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Chronicle AM: OR Top Cops Call for Drug Defelonization, SC County Wants Jail for Overdosers, More... (9/27/16)

NORML updates its congressional scorecard, Bay State legalizers cry foul over a misleading voter guide, the number of babies suffering from opioid withdrawals has jumped dramatically, Oregon top cops want to defelonize simple drug possession, and more.

Oregon sheriffs and police chiefs jointly call for defelonizing simple drug possession. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

NORML Releases Updated and Revised 2016 Congressional Scorecard. To mark national Voter Registration Day, NORML has released its updated and revised guide to members of Congress. The guide gives letter grades to our representatives based on the comments and voting records. Only 22 of the 535 senators and congressmen got "A" grades, while 32 members got an "F" grade.

Massachusetts Legalizers Cry Foul Over State-Issued Voter Guide. Campaigners behind the Question 4 legalization initiative say a state-issued guide sent to voters across the state inaccurately describes the fiscal consequences of the measure. The guide says they are "difficult to project due to lack of reliable data" and cites a report from a committee headed by a top opponent of legalization to the effect that taxes and fee revenues from legal marijuana sales "may fall short of even covering the full public and social costs. The Yes on 4 campaign points out that there is "reliable data" from legal marijuana states and that those states have easily covered administrative and other expenses.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Study: Number of Babies Born Suffering Withdrawal Symptoms More Than Doubles in Four Years. Researchers studying neonatal abstinence syndrome, which results from withdrawal from opioids to which fetuses were exposed in utero, report that the incidence of the syndrome has jumped from 2.8 cases per thousand live births in 2009 to 7.3 cases in 2013. At least some of the surge may be a result of drug policies aimed at cracking down on prescription drug use. "The drug policies of the early 2000s were effective in reducing supply – we have seen a decrease in methamphetamine abuse and there have been reductions in some aspects of prescription drug abuse," said lead study author Dr. Joshua Brown. "However, the indirect results, mainly the increase in heroin abuse, were likely not anticipated and we are just starting to see these." The researchers also noted wide variations by state, from 0.7 cases per thousand in Hawaii to 33.4 cases in West Virginia.

New Psychoactive Substances

Bill to Criminalize More New Synthetics Passes House. A bill sponsored by Rep. Charlie Dent (R-TX) to add several new synthetic cannabinoids and opioids to the Controlled Substances Act passed the House Monday. The measure, HB 3537, now goes to the Senate.

Law Enforcement

Oregon Law Enforcement Calls for Defelonizing Drug Possession. The Oregon Association of Police Chiefs and the Oregon State Sheriff's Association have jointly called for people caught with "user amounts" of illegal drugs to face misdemeanor charges—not felonies—and be sent to treatment. Elected officials and prosecutors should "craft a more thoughtful approach to drug possession when it is the only crime committed," the top cops said, because felony charges "include unintended and collateral consequences including barriers to housing and employment and a disparate impact on minority communities."

South Carolina County Ponders Mandatory Jail Time for People Who Overdose. The chairman of the county council in Horry County, where Myrtle Beach is located, has inquired during a council meeting about whether to make people who suffer opioid overdoses spend three days in jail. Chairman Mark Lazarus would also like to see mandatory drug treatment required. He added that jailing people who overdose wouldn't discourage them from getting medical help because they're usually unconscious and someone else calls for emergency assistance. 

Chronicle AM: DEA Issues Carfentanil Warning, Malaysia to Hang Man for MJ Trafficking, More... (9/23/16)

The DEA issues a warning on a powerful emerging opioid, Michigan marijuana legalizers turn their eyes to 2018, Malaysia sentences a man to death for pot dealing, and more.

Marijuana Policy

This Year's Legalization and Medical Marijuana Initiatives Could Add $7.8 Billion to US Economy. A new report highlighting the rush of capital into the legal pot business estimates that expanding the legal marijuana market into the states that have initiatives on the ballot this year could add $7.8 billion to the nation's economy by 2020. The report is from New Frontier Data and Arcview Market Research. The report said legalization could generate a billion in taxes in California alone.

