Radical Rant: Much Name-Calling, Little Debate Over California Marijuana Legalization

In my last Radical Rant, The Dumbest Reason to Oppose California Marijuana Legalization, I recounted how I’ve been interviewing opponents of the now $2.25 million-funded Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) in California.

In response, I’ve been called a “boot-licking moderate,” a “sell-out,” a “shill,” a “brown-noser,” and other names unfit for public display. But I haven’t yet seen anybody attack the actual substance of my arguments.

Generally, their opposition to AUMA is that it is not True Legalization™, in that it doesn’t legalize enough. There will still remain laws and regulations, and the penalties for noncompliance will include possible jail. Therefore, they argue, it’s not True Legalization™ and should be rejected in favor of the status quo.

Oh, sure, some will posit that it should be rejected in favor of the Marijuana Control, Legalization, & Revenue Act (MCLR) or the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative (CCHI). I’m all for that, actually. MCLR is clearly better than AUMA, and CCHI is clearly better than MCLR.

If I had my preference, we’d reject them all in favor of The Russ Belville True Legalization™ Act (RBTLA). I just wrote it up, actually. It legalizes marijuana for all adults 18 and older, has no possession or cultivation limits, requires all weed to be sold tax-free with a price cap of $20 an ounce, forces every county to plant a 100-acre weed garden for free weed for patients, prohibits any and all bans and mandates a free quarter-pound for everyone on their birthday.

But I wonder what will actually make the ballot—the AUMA with its $2.25 million war chest, backing of the two leading national drug reform organizations, endorsements by major political players and conformance with the Cole Memo and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom's commission, or the MCLR, the CCHI or the RBTLA?

I’d tell you how much money each of those have raised so far, but the answers I've gotten are “we’re raising money” and “we’re taking donations” and other phrases suspiciously lacking in a dollar sign and a number.

The facts are that the AUMA initiative has the money to make the ballot and the language that’s moderate enough to make 50 percent +1 California voters approve it. Opposing this initiative puts one in the place of aiding and abetting the cops, rehabs, drug testers and prison guards who want to be sure legalization fails.

And why on earth would anybody oppose this AUMA, when the prohibition California has NOW is so much worse?

NOW: Getting caught with an ounce of weed gets you a ticket.

AUMA: An ounce of weed in your pocket is perfectly legal.

NOW: Getting caught growing even one cannabis plant at home gets you a felony.

AUMA: Up to six cannabis plants in your home are perfectly legal.

NOW: Getting caught with over an ounce of weed in your home gets you a misdemeanor.

AUMA: You can possess at home all of the results of the harvest from your six plants.

NOW: Getting caught with any amount of concentrate can get you a year in jail.

AUMA: Possessing up to eight grams of concentrate will be perfectly legal.

NOW: Giving someone even a joint gets you a misdemeanor.

AUMA: You can share up to an ounce with another adult.

NOW: You’ve got to buy your weed on the black market from a guy who can get a felony for selling it.

AUMA: You can go to a retail shop and buy marijuana.

This is the part of the discussion where the medical marijuana arguments come in, saying “Prop 215 is all we ever need!” (You know, the current law where wide swaths of California are no-grow areas and retail shops are banned.) “You can just get your medical card,” they explain.

Even if you accept the reasoning that healthy people who like to get high ought to go lie to a doctor to get their recreational weed, and even if you ignore the damaging political frame that creates for every other state that’s tried or is trying to legalize medical marijuana, voting for AUMA is still the smart thing to do.

NOW: Your city can ban you from cultivating medical marijuana, indoors or outdoors.

AUMA: Your city cannot ever ban your personal indoor six-plant garden.

NOW: If you live in public housing or have an anti-pot landlord, you can’t legally use your medicine anywhere, because public toking is illegal.

AUMA: You can toke with other adults in a licensed pot lounge.

NOW: Your parental rights can be infringed upon because of your medical marijuana use.

AUMA: Medical marijuana parental rights are specifically protected.

If there is any part of the AUMA that makes things worse for a marijuana consumer or a medical marijuana patient than they are now, I can’t find it. But it’s interesting to see the attempts my opponents try to use to scare people.

One tells me that the AUMA will cause the price of weed to rise to $500 per ounce, even though legalization with more restrictions in Colorado and no home grow in Washington, both with higher taxes than the AUMA proposes, has led to precipitous declines in the retail price of marijuana. (I can get a half-ounce in Vancouver, Washingto, for $45!)

Another complains that it creates an open container law and makes it illegal to smoke pot in a moving vehicle, even as a passenger with a medical marijuana recommendation. Wait, you thought hot-boxing the car was legal now? It’s not, folks, and this open container law merely requires you to do what is a smart move anyway by putting your stash in the trunk.

Some are bothered by penalties for passing weed to minors or growing and selling without a license. Not only are these things already illegal, how well do you think voters would take an argument that we ought to be allowed to pass the weed to schoolchildren? (Hint: about as well as they’d take an argument that we ought to be able to hot-box a vehicle.)

So here’s my challenge to my opponents: Take the time you’d spend thinking of a clever new insult or name for me and find me just one part of AUMA where my life as an adult cannabis consumer with no medical marijuana recommendation gets worse after it passes.

(Photo Courtesy of The Daily Chronic)

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