Pubdate: Thu, 14 Jul 2016
Source: Portland Mercury (OR)
Column: Ask a Pot Lawyer
Copyright: 2016 The Portland Mercury
Author: Vince Sliwoski


Is That State's Brand-New Cannabis Initiative Any Good?

What do you think of California's brand new pot initiative?

IT'S A MIXED BAG, but I'm getting on board. Last week, California 
announced that the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) officially has a 
home on the state's November ballot. Over the past year, the concept 
of legalization among California voters has been polling very well. 
It seems almost certain the AUMA will pass.

My law firm's California attorneys have been looking at AUMA 
intensively for the past few months, and report that the 62-pager is 
more complex than Washington, Oregon, and Colorado's initiatives. For 
example, AUMA provides for an astonishing 19 separate business 
licenses, and its distribution model recalls the convoluted rules of 
booze. For these and other reasons AUMA has many opponents, even 
among pot boosters.

The most interesting AUMA takedown we have encountered to date comes 
from Mark Kleiman, a corporate cannabis scold who made a name for 
himself consulting with Washington's legalization rollout circa 2012. 
When not moonlighting out West, Kleiman teaches public policy at New 
York University. He refers to AUMA as "horrible, awful, very bad 
no-good drug policy." He also says he would vote for it.

Kleiman argues that AUMA will not keep the price of weed high enough. 
He argues that if weed is cheap, increased cannabis use disorder will 
result. While not an acute "disease," that disorder is an official 
diagnosis culled from a host of factors that shows weed is negatively 
impacting someone's life. Corporations that profit by promoting 
increased, habitual use via cheap marijuana are a societal negative, 
says Kleiman.

The whys and wherefores behind Kleiman's economic analysis are too 
wonky to deal with here, and the rebuttals are wonkier still. In the 
very big picture, however, it is fair to say that speculation on 
price points for pot is a dilettante's game. This is because AUMA 
will be made into sausage by the legislature, repurposed further by 
administrative rules, and eventually look quite different than what 
is proposed this November. You may remember a similar process here 
with Oregon's Measure 91.

Kleiman is likely correct that AUMA will benefit corporate interests. 
California politicians can take the fall for that, by not stepping up 
and addressing weed with standard legislation. In such cases, wealthy 
people typically enter the legislative vacuum and fund pot 
initiatives, because they see a business line on weed. Very few 
voters will scour the 62 pages of AUMA prior to voting. Instead, they 
will simply check "Yes" because weed should be legal; or "No," because not.

There is no perfect pot initiative and, in my opinion, AUMA is not a 
tremendous overreach like last November's failed land grab in Ohio. 
If the legislature is not going to act, people in progressive 
"initiative" states will push these things through. They will do so 
for the simple reason that prohibition is a drag. After that, it gets 
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom