California Democratic Party Reaffirms Support for Legal Marijuana

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A measure to legalize marijuana is likely to appear on California’s ballot this November, and the state’s biggest political party supports the idea.

The California Democratic Party, at its annual convention over the weekend, reaffirmed a platform plank supporting “the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana, in a manner similar to that of tobacco or alcohol.”

The provision was initially adopted the last time the party revised its platform, in 2014.

On Sunday, however, delegates voted to amend the plank by adding a clause specifying that legalization should prioritize “the health and safety of California’s communities over revenue or profits.”

The new language reflects an emerging area of discussion and concern surrounding marijuana’s increasing acceptance and evolving legal status.

Anti-legalization organizations like Smart Approaches to Marijuana often say that ending prohibition will result in a new industry focused solely on making as much profit as possible, sometimes going so far as to say it will be “Big Tobacco 2.0.”

Even many legalization supporters and neutral analysts have made a point to push for tough regulations that restrict the increasingly legal marijuana industry’s ability to advertise or produce edibles that could appeal to children.

While there are several marijuana legalization proposals collecting signatures for November’s ballot, only one appears to have the funding and professional organizing muscle that it will take to qualify. The measure, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), would allow adults over 21 years old to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow as many as six plants in their homes. It would also enact a system to tax and regulate marijuana sales.

In line with the state Democratic Party’s newly adopted platform clause, the measure would prohibit advertising marijuana in a manner aimed at minors or near schools. It also mandates strict regulations governing testing and labeling for marijuana products, including that packaging must be resealable and child resistant.

The effort to collect the 365,880 valid signatures from registered voters in order to qualify the measure for the ballot is being funded by major donors, including former Facebook president Sean Parker and a campaign committee created by Weedmaps. (Full disclosure: Weedmaps owns and operates Marijuana.com.)

The proposal has the backing of the California State NAACP and the California Medical Association. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has also endorsed.

Other leading elected Democrats in the state, such as Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, are vocal legalization opponents.

While the state Democratic Party hasn’t yet endorsed the AUMA measure specifically, its support for the general concept of legalizing and regulating marijuana should help the campaign’s effort to appeal to undecided voters.

According to the California Secretary of State, 43.1 percent of the state’s voters are Democrats, compared to 27.6 percent who are Republicans and 5.3 percent who belong to other parties. Twenty-four percent of registered voters in the state have no party preference.

In 2010, the party was neutral on a ballot measure which would have made California the first state to legalize marijuana. It failed 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent.

A poll released last week found that 60 percent of California likely voters now support legalization.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Marijuana.com. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)

  • James DuMouchel

    EVERY SINGLE ISSUE that drug prohibition was supposed to make better, has actually been made far worse. Only a police state would jail citizens who claim the right to decide for themselves what they may put into their own body.

  • The fatal flaw in AUMA is the “single subject” rule. This means when someone files the lawsuit, the whole initiative will be invalid, and AUMA will not make it to the ballot. Regardless of if AUMA collects all their signatures, it is doomed to fail.

    * The Law:
    Article 2, section 8(d) of the California Constitution provides “An initiative measure embracing more than one subject may not be submitted to the electors or have any effect.”

    * From the case law (the courts):
    A ballot measure may not be acted upon by the voters where such measure entails more than one subject. (Pala Band of Mission Indians v. Board of Supervisors (1997) 54 Cal.App.4th 565, 581-582.)

    Although a measure contains a “severance” clause which purports to severe any provision that might otherwise render the initiative invalid, a severance clause will not protect against a violation of the single-subject rule. (Senate of the State of Cal. v. Jones, supra, 21 Cal.4th 1142.)

    * Subjects in AUMA:
    Subject 1: Adult Use of Marijuana – Sections 4 & 6
    Subject 2: Medical Use of Marijuana – Section 5
    Subject 3: Criminal Justice Reform – Section 8
    Subject 4: Cultivation of Industrial Hemp – Section 9

    The biggest issue is Hemp. The industrial production of a food and fiber crop is a different subject than the recreational use of a drug. This is one of the many arguments used against CCHI over the years. We (the cannabis users) all want it to be the same thing, but in the eyes of the law, they are two separate subjects.

    It’s just a matter of time before one of the Anti-Marijuana groups files this lawsuit. The people behind AUMA should cut it’s losses now and save some money before they waist it all on an initiative that is doomed to fail.

    • Minivet

      IANAL, but in Amador Valley Joint Union High School District v. State Board of Equalization, 1978, the CA Supreme Court upheld Prop 13’s not only limiting the property tax but also restricting how the Legislature could raise taxes of any kind in the future. In Fair Political Practices Commission v. Superior Court, 1979, they upheld the Political Reform Act of 1974 which dealt with subjects including campaign finance, lobbying, conflict of interest, voter summaries of ballot measures, and candidate position on ballots. In Brosnahan v. Brown, 1982, they upheld the Victim’s Bill of Rights despite it also including provisions on, for example, school safety.

      Quotes: “[The constitutional provision] is to be construed liberally to uphold proper legislation, all parts of which are reasonably germane.” (FPPC) “An initiative measure does not violate the single-subject requirement if, despite
      its varied collateral effects, all of its parts are ‘reasonably germane’ to each other and to the general purpose or object of the initiative.” (Brosnahan) “The amendment speaks of the initiative and referendum, not as a right granted the people, but as a power reserved by them. Declaring it ‘the duty of the court to jealously guard this right of the people’, the courts have described the initiative and referendum as articulating ‘one of the most precious rights of our democratic process’. ‘[I]t has long been our judicial policy to apply a liberal construction to this power wherever it is challenged in order that the right be not improperly annulled. If doubts can reasonably be resolved in favor of the use of this reserve power, courts will preserve it.’ (Brosnahan, quoting other cases)

      So basically, as I read it, the rule is interpreted broadly to avoid nitpicking the will of the voters.

      An example of how different subjects need to get to violate the rule: the Insurance Cost Control Initiative of 1988 was struck down because alongside many changes in insurance regulation it also altered campaign finance laws relating to consumer protection organizations.

      I have a hard time seeing AUMA as any more disparate in subject than any of these. Hemp and marijuana for human consumption are often the same species and always the same genus, and it is perfectly sound to say that regulation of both industrial and personal use are interconnected issues that the voters should be able to deal with together without judicial second-guessing.

      If people have said CCHI failed the single-subject rule I suspect they may have been incorrect too.