A Big LEAP In Support For California’s Recreational Pot Legalization Initiative

On July 1, the California Secretary of State’s office formally announced that California’s first recreational marijuana legalization initiative, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, or AUMA, will appear on this November’s ballot as Proposition 64. Now, one of California’s most prominent drug reform organizations has thrown its support behind AUMA.  In a press release issued today, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or LEAP, stated that it has joined other “criminal justice experts” across California and the U.S. to endorse AUMA as a way to “promote public safety.”

“This initiative is the best chance California has to end a failed war on marijuana,” argues Diane Goldstein, a former Redondo Beach Lieutenant Commander whose career as a law enforcement officer and drug reform activist was profiled in the 2014 Weekly People Issue. “It’s the best hope to reduce the power of cartels in our state, to generate much-needed resources for law enforcement, and create a new system of regulation and control that will greatly improve public health and safety for all Californians.”

Proposition 64, as AUMA will now be known, allows for Californians age 21 and older to possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana, 8 grams of “concentrated cannabis” or edibles, and up to six living cannabis plants. It also provides for a 15 percent tax on the sale of marijuana products. “Tax revenue from marijuana sales would be allocated for bolstering communities that have been disparately impacted by the War on Drugs, most notably communities of color,” LEAP’s press release states. “Tax revenues would be allocated to youth drug treatment and prevention programs and to law enforcement agencies for improving detection of impaired drivers.”

Many critics of Proposition 64, however, see it as a defeat for California’s medical marijuana movement, which began 20 years ago with the passage of the Compassionate Use Act, or Proposition 215. Despite the fact that marijuana dispensaries remain illegal in many cities across the state (Santa Ana is the only OC city that has allowed licensed dispensaries to operate), the courts have increasingly upheld the right of medical cannabis patients to possess marijuana in cases where the police have confiscated far more than the 28.5 gram limit set by Prop. 64. 

Critics also point to the fact that Prop. 64’s deep-pocketed supporters include marijuana monolith Weedmaps (see Mary Carreon’s recent feature story about the company’s involvement with AUMA) as well as Sean Parker of Facebook fame, who has donated more than $2 million to the initiative.

Among others, Marvin Chavez, the Weekly‘s 1998 Man of the Year, who spent six years in state prison for his role in organizing OC’s first medical marijuana collective, opposes Prop. 64. In a July 11 email to the Weekly, Chavez argued that Prop. 64 would destroy patients rights under Prop. 215. “I urge everybody to start working on their protest sign message,” Chavez wrote, “and VOTE NO on Prop. 64 this November 8.”

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