When Proposition 64 passed last November by the largest margin of any marijuana legalization ballot measure in history, it represented a resounding message from more than 8 million California voters to federal, state and local policymakers.
Specifically, America’s war on marijuana has been an abject, expensive failure, and it’s time for a smarter approach that stopped the criminalization of responsible adults while keeping the drug away from individuals who either shouldn’t be or don’t want to be near it.
With the input of hundreds of respected state and local organizations, including local government and law enforcement, Proposition 64 was carefully and specifically drafted to safeguard public safety, public health and the environment, preserve local control, curb market monopolies and, above all else, protect our children.
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It also strictly complies with the marijuana enforcement priorities of the federal government as outlined by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2013 – namely, preventing interstate smuggling, proliferation of criminal enterprises, distribution to minors, and drugged driving – policies the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month called “valid.”
Adult-use marijuana, like medical marijuana, is now legal in the state of California. But, until the state begins issuing medical and non-medical commercial cannabis licenses as required by law on Jan. 1, 2018 – and related regulations – there will still be uncertainty about how and where to safely access marijuana, and what Californians can and can’t legally do under the law. Meanwhile, the eyes of the nation are following California’s progress.
That’s why the hard work of the Brown administration to implement Proposition 64 for adult-use marijuana and the Medical Cannabis Regulation & Safety Act for medical marijuana, which the Legislature passed in 2015, is so momentous.
Proposition 64 extended the medical cannabis act structure to protect youths against exposure to non-medical marijuana products like edibles, including strict packaging and labeling requirements, as well as restrictions on marijuana-related advertising and marketing.
Californians to Protect Proposition 64 – a new nonprofit organization formed by many of the primary supporters of the measure – believes the governor’s initial budget and regulatory proposals reflect voter intent and preserves Proposition 64’s fundamental framework while taking the smart approach, where possible, of aligning the medical and non-medical systems – reducing regulatory redundancy, red tape and public confusion.
In short, it’s a step in the right direction toward a safe, unitary and strictly regulated, tracked and taxed commercial marijuana system – a model for other states to follow.
Traditional opponents of marijuana legalization, and others for whom the unregulated status quo serves their interest, will continue to stand in the way of Proposition 64’s implementation. At the same time, the Trump administration, led by Sessions, have pledged a return to the “War on Drugs,” oblivious to the fact that national support for legalization is above 60 percent and increasing with every poll.
This process presents yet another opportunity for the Brown administration and Legislature to lead the nation and protect California’s progress against federal intervention.