Undaunted Michigan Legalizers Lay Plans for 2018. After losing their battle in the courts to get all their signatures counted, the folks at MI Legalize are already gearing up for 2018. The group turned in 354,000 signatures for this year, but some were not counted because they were gathered outside a 180-day window. The group said is going to restructure itself in preparation for another petition drive.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

DEA Issues Carfentanil Warning to Police and Public. "DEA has issued a public warning to the public and law enforcement nationwide about the health and safety risks of carfentanil. Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid that is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, which itself is 50 times more potent than heroin. DEA, local law enforcement and first responders have recently seen the presence of carfentanil, which has been linked to a significant number of overdose deaths in various parts of the country. Improper handling of carfentanil, as well as fentanyl and other fentanyl-related compounds, has deadly consequences," a DEA press release said.

Drug Policy

Sen. Leahy Files Bill to Fund Heroin and Methamphetamine Task Forces. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has filed S 3359, which would allocate $17 million a year in grants to state law enforcement to fund drug task forces aimed at heroin, prescription opioid, and methamphetamine trafficking.

International

Dutch Moving Toward Allowing Legal Marijuana Cultivation. Draft legislation that would regulate legal marijuana cultivation now appears to have backing from a majority of members of parliament. The bill had been pushed by the liberal D66 Party, with backing from Labor, Green Links, the Socialists, and an animal rights party. That was not quite enough. But now, two MPs who left the anti-Islamic PVV to form their own breakaway party say they will support the measure, and that should be enough to pass it. Stay tuned.

Malaysia Sentences Unemployed Man to Death for Marijuana Trafficking. The High Court in Kuala Lumpur Friday sentenced Ibrahim Musa Rifal, 32, to be hanged after he was convicted of trafficking about 20 pounds of marijuana. Under the country's 1952 Dangerous Drugs Act, such a charge carries a mandatory death sentence.

Chronicle AM: Nashville Decriminalizes (Sort Of), MO Judge to Rule on Init Signatures, More... (9/21/16)

It's all marijuana news today, and there's not even much of that. Nashville semi-decriminalizes small-time pot possession, a study finds New Mexico could make big bucks off legalization, and more.

Will Missourians get a chance to vote on medical marijuana this year? Stay tuned. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Mexico Could Make Big Bucks on Legalization, Study Says. A new report from medical marijuana producer Ultra Health estimates that legal marijuana could bring in revenues of more than $400 million in its first year and closer to $700 million within five years. The report also found that legalizing marijuana would create 11,400 new jobs in its first year.

Nashville Decriminalizes (Sort Of). The Nashville Metro Council gave final approval to a plan to allow police the option of ticketing small-time marijuana possessors instead of arresting them. Police could hand out $50 tickets instead of arresting people, but that discretion means it's not true decriminalization, and that worries Councilman Steve Glover. If you get pulled over by the wrong person, the wrong police officer, the state trooper, you will go to jail for this,' Glover said. "I think we're sending conflicting information."

Medical Marijuana

Waiting to See If Missouri Will Vote on Medical Marijuana. A Cole County circuit court judge holds the fate of the New Approach Missouri medical marijuana initiative in his hands this week. The group has gone to court in a last-ditch effort to get the invalidation of signatures in one district overturned, which would give the initiative enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. A decision is expected any day.

Chronicle AM: CA Forfeiture Reform Passes State House, MT Anti-MJ Init Folds, More... (8/25/16)

Lots of California news today, plus a Montana anti-marijuana initiative folds.

A bill to rein in asset forfeiture abuses has passed the California legislature and now awaits Gov. Brown's signature.
Marijuana Policy

California Legislature Passes Cottage Cannabis Production Bill. The measure, Assembly Bill 2516, would establish a new medical marijuana cultivator license category for what sponsor Assemblyman Jim Woods (D-North Coast) calls "microfarmers." The category would apply to farmers with 2,500 square feet or less for mixed-light cultivation, 500 square feet for indoor cultivation, or up to 25 mature marijuana plants for outdoor cultivation. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown (D).

