The push to legalize marijuana in California gained an important ally in June, as a Marin County congressman endorsed a public initiative that will likely appear on the ballot in November.
U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, a San Rafael Democrat, announced June 9 that he would back the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, a proposed law that would allow cannabis for recreational use. Huffman, a longtime supporter of environmental causes, represents a district that includes the North Coast from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon state line.
Huffman first won election to Congress in 2012, after serving six years in the California State Assembly, where he co-chaired the Legislative Environmental Caucus. He now sits on the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Huffman’s endorsement is important for reform
He isn’t well-known as federal lawmakers go, but his endorsement is important to cannabis proponents. His district includes the famed Emerald Triangle, which produces the bulk of California’s pot supply – as well as a large portion of black market marijuana sold elsewhere in the United States.
Legalization advocates already have the backing of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California NAACP, and the California Medical Association, along with many other supporters. The list of endorsements is growing, though some insiders caution victory isn’t yet assured.
“The Adult Use of Marijuana Act is a necessary statewide reform that brings a billion-dollar industry out of the shadows and into a regulated market,” Huffman said in a statement. “The measure takes historic, first-of-[their]-kind steps to reverse the devastating environmental and water damage that has been done by illegal marijuana grows in our state. AUMA is not just good social justice and public health policy. It’s forward-thinking environmental reform as well.”
Illicit marijuana farmers have been blamed for diverting huge amounts of water during California’s epic drought. The state has been also cracking down on growers for polluting the environment.
Huffman isn’t the only California congressman who supports the AUMA. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, an Orange County Republican, is a longtime medical marijuana advocate who recently acknowledged he uses the drug to treat his arthritis.
Tech billionaire Sean Parker is leading the AUMA campaign, which recently submitted enough voter signatures to put legalization on the ballot Nov. 8. A poll this spring found roughly 60 percent of Californians want to legalize cannabis, meaning the initiative will probably pass.
The initiative would create, regulate, and tax a legal marijuana industry and allow adults over 21 to buy, possess, and use up to an ounce for recreation. They could also grow up to four plants at home. The AUMA was drafted with input from a wide array of reformers, politicians, community leaders, and law enforcement groups, and it includes provisions to prevent monopolies, protect children, and promote small business.
Tell us: Does it matter when California lawmakers announce their support for legalization? Does it make a difference which party they belong to?