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California Cannabis Policy Reform :The Ballot Measure Rundown





California Cannabis Policy Reform

Twenty years after the medical cannabis was approved by voters with the passage of Proposition 215, Californians are going to be asked (again) to take the next big leap, to legalize the adult use of cannabis. The stage was indisputably set by the ground-breaking Proposition 19 six years ago, which earned more votes than the Republican candidate for Governor but came up short at the ballot box due to a spooked political class, low youth turnout and an unconvinced cannabis industry. After moving the ball forward, four states and D.C. have since legalized, with four to seven states currently slated for legalizing recreational this year, and two or more slated to pass medical cannabis ballot measures. With the strong promise of legalization of cannabis in California over the past few years, a total of 19 state ballot initiatives were created, all with the intent of giving California its best chance at a fairly legalizing cannabis. As time passed, initiatives slowly dropped from the race to legalize—leaving us with only four more initiatives fighting for your vote. 2016 will be a very, very big year for cannabis policy reform, and the remaining initiatives are California’s last hope in creating a better future for cannabis. Here’s a breakdown of the remaining initiatives and what they’re bringing to the table.


Adult Use of Marijuana Act (aka AUMA) (15-0103)

This is the “consensus” ballot measure, also known as the Control Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Initiative, drafted and funded by Sean Parker and Weedmaps’ Justin Hartfield, and promoted by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project, which can now claim a broad coalition has backed it (after amendments were accepted.) This ballot measure is 62 pages long and funded by national organizations, high net worth individuals and also supported by the California Cannabis Industry Association.

Pro: Professionally managed, this measure gives the best-funded chance for allowing businesses to receive adult use licenses. It allows for private use for adults over 21, and claims it is “the toughest regulations of any adult-use marijuana proposal submitted to date—in the interests of protecting children and preventing diversion to the illegal market.”

Con: Creates the potential for different standards throughout California, allows cities and counties to set local bans without a vote of the people, and transporting or gifting more than an ounce would remain a criminal offense. Allows for single corporate entities to hold all license types and be fully vertically integrated. Taxation at multiple levels may discourage consumers from leaving the illicit market.

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Marijuana Control Legalization Revenue Act (aka MCLR) (15-0120)

The MCLR aka California Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Initiative was initially crafted in an “open source” manner as an editable-by-anyone Google Doc which went through revision after revision for three years, as various policy concepts were studied by grassroots activists, reformers and small business supporters. The ultimate work product of these efforts, however, resulted in Version 7.0 being a streamlined legalization language with a one-page signature form to print at home, collect five signatures, and then mail back to the campaign.

Pro: Would legalize for adults over 21 and create a statewide set of standards for adult use cannabis and its cultivation, manufacture, sales and usage. Would not allow local governments to ban cannabis activities without a local vote of the people. Implementation would be left to the legislature.

Con: Run by political outsiders, it is still unclear where funding to gather signatures and pay for the campaign will come from, unclear whether this generally more permissive language will encourage increased opposition spending. Implementation would be left to the legislature.

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ReformCA (15-0075)

This is a ballot measure developed by the board, staff and hired consultants of the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform after two years of town hall meetings, stakeholder outreach and public opinion polling. Oaksterdam University Chancellor Dale Sky Jones and NAACP chair Alice Huffman, among other notable supporters, are proponents for this initiative. In late 2015, a majority of the board members split from ReformCA and individually endorsed AUMA. However, despite that fact, this initiative is still in the running. No documentation confirms that ReformCA has given up hope just yet.

Pro: Would legalize for adults over 21 and create a statewide set of standards for adult use cannabis and its cultivation, manufacture, sales and usage. Would not allow local governments to ban cannabis activities without a local vote of the people. More reasonable taxation policies to encourage small businesses.

Con: This organization did not gain support from national reform organizations or their significant donors. It was unable to implement its small donor fundraising strategy, and did not receive significant backing from grassroots activists or cannabis industry leaders. It may or may not continue its journey to November ballot.

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 California Cannabis Hemp Initiative (15-0050)

Roughly speaking, this is the “free the weed” measure supported by purists, some grassroots activists, and a loose coalition of decades-long supporters. This measure is affectionately known as The Jack Herer Initiative, the Marijuana and Hemp Legalization Initiative, or simply CCHI, and is inspired by Jack Herer and other vanguard activists. Although it has received much less favor by potential voters in comparison to competing initiatives, it is still in the running, and is currently working on collecting signatures up until April 20.

Pro: Would create the least restrictions regarding cannabis and would liberate those incarcerated for cannabis offenses. The initiative’s longevity and legacy of activism is impressive, and it should be applauded for the honesty and truth of its vision.

Con: CCHI has not presented its passion for cannabis legalization in a way that allowed it to gain notable followers of the general public, unlike its competitors. Was unable to successfully promote previous older versions of the initiative, and failed to reach the ballot multiple times in the past. It may or may not continue its journey to November ballot.

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