, and not everyone who grows or sells in the illicit market will fit into the new paradigm. However, AUMA makes a sincere effort to help out by expunging criminal records, eliminating barriers to entry into the business, requiring state residency to get a license, favoring existing licensed marijuana businesses, encouraging small and microbusiness licenses, scaling fees to the size of the operation and blocking large-scale cultivation interests from the market for five years. It protects geographical naming rights, so if the label says Humboldt Gold, you’ll know it was grown there.

  1. It Directs Taxes to Help the Hardest-Hit Members of Society

PiggyTaxesTaxes specified in AUMA are not as high as in other states, but still higher than I’d like them to be: $9.25 per ounce of bud, $2.75 per ounce of leaf, a 15% excise tax, the 7.5% state sales tax, plus local taxes. Those taxes will pay for legal access, as well as fund scientific research, environmental cleanup and grants to community-based nonprofit organizations to support job placement, mental health treatment, substance use disorder treatment, system navigation services, legal services to address barriers to reentry and linkages to medical care for communities disproportionately affected by past federal and state drug policies. It also funds youth programs, such as accurate education, effective prevention, early intervention, school retention and timely treatment services for youth, their families and caregivers. Everybody should feel good about doing that.

  1. It Gives a Boost to Industrial Hemp

hempiconAUMA includes new industrial hemp reforms, as well. It adapts existing hemp laws, complies with federal law and makes it easier and safer to engage in legal industrial hemp research on a small (1/10th acre) or large scale, and supports sustainable commercial hemp farming. This could bring hemp horticulture back as the economic powerhouse that helped establish America.

Some of the things I don’t like about AUMA are among its strongest selling points to others. For example, while I’d prefer looser controls, AUMA complies with the federal requirement that state laws be strictly regulated and robustly enforced, so voters don’t have to worry about federal interference. I don’t like AUMA’s broad restrictions on public consumption or the distances set from schools, but some of my friends with kids favor them. The provisions that allow possession of one ounce of flowers and eight grams of concentrates, and the cultivation of just six plants, I consider to be unduly low, but sound great to friends who buy cannabis by the eighth and hash by the half-gram, and would love to grow a few plants in a backyard greenhouse. More importantly, these numbers don’t scare away other voters who want it legally controlled, but remain dubious about how much marijuana people really need to have around if it’s just for their own use.

After AUMA is passed, our new audience will be the legislature, and we won’t have to educate 10 million voters, just two houses and a governor. The more comfortable people are about voting Yes on AUMA, and the bigger AUMA’s margin of victory, the more pressure will be on the federal government to change.

  1. It Limits Legislative Change

PrintThe state legislature cannot modify a California initiative unless it says they can. Since AUMA is designed as a platform for further legalization, it must allow the legislature to make future changes, but limits its power: The Legislature may, by majority vote, amend, add or repeal any provisions to further reduce the penalties for any of the offenses addressed by this Act. Except as otherwise provided, the provisions of the Act may be amended by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to further the purposes and intent of the Act. So, after voters pass AUMA, advocates can go back to the legislature to advance reform.

  1. It Was Written to Get Approved by Voters and to Pass Federal Muster

PrintSome of the things I don’t like about AUMA are among its strongest selling points to others. For example, while I’d prefer looser controls, AUMA complies with the federal requirement that state laws be strictly regulated and robustly enforced, so voters don’t have to worry about federal interference. I don’t like AUMA’s broad restrictions on public consumption or the distances set from schools, but some of my friends with kids favor them. The provisions that allow possession of one ounce of flowers and eight grams of concentrates, and the cultivation of just six plants, I consider to be unduly low, but sound great to friends who buy cannabis by the eighth and hash by the half-gram, and would love to grow a few plants in a backyard greenhouse. More importantly, these numbers don’t scare away other voters who want it legally controlled, but remain dubious about how much marijuana people really need to have around if it’s just for their own use.

