Tax Cannabis 2010 Initiative Headed for November Ballot

California voters will have the opportunity to vote for marijuana reform this November. The Tax and Regulate Cannabis Initiative or "TC2010", sponsored by Richard Lee of Oaksterdam University, will appear on the November 2 ballot as Proposition 19.

The initiative would decriminalize marijuana at the state level, while giving local county and city governments the power to legalize, tax and regulate production and sales if they see fit. In particular, the initiative would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess one ounce of marijuana in the privacy of their homes and to cultivate up to 25 square feet of garden space for personal use. It would prohibit possession on school grounds, use in public, smoking while minors are present, or providing to anyone under 21, as well as driving under the influence.

Current medical marijuana laws would not be affected, so patients could still grow and possess as much as necessary for their medical needs. Local governments (state or county) would be able to regulate, license, and authorize commercial cultivation, sale, and transport for adults over 21.

The initiative is a partial legalization measure since it would not legalize at the state level. It would remain a felony to sell, cultivate, transport, or possess marijuana for sale everywhere except where local governments decided otherwise. Thus it could become entirely legal to produce and sell a ton of marijuana in one city, while remaining a felony to transport it into the next city. Additional state legislation would be required to establish a uniform, state-regulated legalization regime in California, such as the legalization bill proposed by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.

Fortunately, the initiative has a clause allowing the legislature to pass additional laws to further the purpose of the act. Should TC 2010 pass, Ammiano believes that the legislature will be eager to pass a bill like his own in order to establish statewide regulation and taxation of marijuana.  
 
Passage of TC 2010 would be a historic boost to marijuana reform, marking the first-ever voter approval of legal adult use of marijuana By treating users as legal citizens, it would undercut the rationale for drug testing and other forms of discrimination against marijuana users. It would also greatly reduce the threat of arrests, since the odor of marijuana would no longer be a justification for police searches of one's home. Its ultimate impact on marijuana arrests is unclear, since this would depend on how many cities and counties legalized production and sales.

The initiative also has a clause that could halt abusive drug testing. It provides that "no person shall be punished, fined, discriminated against or denied any right or privilege for lawfully engaging in any conduct permitted by this Act" - i.e. using marijuana - "provided however, that the existing right of an employer to address consumption that actually impairs job performance by an employee shall not be affected." This would appear to rule out random urine screening, which does not detect on-the-job impairment.

TC 2010 has a couple of controversial provisions that are of concern to California NORML. First, it would disallow marijuana smoking in "any space where minors are present" - a restriction unparalleled for any other drug, including tobacco, which is known to be far more harmful. Not only would this ban parents from smoking in the presence of their own children, but it could well leave them without any legal place to smoke, since the initiative also bans smoking in public or "a public place. By the same token, cops could cite pot smokers at any concert, dinner or event where kids under 21 were present. Violations would be punishable by the current $100 misdemeanor fine.

Secondly, TC 2010 would substantially increase existing penalties for adults giving marijuana to youths aged 18-21. TC 2010 would make it an offense punishable by $1,000 and six months for anyone 21 or over to give or share marijuana with someone aged 18-20, This offense is currently a minor misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $100 fine. So, a 21-year-old could be arrested for sharing a joint with his 20-year old friend, something that isn't presently the case.  

Although the legislature would theoretically be able to change these provisions, it is highly doubtful they would do so given voters' approval of TC 2010. Should TC 2010 pass, California NORML would strongly support an initiative to repeal these provisions.

In the meantime, it's vital that TC 2010 do well in the upcoming election so as to keep the momentum of marijuana reform moving. For info, see http://yeson19.com.