California marijuana leaders increasingly uniting behind one legalization measure

marijuana in california

By John Schroyer

Late last month, it looked as though California might very well have two recreational cannabis legalization measures on the ballot next fall.

But the situation is changing rapidly, and the odds are now much higher that there will be just one initiative – which is seen as key to pushing through legalization.

In the past two weeks, a growing number of advocates, industry leaders and legalization supporters have started to gravitate toward a measure backed by billionaire Sean Parker, while the other major legalization campaign – ReformCA – has lost some key supporters.

Insiders say stakeholders are working to come up with an initiative everyone can unite behind, and it increasingly seems like it will be Parker’s measure.

On Tuesday, the Parker campaign – which doesn’t yet have a name but has been dubbed the Adult Use Marijuana Act (AUMA) – revealed that six board members of the organization behind ReformCA have jumped ship. These influential individuals are now throwing their support behind the AUMA.

One of them is Oaksterdam University founder Richard Lee, who publicly endorsed Parker’s initiative just before Thanksgiving.

That was a major coup for the AUMA, in large part because Lee founded Oaksterdam University, which the head of ReformCA – Dale Sky Jones – now leads.

Jones could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but in an email to supporters Thursday morning, she almost sounded as though she’s ready to throw in the towel. She made no mention of signature gathering to make the ballot, even though ReformCA’s measure was officially cleared for petition circulation on Wednesday by the state.

Jones did say she expects a discussion at a ReformCA stakeholder meeting on Dec. 18 with regard to the organization’s official stance on the AUMA (which suggests that the campaign may fold and join Parker’s coalition). She also wrote that she is considering adopting a “watchdog” role for ReformCA for the future, with regard to the implementation of both MMJ rules and possibly new rec industry rules.

The other individuals who defected from ReformCA include Nate Bradley, the executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association; Stacia Cosner, the deputy director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy; Neill Franklin, the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition; Antonio Gonzalez, the president of the William C. Velasquez Institute; and David Bronner, the CEO of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps.

They join other big names who have signed on to support Parker’s campaign, including California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project.

Bradley said the reason he and the industry association have decided to back Parker’s measure over ReformCA is multifold.

For one, he said, Parker’s group is working with a more diverse coalition of stakeholders – including those in law enforcement and health care – not just those in the marijuana sector.

Secondly, the AUMA may have deeper pockets to draw from, Bradley said. It will take a lot of money to pay signature gatherers and professional campaign operatives to take rec all the way to the electoral goal line next November. And Parker has already pledged to support his campaign with millions of dollars of his own cash if need be.

“It was a matter of viability, is the initiative workable, does it have the resources to get it done?” Bradley said. “You only get one shot, and it’s a gamble, and everybody has to make what they think is the safest bet.”

There aren’t a ton of substantial differences between the two initiatives at this point.

The ReformCA measure is arguably less comprehensive than the AUMA, weighing in at 26 pages of new laws and regulations, in contrast to 64 pages for Parker’s measure.

Some of the bigger differences between the two:

  • The ReformCA camp is more concerned with protecting community businesses and guarding against monopolies, while the AUMA is more friendly to larger companies. For example, an updated version of the AUMA allows for no cap on the size of commercial grows after five years, while ReformCA explicitly directs a new state agency to limit the number of licenses a company can hold to “discourage monopolization.”
  • On marijuana taxes, ReformCA would implement a $2 per-square-foot of canopy tax for growers, a production tax of $15 per ounce of flower, a sales tax of 5% for flower and a 10% tax for edibles and concentrates. The AUMA would establish a $9.25 cultivation tax per ounce for flower and a 15% sales tax.
  • ReformCA only calls for “reasonable controls” on advertisement to be established to protect children. The AUMA calls for tighter advertising regulations. It would prohibit free promotional samples, as well as marijuana advertising within 1,000 feet of schools and other areas where children congregate. Ads on TV, radio or the internet could only be used where “at least 71.6% of the audience is reasonably expected to be 21 years of age or older.”
  • Under ReformCA’s bill, there would be 10 types of business licenses, ranging from cultivation to manufacturing to transportation. Under the AUMA, there would be a whopping 19, with 13 for various types of cultivators alone.

