At a Glance: Competing Marijuana Reform Efforts in California

In California, the race is on to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016. Multiple organizations are pushing for legalization, and the field is slowly becoming as crowded as the Republican field for presidential candidates.

The most recent entry into the fray of marijuana initiatives is the Responsible Use Act, which was submitted by the grassroots team of Chad and Marinda Hanes. Supporters of the ballot initiative now have 180 days to collect 365,880 valid signatures in order to get on the ballot for next year.

Under the proposed measure, recreational marijuana would be legal for persons 21 years or older. Those with marijuana convictions on their record would have their records wiped clean of any marijuana-related charges, and those in prison for marijuana offenses would either be released or resentenced.

Recreational marijuana would be taxed at $8 per dried ounce of marijuana, $.20 per gallon of marijuana-infused liquid products or $1 per gram of concentrated marijuana. Local towns and municipalities would be allowed to tax marijuana at a maximum rate of 2 percent and local regulation would be limited. Medical marijuana would remain untaxed.

The next legalization effort underway in California is the California Craft Cannabis Initiative. Like the Responsible Use Act, the measure would retroactively legalize marijuana for persons 21 years or older, meaning those with marijuana-related offenses on their records could have them expunged and those serving time for marijuana-related crimes could be resentenced. The CCCI would also create a commission to regulate and license marijuana businesses, and it would allow for local regulation as long as it is consistent with the measure’s policies.

This initiative is unique in that it would prevent any marijuana regulatory body from capping the number of licensed marijuana businesses that cultivate 100 marijuana plants or fewer. The idea is to allow smaller “craft marijuana” businesses to flourish, much in the same way craft breweries have in recent years.

The 2016 California Bipartisan Decriminalization of Cannabis Act, also known as the “CBD Cannabis Act,” would legalize marijuana for persons 21 years or older, set marijuana taxes at 15 percent, and it would prevent local governments from raising taxes on marijuana.

What makes this measure unique is that it would dedicate the bulk of its tax revenue to K-12 education, the liberal arts and medical research.

The legalization movement with perhaps the most political capital is the Reform CA initiative put forth by the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform. This group does not have specific language yet, and the reason why is that this group is focused on building a consensus within the marijuana community.

Reform CA is based off of seven core principals upon which it hopes to build a broad based initiative that the competing interests can agree with. What gives Reform CA more political capital than the other groups is the support of local marijuana organizations, such as California NORML, the California NCIA, and even national groups like the Marijuana Policy Project.

Despite more than 50 percent of Californians in support of marijuana reform, it is going to be an uphill battle for any of these groups. There are so many competing interests that it could be difficult for average voters to keep track of them all, a problem not experienced by those in opposition to legalization.

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