California has long set the stage when it comes to marijuana, so it came as a bit of a surprise when the first recreational cannabis pioneers emerged from Colorado and Washington rather than the Golden Coast. Not only that, but as the retail markets became firmly and articulately established through careful regulation and extensive planning, it’s clear now that California, for all of its marijuana history, has fallen behind the times.
That will no longer be the case come 2016, as California has been making big moves on both the medical and recreational front. Not only did Governor Jerry Brown sign a bill comprised of comprehensive statewide regulations for the state's already-booming medical marijuana market, but recreational legalization is on the docket for the 2016 election. Advocates have bonded together to support one legalization initiative in particular, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.
Earlier this year, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom took it upon himself to form the Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy. After considering public policy, and testimony from the public and industry experts, the panel of advisors banded together to release a report of recommendations entitled “Pathways Report: Policy Options for Regulating Marijuana in California.”
The Adult Use of Marijuana Act has now been endorsed by Gavin Newsom as well as former Facebook President Sean Parker, and with the additional support of groups such as the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, the California Cannabis Industry Association, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, this proposal is looking like the strongest bid for marijuana legalization. Support is growing, and engaged citizens and organizations have developed specific amendments in order to bring the initiative closer in line with the Blue Ribbon Commission’s recommendations.
- Mandating explicit warnings on cannabis products, including a recommended message from the American Medical Association that use during pregnant or breastfeeding may be harmful;
- Advertising restrictions on any marketing towards minors;
- Funding for a public information campaign;
- Funding for outcome research on the impact on minors and teen usage;
- Provides local control over non-medical marijuana businesses, including the authority to ban commercial cannabis activity within their jurisdiction;
- Ensure that local governments have control over time, manner, and location of businesses;
- Requires state licensing authorities to suspend or revoke a cannabis business license if the business is not in compliance;
- Safety standards for drivers and vehicles in legal commercial distribution of cannabis;
- Labor peace agreements must be included in new recreational law;
- Labor violations are grounds for disciplinary action against a licensee;
- Administrative costs for the new law must be fully funded, including funding for state agencies to oversee workplace safety costs;
- Large cultivation licenses will not be issued for the first five years the law is in effect, in order to encourage small business growth;
- After five years, large cultivation licenses will be issued but must include restrictions on vertical integration;
- Opportunities for minority-owned businesses to enter the market;
- Sets a deadline of September 1, 2016 for medical marijuana businesses to comply with the current laws and qualify under the AUMA;
- Public universities to conduct a study on whether additional protections are necessary to prevent monopolies.
With great gusto and exhaustive preparation, California refuses to be left behind in the country's ongoing journey towards legalization. Thanks to their renewed efforts and focus, it may just be the next state to welcome recreational cannabis in 2016.