It’s Time To Get It Right in CA! Support AUMA

C1_8734_r_xA few days ago the California Secretary of State’s office made it official; proponents of The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) have handed-in more than 600,000 valid signatures, assuring that full marijuana legalization will appear on the ballot in CA in November.

That’s right; Californians this fall will have yet another chance to end marijuana prohibition and legalize the responsible use of marijuana in the most populous state in the country. Most of us would have predicted California would be the first state to legalize marijuana, and they came close in 2010. But the proposal had some unexpected opposition from those who said they favored legalization but opposed particular provisions of the initiative and ended up losing with 46.5% of the vote.

This time, it really is important that we get it right.

What Will the AUMA Allow?

This pending proposal, if approved by the voters, will permit adults to legally cultivate up to six marijuana plants and to possess up to an ounce of marijuana or eight grams of marijuana concentrates; and it will license the commercial cultivation and retail sales of marijuana products to adults.

Current polling indicates public support for the proposal at 60%. The AUSA has been endorsed by an impressive array of organizations, including the California Democratic Party, the California Medical Association, the California NAACP, ACLU of California, as well as NORML, Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, and the Drug Policy Foundation.

We have the public support to approve legalization in California if we avoid the mistakes of earlier legalization efforts.

What Does That Mean?

First, and most importantly, it means we have to keep our eye on the goal, which is ending marijuana prohibition and establishing a legal market where consumers can obtain their legal marijuana. We simply must not permit the differing views regarding some of the details of legalization to be used to divide us and maintain prohibition.

The “Reefer Maniacs” and the Special Interests

Of course, there are those who, for whatever reason, oppose marijuana use and simply want to continue prohibition. They include individuals who, despite the scientific evidence, have an exaggerated view of the potential dangers of marijuana; as well as those special interests who benefit from prohibition, including many law-enforcement agencies and related businesses for whom marijuana prohibition is a jobs program.

While these special interests continue to have an exaggerated influence with many elected officials, their influence on a voter initiative is far less significant. That is demonstrated by the series of marijuana-related voter initiatives we have passed all around this country, despite near unanimous opposition from police and prosecutors.

Our “Friends” Who Oppose Legalization

But perhaps the more important concern is not from our natural political opponents – the anti-marijuana zealots – but from those who claim they support marijuana legalization, but just not this version of legalization. These “friends” refuse to throw this destructive prohibition policy on the great trash heap of history because they disagree with some of the details of the particular legalization proposal before the voters.

The “Tomato Model”

Some of these folks favor the “tomato model,” under which one could possess, cultivate or sell as much marijuana as one wanted, with literally no restrictions, age or otherwise.

One can certainly sympathize with the goal of fewer restrictions and the right to have larger quantities of marijuana, if one is a marijuana smoker or otherwise understands that marijuana really is a safe product, and most of those restrictions are unnecessary. But that ignores the reality of nearly 80-years of prohibition with decades of “reefer madness” propaganda and the impact that policy has had on the attitudes of many voters, especially non-smokers.

The Necessary Support of the Non-Smokers

Polling indicates we currently enjoy the political support of a majority of the non-smokers in this country (whom, it should be noted, comprise roughly 86% of the electorate; only about 14% of the adults in the country are current smokers), but their support is based on their belief that marijuana prohibition is a failed public policy. They have concluded that marijuana prohibition causes far more harm to society than the marijuana it is intended to prohibit.

Their support is not based on a favorable view of marijuana smoking. In fact, 64% of the non-smokers who support full marijuana legalization say they do this despite holding a generally negative view of marijuana smokers! Apparently, some of the “Cheech and Chong” stereotypes that many of us who smoke have learned to enjoy and laugh at, are taken more seriously by many non-smokers.

Most Smokers Are “In the Closet”

In addition, this unfavorable view of marijuana smokers is largely the result of the reality that most middle-class marijuana smokers do not have the luxury of “coming out,” as it would cost them their jobs and their ability to support their families. So the people who are the most visible marijuana smokers, and who are all too frequently pictured in the media, are smokers who by their lifestyle choices live on the fringes of society. They are generally not, for example, the responsible parent who, in addition to smoking marijuana, is working tirelessly to support the family financially while spending quality time with their children, and instilling in them the common values of hard work and honesty and the importance of community service and helping those less fortunate.

Lots of marijuana smokers fit that description, but most are not visible to the non-smokers. Thus many non-smokers continue to hold on to a silly stereotype that suggests those of us who smoke marijuana are lazy, irresponsible, self-centered, and primarily interested in getting high. That is a terribly unfair and harmful stereotype, and we must continue to work to dispel those myths.

But that will take time, and we have only a few months before the voters in CA (and in several other states) will be voting on a full legalization initiative. So in the short run, it is imperative that we keep our anti-prohibition coalition together, including especially those non-smokers who oppose prohibition.

And that means we do not have the luxury of demanding unlimited quantities, or no restrictions, age or otherwise. Were we to do that, we would lose the initiatives, and would be stuck for several more years with prohibition in CA. In no state, including California, do current smokers comprise anywhere near a majority of eligible voters.

It’s Time to Finally Win

So now is the time for responsible marijuana smokers in CA (and in several other states) to lay aside their differences; join hands with the majority of non-smokers who, like us, oppose prohibition; and end marijuana prohibition once and for all.

There will be time in future years, after marijuana has been legalized and the arrests have ended, to revisit each of these new laws to make improvements where they are needed. Our work is not completed until responsible marijuana smokers are treated fairly in all areas of their lives, ending job discrimination, child custody issues, and unfair DUID laws. But we simply must not permit the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

Let’s get it right, CA. Let’s adopt the Adult Use of Marijuana Act this November.

This is only incidentally about marijuana; it is really about personal freedom.


This column was first published on

26 thoughts

  1. Let’s get it right CA… Bed Bath and Beyond! I want to buy my hemp sheets in the same place I buy cannabis oils… While walking through a heavenly hallway full of labeled bud samples on clean, brightly lit shelves that opens up to a balcony overlooking a field of undulating waves of cannabis… Wait… Oh yeah, I live in Texas. Back to work.
    Have no fear on the stereotypes Keith; They are breaking down. The people in my community that know me and have been to my parties know that I am a responsible parent and smoke weed. These networks of friends and family have a powerful influence; its not simply those who have never tried cannabis to worry about; its people who dont research or are still tied financially to prohibition thats the real problem.
    Thats why Im surprised you dont mention Law Enforcement Against Prohibition’s endorsement of AUMA. Is there something I dont know that leaves them out of this article? You kinda downplayed the threat of law enforcement organizations, but if I recall the prison guard union, one of the biggest lobbies in the state, helped stop California’s 2010 attempt to legalize. Dont you think we need representatives from law enforcement (especially from legalized states) to convince and educate California cops and prison guards that they will have better new jobs securities and quality of life after legalization?

  2. Keith gets it right most of the way, but I am concerned about this persistent language use:

    “Apparently, some of the “Cheech and Chong” stereotypes that many of us who smoke have learned to enjoy and laugh at, are taken more seriously by many non-smokers.”

    Don’t us VAPERS count for anything? I am pretty close to a non-$moker (after the first 19 seconds you move the flame closer and glow away some tasty cellulose remants) who uses cannabis but not tobacco.

    Let me try putting it this way: if we (NORML, LEAP et al.) practice and advocate (a) 25-mg single toke instead of 500-mg firehazard Joint, (b) cannabis– and basil, marjoram, oregano etc.– instead of tobacco, (c) VAPE instead of $mokonoxide, we will readily convince all those cannabis illiterates on the child safety and driving issues.

    1. I’m not sure if that solution will work for the “purists” in the cannabis world. For instance, I know several people who only smoke plants grown “organically”… In fact it’s that kind of thinking that got them started using cannabis medically in the first place. I couldn’t imagine forcing those people into a more modern method that frankly, in my humble opinion, would be more attractive to underage people anyway.

  3. Hi NORML and its followers =^..^=

    I would love to volunteer (or more) for the AUMA campaign. However, their website doesn’t provide any contact info. If anyone can direct me, I’d be grateful.

    As a longtime medical cannabis user I know that the only way to truly elevate people like me into “normlcy” is full legalization. It is my hope to play a positive role in breaking the stereotypes.

