If You’re Going To Hate on Legalization, Do Your Research

We’re 11 months away from the 2016 election and I’ve already got activists in my Facebook feed criticizing the so-called Sean Parker Initiative in California, the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” (AUMA).

That’s fine; I appreciate serious debate and dialogue about the options for legalization of marijuana. California’s got a few of them and it’s worth digging deep into each initiative’s language, polling, and funding. California’s too important in the fight against national prohibition. We can’t afford to mess it up.

But the debate about California legalization needs to remain in the realm of reality. Nothing makes me angrier than opponents of legalization that mischaracterize, misinterpret, or flat-out lie about what a particular initiative will do. These faux complaints usually fall into three categories: it doesn’t legalize enough, it creates new crimes, and life will be worse after legalization for the average toker.

(Note – this is all about personal use, not medical. Obviously, someone with a California medical marijuana recommendation has it pretty good already.)

We heard “it doesn’t legalize enough” all the way back in 2010 with California Prop 19’s original 25 square foot personal gardens – “nobody could grow in a 5’ x 5’ garden,” opponents said. With the Sean Parker Initiative, it’s that six plants aren’t enough for a home grow. We here in Oregon get just four plants and Washington gets none, so California would have the best home grow on the West Coast.

The same goes for concentrates. The Sean Parker Initiative legalizes possession of four grams of concentrate, less than Washington’s seven grams and Oregon’s full ounce. But currently under California law, possession of any concentrates is punishable by a year in prison and/or a $500 fine.

Then there is the compliant that “it creates new crimes”. Throughout the Sean Parker Initiative, there are punishments that are listed for acts like public toking ($100 fine), possession for sale ($500 fine), or manufacturing volatile solvent concentrates without a license (3, 5, or 7 years and a $50,000 fine).

The problem is that in most cases, what is listed in the initiative as a “new crime” is just a re-iteration of what the current crime is or, in some cases, a reduction in the penalty for a the “new crime.” Public toking is already illegal under the code that prevents loitering for the purposes of drug transactions. Possession for sale is already a felony crime with 16 months to 3 years in prison – a $500 fine is a reduction in penalty. Manufacturing concentrates is already a felony with the same punishment the Sean Parker Initiative proposes.

I do find one new crime in the AUMA and that’s driving with an open container of marijuana, which is a $250 fine. Currently, the penalty would be the $100 marijuana possession infraction. Would an extra potential $150 fine for not doing the smart thing and storing your weed in the trunk be reason enough to reject legalization?

Then there are the complaints that it will make life worse for the average toker. We heard these with Washington’s I-502 – that ounces would cost $600, that cops would replace all possession arrests with green DUIDs, that there’d be rampant inspection of homes to ensure no home growing. None of those things transpired.

In California, the complaints include that cops will be able to inspect your home grow at any time, even if you’re not present. Not true in the slightest; the AUMA does allow for inspection of commercially licensed grows and manufacturers and retail stores, but not your home grow. Cops still need a warrant for that.

Or that the open container law means nobody will ever be able to transport marijuana in a container other than the sealed bag you get at the marijuana store. That defies logic, since adults are legally allowed to home grow and legally allowed to share with other adults. Is the expectation that we would only share with each other at our homes and not give our friends some home grown to take back with them to their homes?

Maybe the future holds scores of eagle-eyed California Highway Patrol cops looking for baggies and jars and boxes of personal use amounts of home-grown weed so they can reap $250 fines. But even if that nightmare scenario comes true, it’s not as if California laws can’t be amended. The AUMA allows the legislature to amend the law for fewer restrictions with just a simple majority, while it requires a 2/3rds majority to make it any stricter.

So if the ability to share home grow doesn’t exist, the legislature can change that, the citizens can put forth another initiative, or regulatory bodies can designate by rule the types of packages that would qualify as a closed container under the law.

There are many initiatives out there in California to legalize marijuana. While the AUMA is the best funded, it may not be the best-drafted. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be evaluating all the legalization initiatives for 2016 in America so you can better decide where to put your support. But unless a legalization plan contains some extreme deal-breaker, no legalization plan deserves your opposition. Sign all the petitions and vote for them all if they should make the ballot.

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