BY DAVID DOWNS
Not a single California legislator stated outright opposition to California’s pending marijuana-legalization initiative during historic hearings on the Adult Use of Marijuana Act in Sacramento this past Tuesday.
The unique "joint session" was a new requirement for the initiative process, and the hearing for five legislative committees offered a platform for initiative proponents and opponents to road test their arguments. The testimony was a powerful indicator of just how far the Golden State has evolved on cannabis.
A nonpartisan summary by Aaron Edwards of the Legislative Analyst's Office finds AUMA would generate enforcement savings of $100 million and several hundred million to one billion dollars in tax revenues.
California Medical Association Senior Vice President Janus Norman called AUMA comprehensive, well-crafted, and research-focused. According to the event’s livestream, and notes taken by Dale Gieringer, Director of California NORML, Norman said it was the "beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition in California," and "just a first step.”
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition leader and former narcotics officer Diane Goldstein testified that marijuana prohibition did not work.
Legalization foe and California Police Officers Association representative Shaun Rundle said marijuana is associated with murder, and pot enforcement already costs police millions each year.
California Police Chiefs Association Legislative Committee Chair Lauren Michaels wished AUMA had a ban on indoor cultivation, more detailed licensing, smaller farm size limits, and a firewall layer of independent distributors with no other stake in the industry.
Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana leader Carla Lowe warned AUMA would create a thriving illegal home grow market.
Self-appointed "Bishop" Ron Allen of the International Faith Based Coalition called for ongoing prohibition to protect children. But California NAACP head Alice Huffman said AUMA would strike a blow against "Jim Crow justice" in America, and said the law’s drafters addressed every single one of the NAACP’s concerns.
Veteran police lobbyist John Lovell said AUMA would mandate licensing of drug trafficking bosses, but proponents said that’s not true. Regulators have wide discretion to reject license applications.
Some lawmakers worried pot shops would become public nuisances like liquor stores. But activists noted that cities can ban pot shops under AUMA, while they cannot ban liquor stores.
California Hospital Association legislative advocate Connie Delgado said taxing and regulating cannabis might increase marijuana-related emergency room visits, as was reported in Colorado, and cause more infants to be exposed to marijuana.
Lawmakers also worried about the potential for more marijuana DUIs, or the potential for regulatory capture by a legal cannabis industry.
California Growers Association president President Hezekiah Allen said his organization members are split on AUMA. “No consensus exists,” he said.
A new poll released this week by PPIC finds that 60 percent of likely California voters generally support legalizing marijuana. Up from 56 percent last year.