Gavin Newsom

Legalization Measure Headed to California Ballot in November

California voters will almost certainly be able to vote to legalize small amounts of cannabis for adults this November, after backers of the best-funded and best-organized marijuana legalization effort announced they have the signatures to put the question before voters.

The Secretary of State has yet to verify the signatures submitted by the backers of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, but all signs indicate that the star-studded, well-funded campaign is on its way.

“California will be asked to do something that will change the debate nationally in terms of failed drug policy,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, AUMA’s most famous and best-connected political backer. “California is a gamechanger in this debate.”

To date bankrolled by mostly tech billionaire Sean Parker, who has donated $1 million to the effort, AUMA’s slogan is “Let’s Get it Right” — and its campaign message is decidedly anti-drug.

“You do not have to be pro-marijuana to be pro-legalization,” said Newsom, who has publicly said he hates cannabis, personally (and said it again during the campaign’s launch). “That is not what this is about.”

“This is not about creating a new Gold Rush,” he added. “Quite the contrary. I’m promoting this as a father, who’s concerned, with four kids, about drug use and abuse.”

Under a regulatory structure very similar to the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act approved by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in the fall, AUMA would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and grow up to six plants in their homes. Cannabis sales would be taxed and regulated, and most marijuana-related felonies would become misdemeanors.

It would also allow commercial cannabis businesses — cultivators, sellers, manufacturers, and testers — to acquire licenses, and allow the state to collect fees for those licenses.

AUMA would also keep medical marijuana rules — which, admittedly, are changing — intact.

Organized opposition to AUMA is coming from the state law enforcement and prison lobbies as well as from the Teamsters union, which is said to want to secure the distribution licenses allowed under MMRSA.

(There are no distribution licenses in AUMA.)

Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana in California is already decriminalized, punishable by a citation and a fine.

Photo by Nick Ut/AP