Proposition 64, or the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA for short), was recently approved by California voters last week. This law makes the cultivation and consumption of marijuana legal in California for those 21 and older. They are now legally able to: possess up to an ounce of marijuana, grow up to 6 marijuana plants, and possess up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrate. While this may sound like a large victory for California and its progressive population, I do not feel the same way.
The largest, most glaring problem in Proposition 64 is the taxation of marijuana. There will be a $9.25 tax on every ounce of cultivated marijuana, and then a 15% excise tax on sales, on top of the existing 7.5% sales tax. An average or “mid-shelf” quality gram of marijuana currently costs about $10 at medical dispensaries in the Sacramento area. After the Proposition 64 taxes are taken into consideration and applied, a “mid shelf” gram is estimated to cost about $14.
Heavy taxation is going to persuade individuals to continue to grow and sell marijuana on the black market, without the state government having any knowledge. A tax of $9.25 per dried ounce of bud may not seem like much. However many small-time farmers harvest over 20 lbs of marijuana every October, and that tax is suddenly costing this farmer almost $3,000. To avoid being taxed this heavily, a farmer may choose to keep his garden secret. It is not fair that now because this measure passed, every marijuana grower owes the state money on the product they have been cultivating.
Another imperfection I find in Prop. 64 is that it lumps together medical patients and recreational users, as well as the people that produce cannabis for recreational use and those who cultivate for medical patients. This is troubling because the prices of medicinal marijuana will rise due to the cost of shutting down unlicensed farms and the heavy taxes posed on marijuana now.
Many medicinal patients are going to have a hard time paying almost 50% more on cannabis. Those who cannot afford this tax, but still need medical marijuana for a health issue, may find themselves in a tough spot. While recreational weed should and will be taxed, I disagree with charging medical patients more for the same medicine they have had access to since the 1990’s.
Lastly, I disagree with the extreme softening of penalties against minors who possess large amounts of marijuana or minors who are growing it. Minors receive only an infraction for growing, selling, transporting, or using ANY amount of marijuana. This does not seem like an effective system for keeping kids away from marijuana, especially the black market side of things. Now children know the penalties for being caught are far fewer, and most infractions get wiped off a minor’s record upon turning 18.
While there are great aspects to having a government that allows the devil’s lettuce, the way California Proposition 64 is written poses some potential problems for the state, small farms, medical patients, and law enforcement. I hope that the repercussions of the largely unread details in this law encourage Californians to do more research in to what exactly they are voting for.