  4. The only reason that the dem party and other mainstreamers are supporting this is because big business is paying them to. They are ready to move in and take over the market. Hence the strict rules and regulations. They do not want competition from the those folks who have been growing for up to 40 yrs. big ag, big pharma, and others are licking their chops. This will put all truly medical use in the hands of big pharma. “Take this pill instead of that full extract cannabis oil”. And it will never get better once they take over. It is the way of all things these days. Very sad.

    This said, I will probably vote for it because THEY will never allow a truly legal law to be voted on. This is all we will get.

    [Editor’s note: AUMA is not the work product of big business, or big pharma or the Democrats. The sui generis of AUMA is NORML board member Justin Hartfield, philanthropist Sean Parker, Drug Policy Alliance, estate of Peter Lewis, CA’s Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, MPP and NORML.

    All ballot initiatives are imperfect and most are modified by amending legislation.]

    1. Let’s distinguish between matters that are “sad” and matters that are “glad”!

      If you are concerned about Corporate America abusing it’s power, I’m with you. What might be “sad” (tragic, even) is how much of mainstream America is just fine with corporate malfeasance, especially when there’s a paycheck in it.

      But that’s really a different problem; related, yes, but not the same thing. Don’t fight THAT war on THIS battlefield.

      You know, Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate; he’s been working on behalf of all of us who rely on the safety and integrity of the products we buy, for many many years now. If America really gave a shit about reigning in Corporate Power, Nader would have been President! But Democrats and Republicans alike tend to loathe him. That’s sad.

      But that’s a different matter than the one before us: Marijuana Legalization.

      And that’s a “glad” thing, not a “sad” thing!

      Look: the goal of Legalization is to stop the marijuana arrests. That’s the moral imperative.

      Who gets rich, and who doesn’t get rich, will certainly “matter” to those with vested financial interests either way, but it is definitely a secondary issue.

      It’s inevitable that cannabis legalization will lead to cannabis commercialization. Love it or hate it, it’s a given; so don’t get cold feet on me now!

      The money-grubbing will continue regardless. That may offend our sense of fairness, but it’s an issue that is not worth even one more marijuana arrest.

  5. All you have to do,is look at the other states that have legalized recreational pot to know that only good things have happened.The price has dropped considerably,down to 5-7 dollars a gram for mid- grade,whats not to like about that?.The people that want to hold out for the perfect legislation bill or nothing at all, are either idiots or they have an agenda.

    Look how the original medical marijuana bill 215 has been modified over the years,and especially now with MMRSA that won’t go into effect until 2018.Each plant will have to be tagged and accounted for.There will be no more Medical Marijuana Doctors,only you’re Primary Care Physician will be able to write a prescription,and for most cases that will have to be for something Terminal.

    So my point is,while one door is closing, There will be another door that is opening.

  6. Same thing is happening in Arizona. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted more than 250,000 signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office this week, 100,000 more than required. Meanwhile, another group suspended their petition because they couldn’t get enough signatures. However, they are urging a boycott of the vote because the CRMLA isn’t pure enough for them. It’s the same “my way or the highway” mentality that has gridlocked congress, and it’s batshit crazy.

  7. CCHI is the most moronic campaign. Please post my comment, go look at their instagram @cchi2018 and go call them out on their stupid posts, they are the biggest cancer getting in the way of legalization in cacalifornia. They have over 25k followers they are brainwashing people the only way it stops is if we call them out.

  8. It is said that AUMA allows for 6 plants in a person’s cannabis garden. Is this 6 immature plants and three mature or 12 nonflowering immature plants and 6 flowering mature plants? If there are two adult people in a household does this number double or is the 6 plant limit for the entire household no matter how many adults are in the household?

    1. Those are excellent questions actually. There’s a copy of the bill or at least an outline at I believe.

  9. Just don’t do a repeat of that Ohio non-sense, Progressives have a new understanding of what is going on in this country and where/who is generating these issues for us to deal with. First, we want depose the oligarchy, not hand them another giant win at our expense. Two, normal needs to promote the anti-prisons-for-profit bill that takes direct aim at the source of our problems, if you haven’t yet: The fact there is profit in locking up innocence people. Remove the motivation and the special interests become that much weaker.

  10. “… most middle-class marijuana smokers do not have the luxury of “coming out,” as it would cost them their jobs and their ability to support their families.”

