The recent opinion piece “More pot will mean more use among youth” by Maurina Cintron highlights several key issues that certainly merit further examination. The Adult Use Of Marijuana Act (“AUMA”) poised to be on the November ballot will legalize responsible use of marijuana for adults (21 & over) within a tightly regulated system.
Over the past two decades great efforts have been made to reduce the teen use of alcohol and tobacco. By providing common sense regulations, coupled with public education, taxation, and age and advertising restrictions, the rates of teen use are the lowest in decades. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (“AUMA”) applies these same principles and strategies to reduce the accessibility of marijuana for California’s youth.
By legalizing marijuana, AUMA will move marijuana purchases into a legal structure with strict safeguards against children accessing it. The measure prohibits the consumption of marijuana in public places, including within 1,000 feet of K-12 schools and other areas where children are present. Marijuana will not be sold in locations where alcohol or tobacco are sold, such as in grocery and convenience stores.
AUMA establishes strict packaging and labeling standards, including warning labels and child resistant packaging that helps keep marijuana products from accidentally ending up in the hands of children. Marijuana cannot be packaged in a manner that is appealing to children.
AUMA imposes a 15 percent excise tax on all retail sales of marijuana (both medical and nonmedical), in addition to the state sales tax, and a separate tax on cultivation. State officials estimate that this will generate hundreds of millions of dollars to over $1 billion in new revenue each year. After ensuring the new law is adequately funded and researched, sixty percent of the remaining funds will be placed in a youth education and treatment fund. Hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue will be spent to prevent and treat the misuse of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs by youth, keep youth in school, help connect youth and their families to programs, and build treatment centers for youth. When possible, programs shall provide a continuum of care that includes family-based interventions.
The impact of criminal convictions on the education, employment, and other life opportunities for young people can be severe, even for marijuana offenses. It’s necessary to minimize those consequences for youth who are still developing and learning how to make informed decisions. Youth under the age of 18 may only be charged with infractions for marijuana offenses under AUMA. They will not be threatened with incarceration; instead, youth will be required to attend drug awareness education, counseling, and be required to complete community service. All marijuana offenses will be automatically expunged from a youth’s record when he or she turns 18.
Four states (and Washington, D.C.) have legalized the adult use of marijuana and 26 states have legalized the medical use of marijuana. Research shows that the wider availability of marijuana, in states that have legalized medical use and adult use, has not led to increased rates of use among teens. Because AUMA imposes the strictest regulations of any state to date youth use of marijuana will not increase. I for one am ready to protect my children through regulation because the war on drugs has caused more harm than regulation ever will.