California Democrats threw their support behind a public referendum that would legalize marijuana for recreational use.
The state’s Democratic Party voted in June to endorse the ballot initiative, which would make it legal for adults over 21 to buy, possess, and use up to an ounce of marijuana per person. They could also grow up to four plants at home, and the proposed law would create regulations and taxes for a legal cannabis industry.
The announcement adds a big name, possibly the biggest, to the list of groups that have endorsed the initiative. The others include the California NAACP and the state Medical Association, along with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and a multitude of local and state lawmakers.
AUMA increasingly likely to pass
Jay Hubbell, a longtime party insider, predicted that with official Democratic support, the initiative would pass in November.
“I think it’ll pretty much be a slam dunk at the ballot box in the fall,” Hubbell said.
Titled the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), the proposal is spearheaded by tech billionaire Sean Parker, who has donated at least $1 million to the cause – and plans to give much more. The law would make California the most populous state in the country where cannabis is legal for any adult use. Medical marijuana has been allowed in the Golden State since 1996.
“The downsides, whatever they’ve been in Colorado, aren’t significant, so I think the plusses outweigh the minuses on this,” Hubbell said. “I think people will be for it.”
Voter support is strong
Polls agree: A recent survey found 60 percent of voters want to legalize pot on Election Day. Pollsters didn’t ask whether voters favor the AUMA specifically, but the measure enjoys widespread support and is widely expected to pass.
Not every marijuana advocate, in or out of the Democratic Party, is happy with the initiative. Brenda Linder, a Fresno lawyer who defends cannabis growers, said the law would still give local governments wide discretion to shutter pot shops, ban cultivation, and arrest growers for ordinance violations.
“We have a no-tolerance law here in Fresno County and the City of Fresno,” Linder said. “You can lawfully possess an ounce, but where are you getting it from? Where are you getting it from? It’s not legal to buy it or grow it here.”
But Hubbell and like-minded Democrats, of whom there are many in California, hope their endorsement and the inevitability of legalization will change the mindset in the San Joaquin Valley and other conservative parts of the state.
“Even if our local environment here, our local political leaders, won’t allow it to happen here, I think once they see it is workable everywhere else in the state, I think eventually they will go along,” Hubbell said.
Democrats control California State Legislature
Democrats enjoy a huge advantage over Republicans in California, controlling a super-majority of the state Legislature that allows them to pass almost any legislation they wish with little opposition, including the bills that would be needed to enforce legalization.
The AUMA still has plenty of opposition, including most major law enforcement groups in the state. Many Republicans and conservative politicians oppose it too, as do national anti-marijuana organizations. But these opponents have raised far less money than Parker, and their odds don’t look good.
What do you think? How big a difference will the Democratic endorsement make for the AUMA? Leave a comment below.