    It cost me my career and helped force me into an early retirement. If you “come out”, weigh all the consequences thoroughly.

    1. I got to have half the local police department going through my underwear drawer, too.

    2. This is the excerpt that got to me, too.

      “… most middle-class marijuana smokers do not have the luxury of “coming out,” as it would cost them their jobs and their ability to support their families.”

      When we talk about the institutions that oppose marijuana and/or legalization, we should not ignore those who are our most immediate, direct, and personal enemies: employers who drug test for marijuana!

      Employers are not a moral authority, not even close. These institutions are not capable of acting in that capacity. Yet employers typically run their operations like religious cults, where your paycheck depends not on adhering to an employment agreement, but instead depends on “joining the team” — your level of committment to the belief systems of that particular institution. This is particularly true in the case of “at-will” employment, where you can be fired for any reason, or no reason at all, at any time.

      But who the fuck is your boss to define your personal values for you? Unless they are your church or your personal lifestyle coach, these institutions have no standing in that regard. All they have is your goddamn paycheck, and the ability to extort you with it, if you allow it.

      I’m not saying quit your job or abandon your family, of course. I’m just pointing out that on the issue of marijuana legalization, it’s first and foremost employers who have our balls in a vice, and we shouldn’t let a paycheck cloud our understanding of the extortionist nature of our system of employment.

  11. Today is 4 July, Independence Day. I will celebrate Independence Day when marijuana is legal and we can finally call ourselves a free people again.

    Until that day comes Americans would be wise not to trust our government. They have made laws which are based on their own lies. It is completely ridiculous and flies in the face of everything this country was supposed to be.

  12. @W – look, the minutiae of any piece of legislation will foster disagreement. It does not spoil the merits of the entire bill. The same holds true for the AUMA referendum. You’ll never get total agreement on any issue but that doesn’t mean we should stand on principle regarding the minutiae and vote against the overall good that this referendum will accomplish. Intransigence and 80 years of misguided principle have resulted in the arrest and criminal prosecution of 25,000,000 Americans. I promise you, legislative tweaks will be coming for years to come if and only if you take that liberating step and vote for AUMA. You ever try to stick a cat back in a bag? Once it’s out there’s no going back.

    1. Good advice indeed!

      I have been doing this now for over a year. I am sure it all helps our cause!

  13. Some brilliant, great comments here. I am a longtime supporter of NORML, MPP, LEAP, others as well. Fear not. I have faith in legalization, and am very, very active in the legalization movement. We did fail, by 7 votes, this year, in Vermont. But it is indeed encouraging that Nevada, California, and, little doubt, soon Arizona are on board. In addition, we also have Maine, our first state out East, and possibly Massachusetts, though I am worried about Boston. I don’t know if we will succeed there. I live in Michigan, and it is horrible out here, the bill is in litigation, the Republicans have pretty much succeeded again. We have a local NORML chapter out here in Toledo, where I was born. Ohio was also a nightmare….Issue 3 was a disaster, and has set legalization back our here. I hope we can get some support and funding when the other states inevitably legalize this year, I hope they can help us out with funding. My biggest point is THIS. We need more states onboard here. The legalization fight is fragile, we are vulnerable, we need more states. I repeat, we need more states. Now. Thank you, and NORML and the rest have my full and total activist support. MB

  14. If you are allowed to cultivate up to 6 plants and have one ounce of flower wouldn’t you technically have an amount that is illegal once your plants mature and time to cure cause 6 plants can produce a heck of a lot more than 1 ounce just curious but let’s go ca time for everywhere to vote instead of a couple states every couple of years it’s a slow process I also feel by doing it state by state is a good and bad thing at the same time. I would think that people in a state such as Co that has already legalized might not want the rest of the states to cause right now they are making more money this way by being one of the couple states the prices stay higher plus they get more money from tourists and people moving it out of state it’s just way more lucrative for them now. Time for the fed to do something and hopefully soon

    1. There is an inherent conflict of interest between selling marijuana, and legalizing marijuana, for just the reasons you indicate: $50 eighths are prohibition-level prices. The actual cost of marijuana, without the price support structure of prohibition is merely pennies on the pound.

      This is an example of why I am skeptical of the validity of so-called “market solutions” with respect to social issues.

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