California's Legal Marijuana Industry Could Generate $6.5 Billion a Year, Report Says. A new report from Arcview Market Research estimates that legalizing marijuana in the state would create a $6.5 billion annual market by 2020. That would make California the "epicenter" of legal marijuana in the US.

Medical Marijuana

Montana Anti-Marijuana Zealot Gives Up on Initiative to Repeal Medical Marijuana Law. Billings auto dealer Steve Zabawa has given up the ghost on his effort to get an anti-marijuana initiative on the state ballot. His measure would have repealed the state's already seriously gutted medical marijuana law (a measure that has made the ballot, I-182, seeks to reinstate the original law) and declare that any drug illegal under federal law is illegal under state law. He came up short on signatures, lost an initial court challenge, and now says he doesn't have time to appeal to the state Supreme Court. Zabawa said he will now concentrate on trying to defeat I-182.

Asset Forfeiture

California Legislature Approves Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. A bill that would require a criminal conviction before seizing assets in cases involving less than $40,000 has passed the legislature and is now on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown (D). The measure, Senate Bill 443, sponsored by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), would also prohibit police from partnering with federal agencies in drug busts in order to get around state asset forfeiture laws.

Medical Marijuana Update

The federal courts remind the Justice Department that Congress passed a law barring it from using federal funds to go after state-legal medical marijuana operations, Maryland takes a step toward getting its industry up and running, California balks at a medical marijuana grower tax, and more.

National

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court blocked the Department of Justice from going after medical marijuana in states where it is legal. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Justice Department can't spend money to prosecute federal marijuana cases if the defendants are in compliance with state laws permitting medical marijuana production and sales. The ruling upholds the Farr-Rohrabacher amendment, passed by Congress in 2014, which prohibits the spending of appropriated funds to interfere in medical marijuana states. That amendment "prohibits DOJ from spending funds from relevant appropriations acts for the prosecution of individuals who engaged in conduct permitted by the State Medical Marijuana Laws and who fully complied with such laws," the court said.

California

Last Friday, a medical marijuana tax bill died in committee. A bill that would have imposed a tax on commercial medical marijuana growers has been killed in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Assembly Bill 2243 would have imposed a tax of up to $9.25 per ounce of marijuana buds, $2.75 for pot leaves, and $1.25 for immature pot plants. The panel killed the bill after patient advocates said it would impose a burden on patients.

Maryland

On Tuesday, the state named medical marijuana growers and processors. The state Medical Cannabis Commission has awarded preliminary licenses to 20 companies to grow and process medical marijuana and has named the companies selected. The licenses were actually awarded on August 5, but the commission did not reveal the names of the licensees until Monday, so state officials could conduct background checks and review financial records.

New Mexico

On Wednesday, a patient's mom and a marijuana growers sued over the state's medical marijuana shortage. The mother of an infant suffering from a rare form of epilepsy has joined with a state-legal grower to sue the Department of Health over restrictive rules they say are harming patients by making it impossible for producers to supply patients with the medicine they need.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: Gallup Finds MJ Users Nearly Double in Three Years, MO MedMJ Fights On, More... (8/8/16)

A Gallup poll shows a dramatic increase in admitted marijuana use by adults, a Barna poll shows little support for drug prohibition, Garden State needle exchanges are scrambling for money after their funding was vetoed, and more.

Marijuana use is becoming more acceptable. (Darren Frisby Harris/Drug Policy Alliance)
Marijuana Policy

Gallup: Number of American Adult Marijuana Users Nearly Doubles in Three Years. A new Gallup poll reports that the number of people who smoke pot has nearly doubled since 2013. That year, 7% of adults said they were current marijuana users; this year, the number jumped to 13%. It's not clear whether or to what degree the reported sharp increase is attributable to an actual increase in regular marijuana users or whether it's because people are more willing to admit their pot use in an era of growing acceptance of marijuana and spreading legalization of the herb.

Medical Marijuana

Missouri Initiative Campaign Asks Court to Overturn Invalidated Signatures. New Approach Missouri announced Monday that it will go to court this month to overturn invalidated signatures so that its medical marijuana initiative can appear on the November ballot. The campaign has enough valid signatures to qualify in every congressional district except the state's second, where local election officials invalidated more than 10,000 signatures, leaving the campaign roughly 2,200 short of the 32,337 required in that district.

Drug Policy

Poll: Only One-Third Thinks All Drugs Should Be Illegal. A new poll from Barna, a firm that surveys on religious issues, finds that only 32% of respondents think all drugs should be illegal. Some 40% think hard drugs should be illegal, but not marijuana, while another 13% think all drugs should be legal and regulated and another 3% believe all drugs should be legal and should not be regulated. If you add those all up, it's 56% for marijuana legalization and 16% for legalizing all drugs.

Harm Reduction

New Jersey Needle Exchanges Are Strapped for Cash. The operators of the state's five needle exchange programs have launched an online fundraising drive this week with a GoFundMe account after a one-time federal grant has run out. Lawmakers had allocated $95,000 to cover program costs, but Gov. Chris Christie (R) line item vetoed that funding in June. "Our governor claims to be fiscally conservative and pro-life. So, how is it that he refuses to fund a simple, inexpensive, effective intervention that saves lives at significantly lower cost than the cost of medical care after a person has been infected with HIV or Hepatitis C or both?" said Diana McCague, the founder of the first underground needle exchange program in the mid-90s called The Chai Project. "Can it be that he's willing to risk the lives of human beings because they use drugs? I think 'pro-life' means pro-all-life."

Chronicle AM: WA Legal MJ Sales Top $1 Billion, AR Welfare Drug Testing Flop, More... (8/5/16)

Arizona legalizers fight a lawsuit aimed at knocking them off the ballot, Washington rakes in the tax revenue from legal pot, asset forfeiture is in the news in California and New York, and more.

Arkansas forced 800 welfare applicants to do drug screens, one came up dirty. (Wikimedia/Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Legalization Campaign Wants Lawsuit Tossed. The group behind the state's legalization initiative has asked a judge to throw out a lawsuit filed by foes seeking to keep the measure off the November ballot. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol argued that the effort is more about politics and ideology than ensuring state law is followed. Foes argued that the ballot measure's summary language does not describe everything the initiative would do. Both sides will be in court a week from today.

In Face of Uproar, Oregon US Attorney Drops Federal Marijuana Charge Against Teen for One Gram of Weed. Rather than prosecute Devontre Thomas, 19, for possession of a gram of marijuana, federal prosecutors have agreed to enter him into a pretrial diversion program. The move comes after Oregon elected officials said the prosecution was overkill.

Washington State Sees Legal Marijuana Sales Push Past Billion Dollar Mark. After a sharp jump in adult sales last month as medical dispensaries were shut down, the state has now seen pot sales edge past a billion dollars, if revenue from processors and producers is included. The state has collected $273 million in excise taxes on the sales since they began two years ago.

Asset Forfeiture

California Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Set to Move After Compromise. After discussions with law enforcement groups, state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) has amended her asset forfeiture reform bill, Senate Bill 443, so that only property seizures worth less than $40,000 would require a criminal conviction before permanent seizure. Seizures higher than that amount would not require that standard of proof. Mitchell said the compromise would allow police to preserve their ability to go after large criminal enterprises. The police groups have now dropped their opposition to the bill.

NYPD Sued for Failure to Release Asset Forfeiture Data. NYPD collected more than $6 million in asset forfeiture revenues in 2013, but is ignoring records requests for information on how it collects and distributes the cash it seizes, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by a legal aid group representing low-income people. The group, Bronx Defenders, had submitted a public records request nearly two years, but NYPD has been unresponsive, the lawsuit alleges.