Bradley contends that the AUMA also does a better job of building on top of the new statewide medical marijuana regulations that the legislature approved in September, a trio of bills known as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.

“It recognizes (the act) and builds off it, and doesn’t create a whole new agency,” Bradley said.

ReformCA’s initiative would create a new bureaucracy called the Office of Cannabis Regulation, to be housed within the Department of Consumer Affairs, while the AUMA would set up a Bureau of Marijuana Control, essentially renaming the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation that the legislature established this year.

Parker’s campaign appears to be aiming for a compromise.

An updated version of the AUMA was filed the first week of December with the state, after the Parker camp reportedly made several concessions to ReformCA backers.

The revised measure includes a number of consumer-related provisions, such as increasing the legal limit of concentrate possession from four grams to eight, but also a few key business features. The new draft, for example, adds further protections for small businesses, such as permanently banning large-scale cultivators from also having distributor licenses.

And in the Thursday email to supporters, ReformCA’s Jones credited her team “for fighting to attain good public policy amendments in the recent negotiations with the Parker Group.”

ReformCA board member Hezekiah Allen said in an email to Marijuana Business Daily that he is hopeful that the two camps can reach a consensus, but hinted that there’s still more negotiating that needs to take place before that can happen.

“To be successful, we need unity,” Allen wrote. “To achieve that goal, we need a unity conversation.”

A lot of well-known cannabis executives and advocates in the state are hoping that’s exactly what happens, especially in light of the failed 2010 adult-use legalization campaign in the state.

“I certainly hope the two sides can come together and reconcile their differences, because I believe victory depends on it, and we can’t afford to lose California again,” said Steve DeAngelo, executive director of Harborside Health Center. “Unity is going to be the most important factor in winning this race.”

John Schroyer can be contacted at [email protected]

12 comments on “California marijuana leaders increasingly uniting behind one legalization measure
  1. Mark on

    Crazy day surrounding marijuana taxation and regulation (legalization) ….. The Oregon legalization model that is developing restricts about 90% of existing small farmers from growing just by having to obtain commercial water rights … Or manipulate the 70 pages of regulations …. Weed is better off being an illegal substance … State legalization = state level prohibition …

  2. John on

    So Sad that if you have enough money you can make anything pass…
    For people who don’t know there are more than 2 legalization initiatives in California, the other 2 initiatives have major grass roots support, their bank accounts may not be as big, but they have way more supporters. before you decide please look at your other choices too.
    It really bothers me when people force me into choosing between 2 things I really don’t care for when there are better choices out there that they are not telling me about.

    CCHI 2016 The California Cannabis Hemp Initiative. read it here
    MCLR the Marijuana Control Legalization and Revenue Act. read it here

    I believe either of these initiatives would be better for California, than the ones discussed in the article above… Be Smart Read them ALL and decide for yourself…

    • JIMMY LIMO on

      I supported CCHI when it was the only kid on the block…. But the measure allows up to 99 plants and 12 POUNDS for personal possession and that is an absolute deal killer ! While I support the CONCEPT, that by itself would doom the measure to defeat in 2016… I urge backers of CCHI 2016 to back the AUMA initiative for now, then work on the state government and the courts to gradually liberalize the law. Until cannabis can be consumed ANYWHERE alcohol or tobacco can, it’s not TRULY LEGAL !

      • John on

        Jimmy, I am not sure why 99 plants and 12 pounds of personal possession is a deal killer for you ?
        If you think about it, that is Already the law in California right now… in Accordance with SB 420, the 6-12 limits can be bumped up for more seriously ill patients, my current Dr. recommendation says that I can grow 99 plants and have several Kilos for personal possession, not sure whay it is measured in Kilos but whatever… Dont be Scared 99 plants and 12 pounds is already the law under SB420…
        Seems to be working fine right now, Why change it to something more restrictive when there doesn’t seem to be any problems under the current situation….