After AUMA is passed, our new audience will be the legislature, and we won’t have to educate 10 million voters, just two houses and a governor. The more comfortable people are about voting Yes on AUMA, and the bigger AUMA’s margin of victory, the more pressure will be on the federal government to change.

  1. It Allows On-Site Consumption

PeoplenetworkingHave you ever been to Amsterdam and hung out with locals and other tourists at a “coffeeshop,” smoking joints, passing pipes and bongs, and using vaporizers as you laugh, listen to music and share your thoughts? Cannabis is a social lubricant, and consumers like to be in each other’s company. AUMA will allow on-site consumption by local permit, like beer and wine at a tavern—although it states that sale or consumption of alcohol or tobacco are not allowed on the premises.

On-site consumption allows us to preserve our social network as a community. It would be sad to see cannabis assimilated into society, but acculturated as a solitary experience where people buy it at the store, then go home and smoke alone. People like to share cannabis with one another, tell stories and enhance each other’s experience. We want places to socially gather, just as drinkers of alcoholic beverages gather at bars. Likewise, when travelers visit the state, they will have places where they can go smoke and vape. On-site consumption is a big plus for AUMA.

  1. The Big Picture: Message to the World

As beneficial as passing the AUMA initiative will be to California, it will have even greater impact around the U.S. and the world. California led the charge against the drug war 20 years ago with the passage of Prop 215, which legalized medical marijuana. Now, instead of being first, as California should’ve been, we can be part of the third wave of states to legalize. We’ve learned the lessons, both good and bad, from states that have legalized before us (Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska). Likewise, other states will learn from us, but first we need to pass AUMA.

The November election could be the death knell for marijuana prohibition, or it could be its continuation. Not only is the message we send to the world important, so is the message we send to our neighbors, and also to ourselves. Once AUMA passes, we’ll no longer be labeled by our communities as outlaws, illicit users and criminals, but as people. Our legislators will not see us as scofflaws, but as constituents. We’ll look at ourselves in the mirror with the subtle but constant burden of prohibition-imposed stigma lifted from our backs, and see a free and law-abiding person staring back. And that can make all the difference.

Check out a review of Chris Conrad’s co-authored book entitled: The Newbie’s Guide to Cannabis and the Industry in the latest issue of Freedom Leaf.

About Chris Conrad

Chris Conrad is a well known author, consultant, public speaker, cannabis expert witness, museum curator and internationally respected authority on cannabis, industrial hemp, medical marijuana, cultivation, garden yields, processing, dosages, commercial intent, personal use and cannabis culture. He teaches at Oaksterdam University and the International Pharmacological Academy and has given numerous presentations for continuing legal education (CLE) and continuing medical education (CME) programs.

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14 Comments
  1. Letitia Pepper 1 year ago

    Here are about 40 reasons to vote NO on AUMA; all with citations to the actual sections of AUMA that would ruin people’s lives and health IF AUMA passes. https://www.dropbox.com/s/3l9ovamnpqwl7m0/Revised%20Bullet%20Points%20About%20AUMA%20as%20Marijuana%20Legalization.pdf?dl=0

  2. Patrick H 1 year ago

    We may be stoned but we are not stupid! AUMA is a thinly veiled corporate take-over of California’s number 1 cash crop…we’ll pass!
    Sean can devastate one of our favorite industries (music)…but not this one!
    #NoOnAUMA

  3. Patrick H 1 year ago

    Got 10 reasons to oppose AUMA here…from TheGreenPulpit

    1. It’s going to raise the price of pot worldwide.

    When the price of marijuana per pound in California goes up, prices go up even higher everywhere else. A tax like AUMA’s sets a price floor aka price control in the market, meaning it’s impossible to sell marijuana below a certain price because of the tax burden without taking a loss. Colorado learned their lesson during the past two years when the price of marijuana experienced deflation from a supply glut. Since Colorado implemented price controls before the price drop, they are now stuck selling marijuana above its market price thus expanding their own street market and diminishing their legal market. Since marijuana supply will only increase as state after state legalizes, a premature tax will toxify the mother plant and global marijuana markets in a very unsettling way.

