California's Golden Opportunity to Finally Legalize Marijuana Is Coming in November

If you care about protecting the environment, if you care about raising revenue for the state, if you care about protecting young people, if you care about communities harmed by our past drug policies, if you care about racial justice, then you should care about the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). This was the theme repeated again and again at the kick-off event for the campaign to legalize marijuana in California yesterday as they celebrated the submission of over 600,000 signatures to county officials around California, more than enough to ensure that AUMA will be on the ballot this November.

Speakers and supporters at the event demonstrated the broad-based coalition who support the smart and responsible regulation of marijuana put forth by AUMA. They included people who influenced and participated in drafting of AUMA to ensure that it encompasses and reflects the best, most responsible policy, including members of the state’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, and leading experts in environmental protection, public health, racial justice, and drug policy.

Supporters of AUMA who spoke at the press conference included a motley crew of respected Californians—Lieutenant Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa); Dr. Donald I. Abrams, Chief, Hematology-Oncology Division at San Francisco General Hospital and Professor of Clinical Medicine, UCSF; Stephen Downing, former Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Deputy Chief, 21-year law enforcement veteran; Michael Sutton, former President of the California Fish and Game Commission, former Vice President of National Audubon Society and measure co-proponent; Alice Huffman, President, California NAACP; Marsha Rosenbaum, Director Emerita, Drug Policy Alliance & Co-Chair, Youth Education and Prevention Working Group, Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy; and representatives of social-justice advocacy organizations including the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project and the national office of NORML.

Following in the footsteps of Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, the California initiative is designed to allow the responsible use of marijuana by adults. It establishes a strict regulatory system that will allow for taxed and regulated businesses to be licensed to produce and distribute marijuana in a legal market.

But these speakers did not show up and stand on the stage simply because AUMA legalizes marijuana. Instead, these speakers came from throughout the state, and even from Congress in D.C., to throw their support behind AUMA because of how AUMA legalizes marijuana. Learning from states that have already legalized marijuana, this ballot measure focuses on undoing the most egregious harms of marijuana prohibition—including reducing the criminalization of people, the costs of which have been largely borne by some individuals and communities of color; restoring and protecting public lands and waterway that have been damaged and destroyed though the lack of regulation and control of marijuana that exists under current law; and protecting youth to ensure that they no longer have easy access to marijuana as they do under an unregulated uncontrolled system.

Many of the speakers stepped outside of their respective fields of expertise and spoke simply as parents and grandparents. They all felt AUMA improved upon the status quo for protecting the state’s youth. Because under AUMA, youth are denied access to marijuana and protected from advertising and marketing and that if they do get in trouble with marijuana it does not become a gateway for their entry into the criminal justice system and leave with lifelong collateral consequences.

The AUMA will make the Golden state the gold standard for marijuana policy and ending prohibition.

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog

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