  3. Pat Rothchild on

    I get your perspective, Patrick. As a healer, I run into countless roadblocks because of prohibition and how people have internalized such varying pieces its psychological and cultural implications. In my view, those who have struggled to get us this far are due respect and gratitude. Don’t under estimate the validity and need for the hard-won wisdom they bring to the table. Having been there, I empathize with your impatience. It doesn’t help though.

    Let’s get it together, if only for a year. Maybe, if we try it, we’ll get better at voicing our issues in more inspirational, productive tones. When we do, they’ll resonate.

    It’s hard. The people out front have feelings. They take huge risks, not only with their assets, but their freedom. Thank you all. It will take us all to take this next step. Yes, there will be more to come, thousands probably.

  4. Cannabis Radio on

    Competing initiatives are extremely difficult for uneducated voters to comprehend. It also holds the potential to divide the vote, making it much more difficult to guarantee success once making the ballot on election day.

    The collective “we”, needs California to find common ground and unify those who have the ability to swing support under 1 banner. If California can legalize adult use, it makes it much easier for the rest of the country to follow suit.

    We respect peoples opinions about getting to a legal framework, but an all or nothing approach will certainly guarantee a continuation of prohibition in the key states we need to legalize. Unity in the community is the approach to success and forward progress. We send vibes of positive energy to Cali, and hope these various initiatives can soon see eye to eye.

  5. Mikael Drache on

    Relieved to see that no one was swayed by Ms. Jones’ egocentric efforts to control the process. Be your own “gladiator” Dale!

  6. Democracy Theater on

    “In the past two weeks, a growing number of advocates, industry leaders and legalization supporters have started to gravitate toward a measure backed by billionaire Sean Parker, while the other major legalization campaign – ReformCA – has lost some key supporters.”

    Because billionaires are always looking out for the common man.

  7. Mark Lee on

    This could easily be Ohio all over again. As in the general election caucus each plan, hold a primary, and allow the people of California to decide the compromise between the law changing vote. I knew the “Emerald Triangle” growers and pioneers long before a legal plant could be grown in Cali. I know what their primary purpose was in 1984, which has only further expanded. I would never propose any harm to come to the unsung greats of the industry. $2.00 per square foot among other size/location taxes applied to these bold GIANTS of the industry plus a percentage attack on canopy? NO!!!
    My experience has been that California should be paying the many outdoor grow-ops for reducing the CO2 load on the Cali environment. If Cali could grow even one-million acres of cannabis/hemp yearly in an arranged method of separation, Cali’s carbon emissions tax would greatly reduced, likely to zero, leaving no interference to the Napa Valley, nor any other agricultural enterprise or Federal Preserve.
    I met these wealthier young men when they saw me pictured in “High Times” holding what was a gargantuan reverted Indica bud. It seems the railroad seeded the most general of a cannabis mixture to harvest upon our entry into WWII for rope and parachutes until DuPont of Northern Iowa developed synthetic Rayon and Nylon. These Midwest wild crops were sprayed, and they survived. They were burned, and they survived. This was done to a point that males were scarce, and they still survived. In an experiment, I selected several male plants that survived on my father’s property and just prior to an explosion of pollen I tightly bagged the pollen bearing tops and branches cut them and shook them furiously. My efforts were rewarded with a 1/2 lb. brick of hash that one could not tell from a mild Moroccan. I was also rewarded with a visit from Humboldt County growers. I guaranteed a spray free area, that they could return in three years to harvest, as experimental breeding stock as all of our experiments pointed to many Indica’s and Sativa’s that had survived these many years. When it came time to meet in October of 1983, they traded me many exotic’s and Humboldt grown stock and some cash as well!!! No, reach a consensus or damage every area that was a collection point for their work which I followed as intently as publications of the time would allow.

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