It’s Time for California to Legalize Marijuana


marijuana-smokeby Margaret Dooley-Sammuli

California voters will be asked to legalize marijuana in November – and we couldn’t be happier that our state might finally end this chapter of the failed war on drugs.

The last time Californians were given the option to legalize marijuana – Prop 19 in 2010 – it prompted then Governor Schwarzenegger to sign a bill to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession in our state. Along with wide access to medical marijuana, some have suggested that marijuana is de facto legal already in California. They are wrong.

Low-level marijuana possession went from a misdemeanor to an infraction in California in 2011, but the criminalization of marijuana use, possession, and sales still leads to thousands of arrests each year. From 2011 to 2014, law enforcement agencies made 60,000 marijuana arrests in California. These arrests hit young people of color the hardest, although people use marijuana at similar rates across races and ethnicities.

In 2014, young people under the age of 20 made up 73 percent of all misdemeanor marijuana arrests in the state. Nearly 70 percent of all marijuana arrests were of people of color. The Drug Policy Alliance and ACLU recently looked at infraction data from Fresno and Los Angeles Police Departments and found that racial disparities in marijuana arrests continue even at the lowest level.

Fortunately, California voters will have the opportunity to choose smart regulation over criminalization this year.

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), expected to appear on the state ballot in November, will establish a controlled and regulated personal use market for adults, significantly reduce the over-criminalization of young people of color under current marijuana laws, and generate substantial revenue for drug education and for the communities most devastated by the failed war on drugs.

Knowing that California voters would be asked to decide on a regulated marijuana market in the near future, Lt Governor Gavin Newsom and the ACLU of California convened the Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy ( in 2013. Made up of leading legal, academic, law enforcement and policy experts from across the state and nation, the Blue Ribbon Commission took on a two-year research effort to help guide voters and policy makers in creating a strict marijuana tax and regulation system.

In the ACLU’s view, AUMA is a comprehensive proposal that incorporates consensus findings based on extensive research and discussion. Most importantly, it includes measures that will protect young people, maintain public safety, and establish workable taxation and regulation. In short: AUMA is not just the right thing to do, it’s a smart way to do it.

AUMA will:

  • Allow adults aged 21 and over to possess, transport, purchase, consume, and share up to one ounce of marijuana for nonmedical purposes; and to cultivate up to 6 plants at home outside of public view.
  • Reduce some criminal penalties and allow people previously convicted of marijuana crimes that, under the measure, would no longer be crimes or would be a lesser offense to petition a court for penalty reductions or record expungement.
  • Limit criminal penalties for juveniles and young adults (under 21), in most cases to infractions with fines and with evidence-based drug education as an alternative to a fine.
  • Create a state regulatory structure for nonmedical marijuana that builds on the recently adopted medical marijuana regulations.
  • Protect the status of the state’s medical marijuana patients in various critical ways, including privacy protections and exemptions from the 6-plant cultivation limit and sales tax on medical marijuana purchases.
  • Direct tax revenue to youth substance abuse education, prevention and treatment, state and local law enforcement, and environmental restoration and water protection. (The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates annual revenue at several hundreds of millions to $1 billion.)

AUMA has been endorsed by the California Medical Association, California NAACP, California Council of Land Trusts, Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, and California Cannabis Industry Association among many others.

For more information on the measure, visit

Margaret Dooley-Sammuli is the ACLU of California’s Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Director.


About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts

18 thoughts on “It’s Time for California to Legalize Marijuana”

    1. South of Davis

      The Pugilist wrote:

      > Apparently no one cares that we’re about to legalize marijuana. 

      Because we know that everyone that wants to smoke marijuana already does smoke it and legalizing it will do nothing except raise some tax revenue (and reduce some fine revenue)…

      1. The Pugilist

        I don’t agree with your hyperbole – the question is – is it better to spending law enforcement resources to enforce laws that are largely unenforceable or it better to let consenting adults control what goes into their own bodies?

  1. nameless

    Colorado, which has legalized marijuana, has had all sorts of problems.  See:

    1. The Pugilist

      You’ve basically cooked your data by posting either from right wings sites or news sites reporting studies from critics.

      Here’s a more balanced article: link

        1. nameless

          To Pugilist: NOTICE the first link is to a GOV’T SITE!!!  Are you trying to tell me the U.S. gov’t is lying about the statistics they gathered?  Really? From the report:

          Section 1 – Impaired Driving:
          • Traffic fatalities involving operators testing positive for marijuana have
          increased 100 percent from 2007 to 2012.
          • The majority of driving-under-the-influence-of-drugs arrests involve marijuana
          and 25 to 40 percent were marijuana alone.
          • Toxicology reports with positive marijuana results for driving under the
          influence have increased 16 percent from 2011 to 2013.
          The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact Vol. 2/August 2014
          Section 2 – Youth Marijuana Use:
          • In 2012, 10.47 percent of youth ages 12 to 17 were considered current marijuana
          users compared to 7.55 percent nationally. Colorado, ranked 4th in the nation,
          was 39 percent higher than the national average.
          • Drug-related suspensions/expulsions increased 32 percent from school years
          2008/2009 through 2012/2013. The vast majority were for marijuana violations.
          Section 3 – Adult Marijuana Use:
          • In 2012, 26.81 percent of college age students (ages 18 – 25 years) were
          considered current marijuana users compared to 18.89 percent nationally.
          Colorado, ranked 3rd in the nation, was 42 percent higher than the national
          • In 2012, 7.63 percent of adults ages 26 and over were considered current
          marijuana users compared to 5.05 percent nationally. Colorado, ranked 7th in the
          nation, was 51 percent higher than the national average.
          • In 2013, 48.4 percent of Denver adult arrestees tested positive for marijuana
          which is a 16 percent increase from 2008.
          Section 4 – Emergency Room Marijuana Admissions:
          • From 2011 through 2013, there was a 57 percent increase in marijuana-related
          emergency room visits.
          • Hospitalizations related to marijuana have increased 82 percent from 2008 to
          • In 2012, the City of Denver rate for marijuana-related emergency visits was 45
          percent higher than the rate in Colorado.
          Section 5 – Marijuana-Related Exposure:
          • Marijuana-related exposures for children ages 0 to 5 on average have increased
          268 percent from 2006–2009 to 2010-2013.
          • Colorado’s rate of marijuana-related exposures is triple the national average.
          Section 6 – Treatment:
          • Over the last nine years, the top three drugs involved in treatment admissions
          have been alcohol, marijuana and amphetamines.
          Section 7 – Diversion of Colorado Marijuana:
          • Highway interdiction seizures of Colorado marijuana destined to 40 other states
          increased 397 percent from 2008 to 2013.
          • The average pounds of Colorado marijuana seized, destined for other states,
          increased 33.5 percent from 2005 to 2008 compared to 2009 to 2013.
          The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact Vol. 2/August 2014
          Section 8 – Diversion by Parcel:
          • U.S. Mail parcel interceptions, with Colorado marijuana destined for 33 other
          states, increased 1,280 percent from 2010 to 2013.
          • U.S. Mail pounds of Colorado marijuana seized, destined for 33 other states,
          increased 762 percent from 2010 to 2013.
          Section 9 – THC Extraction Labs:
          • In 2013, there were 12 THC extraction lab explosions and in the first half of 2014
          the amount more than doubled.
          • In 2013, there were 18 injuries from THC extraction labs and in the first half of
          2014 there were 27 injuries.
          Section 10 – Related Data:
          • Overall, crime in Denver increased 6.7 percent from the first six months of 2013
          to the first six months of 2014.
          • The number of pets poisoned from ingesting marijuana has increased four-fold
          in the past six years.
          • Colorado estimates for annual revenue from the sale of recreational marijuana
          varies from $65 million (.6 percent of all expected general fund revenue) to $118
          million (1.2 percent of all expected general fund revenue)
          • The majority of counties and cities in Colorado have banned recreational
          marijuana businesses
          • THC potency has risen from an average of 3.96 percent in 1995 to an average of
          12.33 percent in 2013

  2. Tia Will


    I speak as someone who has very mixed feeling about the legalization of marijuana. I will comment on the extremely mixed bag of items that you have posted some of which are exclusively relevant to marijuana and some of which have a very tenuous connection and seem to be there only to round out you list.

    But first, I cannot think of a single rationale for allowing individuals to readily buy and consume alcohol but continue to criminalize marijuana.

    Now to your list.

    1. Impaired driving. Once a clear standard is established as to what level constitutes impairment just as we have established for alcohol, it should be enforced exactly as is alcohol.

    2. Youth marijuana use. Enforcement and penalties should be the same as for alcohol.

    3. Adult marijuana use. I do not advocate criminalizing what a competent adult chooses to put into their own body.

    4. Treatment – at least if a person has a toxic reaction to alcohol, or marijuana, or any other non criminalized drug, they are far more likely to be willing to seek help than if they or their friends believe that they will be arrested if they seek treatment.

    5. Extraction Labs – I feel that if we nationally decimalized marijuana one likely effect would be to see a decrease in these labs much as we did with homegrown alcohol distilleries when prohibition was lifted.

    6. Pets poisoned. Agree that this is bad. But suspect it has more to do with the increasing concentrations than it does with the legality.

    7. Increased crime – temporal correlation does not even imply and certainly does not prove causation. I believe that you would need to demonstrate cause and effect before thus adding this to the list.

    8. Annual revenue – not sure what point you are making with this. Do you see this as a substantial amount or as trivial and therefore not worth the while, or something else ?

    9. Increased potency. Agree that this is a real risk. Also believe that it is a better argument for legalization with controls and labelling than it is for criminalization which tends to guaranteer that people will not know what they are getting.

    1. nameless

      Does it make any logical sense for the gov’t to try and get people to stop smoking at the same time it advocates legalizing pot smoking?  That is a rhetorical question…

      As to your arguments 1-9, statistically legalization has caused a lot of problems. This world does not need more problems.

      1. Don Shor

        Marijuana should certainly be decriminalized. Legalization on the Colorado model may not be the best option. Washington DC might be a better approach.

    2. quielo

      Hi Tia,




      Not sure about your point

      5. Extraction Labs – I feel that if we nationally decimalized marijuana one likely effect would be to see a decrease in these labs much as we did with homegrown alcohol distilleries when prohibition was lifted.

      Unless the statue specifically legalizes purified extract we will likely see an increase in extraction labs as people who used to sell bud seek new markets. I don’t see anything in the above about dabs.

  3. Topcat

    I wonder what legalization might do for additional tax revenue for Davis?  I would imagine that there would be some sales tax revenue, especially if we had a few dispensaries open up in Davis.

  4. Barack Palin

    At least when it’s illegal there’s some trepidation from users, make it legal and we will have even more stoners walking and loitering around in our downtown.  Many more stoned drivers too.

    Liberals don’t want you drinking a soda, but smoking marijuana is somehow okay with them.

    There’s that “H” word popping up again.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for