This year, Californians have the unique opportunity to change state legislature by voting on a variety of ballot initiatives, including Prop 64, the California Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). If passed, the “gold standard” measure will allow adults, 21 and over, to possess, transport, and use marijuana for recreational purposes. As it stands today, weed in California is basically a de facto legalization; medical cards are easy to obtain and cultural stigma is at an all-time low. However, passing Prop 64 would not only decriminalize recreational use, but could also enrich the economy, create jobs, encourage innovation, and exonerate individuals with minor convictions.
The measure is also already widely supported by California residents. According to a University of California, Berkeley/Field Poll conducted last week, 57 percent of Californians say they approve of Prop 64. If you’re not part of that 57 percent, and you haven’t made up your mind on the initiative, you better hit the books. Luckily, we did all the homework for you. Here are 10 rock-solid reasons to vote “Yes” on 64 this Tuesday. (Spoiler alert: Getting toasted with your Bart Simpson gravity bong while ascending Runyon Canyon during a power lunch is not one of them.)
It will generate massive revenue.
Get with it, California. We’ve always been about cashing in on booming industries: the Gold Rush, Silicon Valley, and Surf Rock. And, cannabis is officially the fastest growing industry in the country. Projected tax revenue from ganja retail sales is already projected at one billion dollars each year. If that number seems high, just look at Colorado. According to the Denver Post, retail sales of marijuana were up to $122 million per month in July of this year alone. In 2015, over $135 million was raised in taxes.
Furthermore, tax revenue from cannabis sales in California isn’t going to government fat cats. It’s going to areas the state needs it most in a special fund. $10 million will be distributed to organizations in communities most gravely affected by the prohibition/Drug War, such as South Central, Oakland, and Barrio Logan. Another $10 million will go to universities for marijuana research. Sixty percent of the remaining revenue goes to youth education, prevention, drug treatment, and job placement assistance. Twenty percent goes to environmental protection, and another 20 percent goes to law enforcement training to recognize drivers under the influence of cannabis.
It will create jobs.
A new study by the Marijuana Policy Group confirmed that over two years, legal cannabis created 18,000 new full-time jobs in Colorado. It predicted that passing Prop 64 could create over 130,000 jobs in California. As of Sept. 2016, unemployment in California was at 5.5 percent, so job creation should definitely be a priority for our state. Additionally, a portion of revenue will also be allocated to OSHA and the Division of Labor Standards to provide assistance with job placement.
It will eliminate and reduce crimes and prevent kids from going to jail.
Passing Prop 64 will greatly reduce—and in many cases eliminate—criminal penalties for marijuana offenses, especially in communities of color that have been targeted by the unequal enforcement of marijuana laws. Not only will prisoners affected by now-defunct marijuana laws be able to immediately petition for their release, many sentences could also be reduced or even completely expunged from a person’s record. This means that weed-related felonies will become misdemeanors, and it could dramatically change federal prisoner rights. Many inmates with life sentences (comprised of several felonies) would no longer qualify for life behind bars if Prop 64 is passed and their weed-related charges turn into misdemeanors. And for minors, Prop 64 would protect teenagers from incarceration. Marijuana charges can only be marked as minor offenses under the new law.
Are you over 18?
It will effectively end the War on Drugs.
One of the largest benefits to passing Prop 64 is stopping the stigma and discrimination behind the War on Drugs. Communities of color, which have been unfairly targeted by law enforcement that has used marijuana as an arrest excuse for decades, will no longer face those crimes. Furthermore, due to California’s large population and cultural significance, passing Prop 64 would send a message of progress to the rest of the country that this is where we are headed as a society. While California reaps the benefits of marijuana legalization and stops funding this expensive and biased campaign, other states will still face overcrowded prisons, terrible rates of recidivism, and joblessness. California’s marijuana success story could be a beacon of hope for lawmakers across the country.
It will protect and strengthen medical marijuana.
A myth surrounding Prop 64 is that it will signify the end of medical marijuana (and the old Prop 215) when, in fact, the medical industry will be bolstered and left unharmed. Under the law, medical marijuana patients will not pay sales tax on weed purchases. Medical card prices will be capped at $100, with free reductions for Medi-Cal patients. Importantly, parental custodial rights cannot be taken away because a parent lawfully consumes medical marijuana.
Even though 64 says that adults can grow up to (a generous) six plants in their home, the law will also provide for new research and breakthroughs with $2 million in revenue dedicated to understanding cannabis better. Medical marijuana research is currently sparse due to the stigma and the prior illegality of the drug. With new funding, CBD studies could target and dose specific illnesses in the near future. It’s possible that the plant has uses we haven’t even dreamt of yet, but the key to discovering them is treating it properly like medicine and testing it.
Are you over 18?
It will favor existing providers with anti-monopoly protections.
Critics of Prop 64 worry that local dispensaries will turn into Walmarts and their favorite strains will turn into Coca-Cola—corporate, evil, and ultimately detrimental to health and society. Yet, Prop 64 specifically prohibits licenses for large growers (over 22,000 square feet) and requires agencies to consider whether or not a business intends to create a monopoly before offering a license. Price-fixing is also illegal under Prop 64. Finally, existing marijuana businesses are first in line to get licenses, until 2020. Businesses with owners who have prior drug convictions will also not be discriminated against under this law.
It will lead to lower prices.
Under prohibition, cannabis prices are regulated by the medical and environmentally-unfriendly black markets. This unofficial and sometimes random price-setting can lead to unfair consumer treatment. Though some are worried that 64 will create price inflation, Washington and Colorado have not experienced this issue. In Washington (where sales tax is at an extreme 37 percent and citizens cannot home-grow), the average retail price is $9/gram, including tax. Previous figures in the state listed weed at $25/gram. Because legalization increases supply and demand, as well as competition, global think tank RAND estimates that after legalization, California weed costs will be lower than at current dispensary prices.
It will protect consumers’ health.
Even at dispensaries, the dosage and labeling of cannabis products is not standardized, which is clearly problematic for both recreational users and patients. Repealing marijuana prohibition would cause lawmakers to create statewide rules and regulations about quality, consistency, and dosages—especially important in edibles. Packaging will need to be clearly labeled, so it can’t easily get in the hands of children or, in the cases of unscrupulous sellers, target them. Additionally, strict testing of molds, pesticides, and other chemicals commonly found in skunkier weed varietals will have to be disclosed. Knowing what you’re smoking, and that its quality is certified and consistent, is definitely for the best.
Are you over 18?
It will allows for worry-free home-grows.
No longer will you have to hide your plants when friends come over, or try to pass it off as “big parsley.” Prop 64 allows private individuals to grow up to six plants at home. Unfortunately, the prop also states that you cannot send it to your friends across the country. Still, allowing for home cultivation is one of the best aspects of Prop 64. It’s a great way to experience the plant, know exactly what you’re getting, and have a more organic experience!
It will legitimize marijuana, which is safer than both alcohol and tobacco.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported last year that 30,000 people die annually from alcohol-related deaths where there has never been a fatal overdose of marijuana in its 7,000 years of recorded use. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., and one in 10 deaths of adults can be pointed to alcohol poisoning every year, according to the CDC. Marijuana is not and has never been lethal. This hypocrisy has got to stop. By legalizing MJ, it removes the stigma of it and adds a safer, more controlled option to the menu.