Drug Testing

Arkansas Welfare Drug Test Program Finds Hardly Any Drug Users. According to data released this week by the Department of Workforce Services, exactly one welfare applicant out of 800 has failed a drug test. Another four refused to take it, rendering them temporarily ineligible for benefits. All five taken together constitute 0.63% of welfare applicants. The one failed drug test means 0.125% of all applicants tested positive. Arkansas and other states that have enacted such laws have done so on the unspoken assumption that welfare applicants are using drugs at the taxpayers' expense, but, once again, that has proven not to be the case.

Chronicle AM: Filipino Drug War Killings Raise Global Alarm, Legal Pot for Deficit, More... (8/2/16)

Civil society responds as the death toll mounts in the Philippines, Massachusetts politicians endorse pot legalization, a new study finds national legalization could bring in $12 billion a year for the feds, and more.

Filipino President Rodrigo "The Punisher" Duterte (theinfluence.org)
Marijuana Policy

Study: Legal Marijuana Could Bring $12 Billion a Year to Federal Tax Coffers. A new study from the American Economic Association says the federal government could harvest up to $12 billion annually in tax revenues if marijuana were legalized nationwide. The revenue estimate is based on a 25% federal tax on retail pot sales.

Alaska Pot Board Member Fired, Alleges Governor Trying to "Subvert" Legalization. Gov. Bill Walker (R) has fired Marijuana Control Board member Bruce Schulte, and Schulte says it's because Walker and allies are trying to delay implementation of a voter-approved marijuana industry. "There's an underlying agenda to subvert the process, to delay the implementation of a legalized marijuana industry," Schulte said. "It doesn't look like the State of Alaska is really serious about making this happen." A replacement for Schulte has not been announced. Alaska approved marijuana legalization in November 2014.

Arkansas Attorney General Rejects 2018 Legalization Initiative. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has rejected an initiative proposed by Mary Berry of Summit to legalize marijuana in the state. Rutledge said there were ambiguities in the text that need to be addressed. That initiative was aimed at 2018. A 2016 initiative from Berry, the Arkansas Cannabis Amendment, was approved for signature gathering, but failed to make the ballot.

Boston City Council President to Endorse Massachusetts Legalization Initiative. City Council President Michelle Wu and Councilor Tito Jackson will formally endorse the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol's legalization initiative at a press event at the state capitol tomorrow. Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse endorsed the initiative Monday, becoming the first mayor in the state to do so. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, Governor Charlie Baker (R), and other high state officials oppose the initiative.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Medical Marijuana Foes Get Big Bucks Donation from Publix Heiress. Carol Jenkins Barnett, heir to the Publix supermarket fortune, has donated $800,000 to Drug Free Florida to fight the Amendment 2 medical marijuana initiative. Jenkins Barnett also donated big time to defeating the medical marijuana initiative in 2014, handing out $500,000 to Drug Free Florida that year.

International

As Philippines Drug War Death Toll Mounts, Rights Groups Demand UN Denounce Killings. More than 700 suspected drug users or dealers have been killed by police or vigilantes since Rodrigo Duterte took office as president less than three months ago, and now civil society is responding. More than 300 human rights and other organizations have signed letters to the International Narcotics Control Board and UN Office on Drugs and Crime urging them to speak out against the extra-judicial violence. "We are calling on the UN drug control bodies to publicly condemn these atrocities in the Philippines. This senseless killing cannot be justified as a drug control measure," said Ann Fordham, executive director of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), which coordinated the letter. "Their silence is unacceptable, while people are being killed on the streets day after day."

Australia's New South Wales Now Allows Doctors to Prescribe Medical Marijuana. As of Monday, New South Wales doctors can write prescriptions for medical marijuana. "People who are seriously ill should be able to access these medicines if they are the most appropriate next step in their treatment," NSW Premier Mike Baird said yesterday.

Chronicle AM: IL Gov Signs "Bath Salts" Ban, AZ Legalization Battle Heats Up, More... (7/20/16)

Voters in Arizona can now read arguments for and against the marijuana legalization initiative, legalization opponents don't want to let them have a chance to vote on it, "bath salts" will be banned in Illinois, and more.

