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California Pot Activists Sue Legalization Opponents

The group behind a proposal to legalize marijuana for recreation in California sued opponents of the measure in July, saying they were trying to put misleading scare language on the ballot to discourage “yes” votes.

California Marijuana RegulationsBackers of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), a ballot initiative that would make it legal for adults 21 and older to buy, possess, and use small amounts of marijuana for recreation, filed the suit in Sacramento Superior Court. The suit asks the court to block several proposed ballot statements that contain false claims.

California voters will decide the AUMA on Election Day, Nov. 8, and the initiative is widely expected to pass. If it does, the state will become the largest jurisdiction in the word where cannabis is legal for any use.

Reform opposition’s false claims

The ballot will include language from both sides in the debate. Proponents, led by tech billionaire Sean Parker, have already cleared their language, while opponents are still seeking final approval. Ballot text frequently leads to political disputes, but it’s rare for one side to sue the other over language.

Parker’s group has until Aug. 15 to effectively challenge opponents’ proposed text, according to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Reformers asked the court to block the proposed language or order changes to it that remove factually incorrect claims.

Legalization opponents, for example, want to warn voters that the AUMA would expose more children to pro-marijuana advertising on TV and the Internet, especially ads promoting THC gummies and other cannabis-infused candies that children might mistake for non-psychoactive sweets.

AUMA spokesman Jason Kinney said the law would make it illegal to sell marijuana products that could be easily mistaken for normal candy and would prohibit sales of products designed to appeal to minors.

The ballot language proposed by legalization opponents also claims the AUMA would repeal statewide regulations that protect medical marijuana consumers, regulations that were signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October. The new rules were designed both to bring order to a chaotic MMJ system and to prepare for the coming of legal recreational pot.

AUMA structured to work with new industry standards

In fact, the AUMA was designed explicitly to incorporate the industry regulations signed by Brown. Those restrictions were adopted by Brown and the state Legislature specifically to address legal concerns about the inevitable legalization of marijuana for any adult use.

What’s more, reformers refute their opponents’ claim that the AUMA would override laws that bar ads for tobacco and other smokeable products. Kinney noted that ads promoting either tobacco or marijuana remain entirely illegal under federal law.

“More so than any I’ve seen in recent memory, the opponents fundamentally and factually misrepresent this ballot measure and are riddled with obvious falsehoods,” Kinney said. “These aren’t evidence-based arguments – they are scare tactics – and they’re sadly reminiscent of the Reefer Madness-style disinformation campaigns that subverted honest dialogue around this issue for decades.”

A spokesman for the opposition, meanwhile, called the lawsuit a collection of “silly-season political stunts born of desperation” and accused cannabis policy reformers of providing misinformation of their own.

Leave a comment and let us know: What difference would misleading ballot information make when it comes to the legalization vote in November? Would the ballot initiative pass anyway?

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on and

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