As we continue to legalize marijuana across the United States, numerous models for legalization have been proposed. Colorado chose full commercial marijuana legalization with personal possession and home growing. Washington chose legalization with no home grow. Washington, D.C. rejected full legalization in favor of personal possession and home grow only.
Indeed, it seems that now the question isn’t whether or not a state is going to legalize marijuana, but rather how they are going to legalize marijuana.
That brings us to one of the newest and most controversial plans for legalizing marijuana—personal partial legalization licensing, or PPLL.
Under PPLL, marijuana isn’t legalized per se. If you’re caught with less than an ounce of marijuana, you’ll have it and your paraphernalia confiscated by police. They’ll also write you a ticket with a $100 fine.
But if you possess marijuana on school grounds or you possess more than an ounce under PPLL, you’ll be subject to misdemeanor prosecution that leaves you with a criminal record and possibly a $500 fine and 10 days in jail.
If PPLL passes, possession of any concentrates is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine. If you possess enough marijuana that authorities believe you’re intending to sell it, you will receive a felony charge with a possible 16 months to three years in prison.
And forget about marijuana cultivation at home under PPLL. That will be a felony as well, with 16 months to three years in prison, plus the authorities can seized your property if you’re convicted.
That sure doesn’t sound like marijuana legalization, does it? But that’s where the licensing comes in.
Under PPLL, adults who want to smoke and grow cannabis have to purchase an annual “marijuana users license” (or MUL) from the government. The cost is minimal, just $50, and the requirements are easy enough for just about everyone to meet. The only real requirement is that you tell the government why you choose to use marijuana.
Once an adult has acquired their MUL, they may possess up to an ounce of marijuana. They may also shop in PPLL marijuana stores, which will be sporadically available in some areas of the state, since PPLL provides for local control over commercial marijuana licensing and many areas will ban those licensees.
The MUL, however, does not protect the holder of the license from arrest and harassment by police. It merely provides an affirmative defense in court. If you’re busted for possession or growing, you still have to go to the expense of hiring a lawyer to present your MUL defense in court.
Speaking of growing, that is not always allowed for MUL holders. That same local control over marijuana businesses also grants localities the authority to ban personal home grows, both indoors and outdoors. In large areas of the state, MUL holders won’t be able to cultivate their own cannabis or purchase any at a store.
Does this sound like legalization to you? Would you support a legalization law like PPLL that required you to buy a license for possession that only allowed home grow in certain cities and still maintained arrests and criminal penalties for non-license-holders? Would you support a legalization law that guaranteed a licensing monopoly for the state by fleecing adults for permission to smoke weed, $50 at a time?
Apparently some stoners do. Because replace PPLL with “Prop 215,” government with “doctor,” and MUL with “recommendation,” and that’s the personal partial legalization license some tokers would prefer to keep by voting against the Adult Use of Marijuana Act that truly legalizes marijuana with no annual fees, no tickets, no fines, no arrests, no court and no local home grow bans.