"Bath salts" (synthetic cathinones) will be banned in Illinois. (MN Dept of Health)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Legalization Initiative Pro-Con Arguments Pamphlet is Available. The secretary of state's office has made available online the arguments for and against the legalization initiative sponsored by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. Anyone willing to cough up the $75 fee to comment could do so. Eight people turned in arguments on the "pro" side, while 40 turned in "con" arguments. Registered voters will also receive a paper copy of the arguments in the mail before election day.

Arizona Chamber of Commerce Joins Lawsuit Against Legalization Initiative. The state Chamber of Commerce and Industry has joined with the anti-legalization group Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy in attempting to block the legalization initiative via a lawsuit. The lawsuit claims the materials used to get voters to sign petitions were fraudulent and misleading. In a hearing today, a judge gave the initiative campaign several weeks to respond.

New Psychoactive Substances

Illinois Governor Signs "Bath Salts" Ban Bill. Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) Monday signed into law Senate Bill 210, the Bath Salts Prohibition Act, to go into effect January 1. The new law makes it a class 3 felony to sell or offer for sale "any synthetic or natural material containing any quantity of a cathinone chemical structure." The law also will allow local governments to revoke the licenses of retailers who are convicted of a violation.

International

New Zealand Treasury Documents Suggest Annual Pot Tax Revenues of $150 Million. The documents from an informal Treasury report obtained under the Official Information Act reveal that the government spends about $400 million annually enforcing prohibition and that reforming drug policies would "ease pressure on the justice sector, and lead to fewer criminal convictions for youth and Maori." Treasury estimated legalizing marijuana alone could generate annual tax revenues of $150 million.

California: What Will Marijuana Legalization Look Like? [FEATURE]

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

Twenty years ago, California led the way on weed, becoming the first state in the nation to approve medical marijuana. Now, while it's already lost the chance to be the first to legalize recreational use, the Golden State is poised to push legal pot past the tipping point.

Although voters in Colorado and Washington first broke through the grass ceiling in 2012, with Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, following suit in 2014, if and when Californians vote to legalize it this coming November, they will more than triple the size of the country's legal marijuana market in one fell swoop.

It's not a done deal until election day, of course, but the prospects are very good. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) legalization initiative is officially on the ballot as Proposition 64, it has cash in the bank for the campaign (more than $8 million collected so far), it has broad political support, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and at least four California US representatives, and it has popular support, with the latest poll showing a healthy 60% of likely voters favor freeing the weed.

It's also that the surfer's paradise is riding a weed wave of its own creation. Thanks in large part to the "normalization" of the pot business that emerged out of California's wild and wooly medical marijuana scene, the national mood about marijuana has shifted in recent years. Because of California, people could actually see marijuana come out of the shadows, with pot shops (dispensaries) selling it openly to anyone with an easily obtained doctor's recommendation and growers turning parts of the state in pot cultivation hotbeds. And the sky didn't fall.

At the same time, the shift in public opinion has been dramatic. According to annual Gallup polls, only a quarter of Americans supported marijuana legalization when California voted for medical marijuana in 1996, with that number gradually, but steadily, increasing to 44% in 2009, before spiking upward ever since then to sit at 58% now.

California isn't the only state riding the wave this year -- legalization will also be on the ballot in Maine and Nevada and almost certainly in Arizona and Massachusetts -- but it is by far the biggest and it will help the state regain its reputation as cutting edge on social trends, while also sending a strong signal to the rest of the country, including the federal government in Washington.

But what kind of signal will it send? What will legalization look like in the Golden State? To begin, let's look at what Prop 64 does:

  • Legalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and the cultivation of up to six plants (per household) by adults 21 and over.
  • Reduces most criminal penalties for remaining marijuana offenses, such as possession or cultivation over legal limits or unlicensed distribution, from felonies to misdemeanors.
  • Regulates the commercial cultivation, processing, distribution, and sale of marijuana through a state-regulated licensing system.
  • Bars commercial "mega-grows" (more than ½ acre indoors or 1 acre outdoors) until at least 2023, but makes provisions for licensed "microbusinesses" (grows smaller than 10,000 square feet).
  • Allows for the licensing of on-site consumption premises, or "cannabis cafes."
  • Allows cities and counties to regulate or even prohibit commercial marijuana activities, but not prohibit personal possession and cultivation.
  • Taxes marijuana at 15% at the retail level, with an additional $9.25 per ounce cultivation tax imposed at the wholesale level.

In other words, pot is largely legalized and a taxed and regulated market is established.

Some changes would occur right away, advocates said.

"The criminal justice impact will be huge and immediate, and it will start on November 9," said Lynne Lyman, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), which is backing Prop 64 not only rhetorically, but also with its checkbook through its lobbying and campaign arm, Drug Policy Action.

California arrests about 20,000 people a year for marijuana felonies and misdemeanors, currently has about 10,000 people incarcerated for pot offenses, and has as many as half a million people with pot convictions on their records. Things are going to change in a big way for all these people.

"Those marijuana arrests will stop," said Lyman. "And everyone currently sitting in jail or prison will be eligible to apply for release. They will have to file a petition, but like Prop 47 [the sentencing reform initiative passed in 2014], unless there is a compelling reason to deny it, the court must grant it. Similarly, all those people who have had marijuana offenses will be eligible to have their record reclassified."

To be clear, it will still be possible to be arrested for a marijuana offense in California after Prop 64. Possession of more than an ounce (or more than four grams of concentrate) will be a crime punishable by up to six months in jail and possession of less than an ounce can be a misdemeanor offense if it is on school grounds during school hours.

Similarly, cultivation of more than six plants without being a permitted medical marijuana patient or without a license is still a crime, but typically only a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of six months in jail. There are some exceptions: Illegal growers could be charged with a felony if the person has prior violent offenses or violates state water or environmental laws.

Minors get special treatment. Kids under 18 who get caught with pot are hit with an infraction punishable by drug education, counseling, or community service, but no fines. People between 18 and 21 get an infraction with a maximum $100 fine. And while adults who possess pot on a school grounds during school hours get a misdemeanor, kids under 18 will only be hit with an infraction.

"We want to reduce the number of young people getting into the system, and this will really dial down the firehose into mass incarceration," said Lyman.

The state's largest marijuana consumer group, California NORML, certainly likes those provisions, but it only gives Prop 64 one thumb up and foresees some issues down the road.

"We're supporting the AUMA with reservations," said the group's long-time head Dale Gieringer. "It's not the best initiative ever written -- it has some problems that will have to be addressed -- but it is an important step. The huge thing it does is legalize adult possession of an ounce and adult cultivation of up to six plants. That's big. And it turns cultivation and possession with intent felonies into misdemeanors, or at worst, wobblers," meaning prosecutors could only in limited cases charge them as felonies.

"The AUMA is very long and complicated, with unnecessary hang-ups and restrictions," Gieringer complained, citing bans on public smoking and vaping as examples.

"In places where there are bans on smoking in apartments or residences, in public is about the only place you can smoke. If it's illegal to smoke pot in a public place, people will be hard-pressed to find any place," he said. "You can't even vaporize in a public place, and that's totally out of line with the existing science. They just caved in to the powerful anti-smoking lobby on that, and we can't endorse that."

The CaNORML membership also includes pot farmers, of which the group estimates there are some 30,000 in the state. They are nervous, Gieringer said.

"We have a lot of small growers and they have a lot of issues," he explained. "They are concerned about regulatory provisions they fear could quickly push small growers out of the business. AUMA requires you to be an in-state resident, and we're already growing more than we need, yet we have out-of-state sponsors lining up behind in-state sponsors."

Indeed, earlier this month, the state industry's largest membership group, the California Growers Association, voted to remain neutral on Prop 64 -- or least for now -- after its membership split almost down the middle on whether to support it. Growers, including association head Hezekiah Allen, worried that big-money investment and consolidation of the industry impelled by huge "mega-grows" could wipe out the now generations-old traditional pot farming scene in the stat's North Coast.