    2.Most of the tax revenue goes to jails, police and insider bureaucracy.

    This is not a lottery sin tax, this tax is designed to fill law enforcement and prison system budget gaps to keep business running as usual after marijuana arrests become invalidated.

    3.Marijuana will still have felonies and prison sentences under the California Penal Code for all patients and recreational users.

    A crime is only a crime if there is a legal punishment for it. As long as marijuana remains within the California Penal Code, possession and production will remain a crime. AUMA does not decriminalize or fully legalize possession, it legalizes sales and purchases but lets the police keep their pound of flesh by still allowing marijuana arrests.

    4.Drugged Driving with worse DUI punishments than drunk driving.

    Marijuana has been proven to not impair motor vehicle driving, but despite these studies, law enforcement has moved forward by sponsoring companies that are working on creating an accurate marijuana breathalyzer to entrap marijuana patients with highly subjective DUI charges that are being slated to have more of an impact than an alcohal DUI. Law Enforcement is basically saying, with legalization, be careful what you wish for because you just might get all of it, including police entrapment.

    5.Personal grows can be banned by the state.

    AUMA only requires a simple parliamentary majority to overturn personal growing rights and trust me, this is not an IF but a WHEN if this bill gets passed. None of the AUMA sponsors want small growers competing with them or offering up superior homemade product.

    6.Cities and counties can ban outdoor cultivation.

    Cities and counties will continue to racketeer marijuana businesses with impunity, expect all the grows and shops to be owned by the mayor and his family with this one.

    7.Cities and counties can pass arbitrary taxes, ordinances and bans.

    In addition to an outrageous price driving state tax, we will also have price hiking city taxes and ordinances, along with city wide bans that have CUP’s issued to only to those with enough money to properly bribe the city councils.

    8.Eliminates Prop 215 constitutional protections.

    Goodbye medical marijuana and its constitutional protections. Subordinates California law to the Federal Schedule I Prohibition, turning cannabis from a legal right into a legal privilege. Think DMV license suspension, exactly.

    9.Allows for control by outside industries (Alcohal, Tobacco, Pharma, etc.)

    Opens the door wide open for Consortium control. Expect Sean Parker and the Coalition of Corruption to storm in, bribe every city from Yreka to Imperial Beach, lock up every grower that doesn’t kow tow, and buy up all of their assets at the auction for rock bottom prices.

    10.Reinstitutes control of the national industry under DC insiders and billionaires.

    Reinstitutes Consortium control over the medical marijuana industry. GOP drug lords like the Bush Family, the DuPonts and Kochs will continue to use marijuana as a front for cocaine and heroin distribution, while loading up the private prison system, that they own, with the patients that they sell their products to.

  4. Mikki Norris 1 year ago

    Great article, Chris. The Naysayers really don’t seem to know current laws, what AUMA does and doesn’t allow the legislature to do, and how important it is to pass it. I am voting YES!

  5. Ken Wolski 1 year ago

    I wish I could vote for it.

    We don’t have anything close to it in NJ.

  6. Ralph 1 year ago

    All you have to do is read the actual 65 page legislation for yourself to see that the people opposing it are lying through their teeth. This will hurt illegal drug dealers, big pharma, and the alcohol and tobacco industries. They will not stop fighting against the people and spreading misinformation. https://www.oag.ca.gov/system/files/initiatives/pdfs/15-0103%20(Marijuana)_1.pdf

  7. corey a huber 12 months ago

    The auma is a joke. It does not decriminalize anything, just more lenient sentences, which is up to 6 years in a federal prison. Cchi 2016

  8. trippn 9 months ago

    AUMA = first class dystopian trash.

    Voting NO ; with the rest of every educated Californian I know.

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