Sacramento medical-cannabis stakeholders discuss the Adult Use of Marijuana Act
“Is it the step everyone wants? No. But it’s a step.”
Will California’s 420-friendly voters puff, puff, pass adult legalization this year? It’s no guarantee: Six years ago, California’s weed-legalization initiative, Proposition 19, failed by a 53.5 to 46.5 percent vote. But this November, a new initiative, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, or AUMA, will likely be on the ballot: What do cannabis insiders—the activists and pot-shop owners—have to say about this latest shot at legalization?
Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, says his organization was a day-one supporter of AUMA, which is backed by the likes of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and tech mogul Sean Parker. He sees it as a step forward. “Is it the step everyone wants? No. But it’s a step,” he said.
Local medical-marijuana dispensary owner Forrest Heise of Green Solutions in Midtown is among AUMA’s critics. He wishes the initiative was less bogged down by statutes and more Wild West like Colorado’s Amendment 64, which passed in 2012.
“I think it will cause more confusion, or a mess, before it starts helping the citizens of California,” he said. “Leave it to California to over-regulate something.”
Kimberly Cargile with A Therapeutic Alternative medical-cannabis dispensary in East Sacramento expects dense new regulations. But she’s sympathetic to the initiative builders’ attempts to learn from the mistakes of over-restriction in Washington and the “free-for-all” of Colorado.
“Problems we’ve seen so far are due to lack of regulation,” she said of other states with adult legalization. “I think [AUMA is] trying to nip it in the bud. That way we can circumvent the problems of the past.”
Bradley said the new regulations are necessary so as to open pot lounges and retail cannabis stores. Lounges that resemble vape bars rather than opium dens means complying with the Sherman Food, Drug and Cosmetic Law.
“Do you want your doors kicked in or would you rather obey a bunch of rules?” he asked.
Proponents of AUMA say part of their marketing strategy will be about alerting voters to a very big number: $1 billion in new tax revenues each year. According to www.letsgetitrightca.org, the total revenue from excises on retail sales, as well as state and local taxes on businesses, will generate 10 figures annually once the new system is fully implemented.
Both Cargile and Bradley also referred to the pot industry as “in the shadows” and say AUMA is an opportunity for legitimization. “Basically, legalization that’s very heavy on the tax side, it brings cannabis into the 21st century,” Cargile said.
But cities and counties will miss out on tax revenue if they exercise their right to ban legal weed. Heise cited Folsom as a city that jumped the gun on an outright ban measure for medical pot—and is forfeiting tax dollars. “We need to make sure local lawmakers are up to speed on education,” he said.
Supporters also laud the numerous decriminalization benefits of AUMA. For Cargile, the biggest positive is the rights that it grants to landlords and legal business owners: Landlords who in good faith rent to a licensed cultivator can no longer be subject to arrest, prosecution, civil fines, forfeiture or seizure under AUMA.
Wellness centers and dispensaries SN&R spoke to on- and off-record all agreed that the city of Sacramento has been open-minded and welcoming, and they anticipate the same attitude for legalization.
The one thing AUMA supporters don’t want? For legalization to harm the medicinal movement.
Cargile says A Therapeutic Alternative will remain a medical center and will not seek a recreational license. And Heise agreed that legal pot should not have a detrimental impact on medical cannabis.
“We spent all this time establishing, ’It’s a medicine and helps out a lot of people,’ and now we’re going to flip-flop,” he said. “We still want it to be known as a medicine. We still want to help people and not have things get caught up in the recreational.”