Allen warned in a report to the group's board that such consolidation could "result in a catastrophic economic collapse for huge swathes of California," including the North Coast's Emerald Triangle.

Stoners may have to fight for the right to toke and pot farmers for their place in the market, but some of the communities most buffeted by drug prohibition should see benefits. Prop 64 contains language that will direct revenues to minority communities, and also opens the door for localities themselves to take proactive steps toward racial justice.

"The AUMA has a community reinvestment fund with the first revenues available in 2019," said DPA's Lyman, adding that it will be $10 million the first year and up to $50 million a year in the futre. "This is going to communities most impacted by the drug war, black and brown communities, and will include everything from legal services, to public health and economic development. The communities will be able to decide."

Localities will also be deciding on how to implement regulation of the legal market, and that is another opportunity, Lyman said.

"Hopefully, we will see things like what happened in Oakland, where under the new regulations, 50% of the new licenses have to be from the community," she said. "We hope other cities will do that to mitigate racial discrimination and the injustice of the past by prioritizing people of color and women, so we don't end up white a bunch of white men getting rich off what black and brown people have endured. DPA will be very involved in this."

Somebody is going to be making money, though. The state's marijuana market, estimated at $2.7 billion for medical last year, could quickly hit $7 billion under legalization.

"I see tremendous potential for a blossoming of cannabis opportunities," said veteran California marijuana activist, author, and historian Chris Conrad, who has become a pro-Prop 64 spokesman under the rubric of Friends of Prop 64. "Of course, the size of the industry will be impacted by the need to limit the market to intra-state rather than national or international. Given that California is the world's sixth largest economy and has the largest appetite for cannabis in the world, the state's nonmedical market is going to be sizeable."

Legalization will bring changes from price reductions to changing product lines, he said.

"Overall marijuana production is expected to soar, prices to come down and probably a lot more cannabis will be converted into extracts and expand or open new markets for personal hygiene products, topical remedies and essential oils," Conrad predicted. "There will be large-scale cannabis production that is homogenized with relatively low to medium potency, but still of better quality than Mexican brick weed. But we will never replace the boutique markets any more than Budweiser has eliminated microbreweries or 'Big Wine' has wiped out California's family vintners."

And it's not just marijuana, but pot-related businesses that will boom, said DPA's Lyman.

"Formalizing regulations for the first time will expand the industry, and there will be lots of ancillary industries, such as marketing, packaging, and tracking, that should all thrive in post-legalization California," she said.

"There will be new ancillary markets for products such as locking stash boxes for people to carry their cannabis while driving, toking stations near entertainment venues and discrete, low-wattage, six-plant cultivation tents specialized for use in condos and apartments," added Conrad.

Conrad said he expected counties and cities will opt in to the revenues from allowing pot commerce instead of locking themselves out with bans.

"The distribution around the state will likely be porous, some areas more saturated and others with less access," he said. "Since towns will be licensing lawful businesses and no longer will be at the mercy of the county prosecutors' discretion, I expect to see a general spread of retail sites and onsite consumption shops around the state. Not in every town, not as obnoxious and omnipresent as liquor stores, but not too far away, either."

We shall see.

"You can't predict the future," said Gieringer. "It will be a new situation. Medical marijuana here evolved through several different stages, and I expect the same process to unfold here with the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. On balance, the AUMA is an important step, but it's not the end game, and it leaves us with unresolved problems."

You may not be able to predict the future, said Lyman, but you can influence it.

"This will be a work in progress," she said. "The long-term work of implementation starts on November 8. We have to be there. To continue to be engaged will be critical."

But even under state level legalization in California, as long as there is pot prohibition somewhere in America, there will be Golden State growers ready to supply the market.

"The one thing everyone needs to recognize is that this does not end the problem of illegal marijuana growing in California," said Gieringer. "The industry has been well-entrenched for generations and is currently supplying the rest of the country, too. That market isn't going to disappear. The more expensive and difficult it is to become legal, the more people will likely participate in that black market."

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