Review, explanation and analysis

By Chris Conrad, with Mikki Norris, Lauren Vazquez and assorted other attorneys and experts on the initiative.  © Drug Policy Action, 2016

This document explains the structure and functions of the proposed Adult Use of Marijuana Act (signatures turned in May 4, 2016 no ballot number assigned yet.)

Download a PDF of the original Powerpoint presentation

It begins with a brief history of the legalization process in California and the US, followed by an overview of the initiative, how it interfaces with medical marijuana laws, newly legal activities, commercial regulation, enforcement penalties, taxes, disbursements social justice aspects and AUMA’s importance going forth from here.

The Road to Legalization

1996: California voters passed Prop 215* creating a limited immunity for medical marijuana patients to use in court if they get arrested and calling on the legislature to regulate distribution. The legislature cannot change this immunity.

2004: California legislature passes SB 420** limited immunity for groups of patients called “collectives” and created a state ID card program to identify qualified patients who voluntarily register with the program.

2010  voters narrowly rejected Prop 19, which would have legalized non-medical use by adults and licensed commercial activities.

2012 Voters in Colorado and Washington State legalized non-medical use and sales of marijuana. Washington state bans non-medical home gardens and batters state medical marijuana providers.

2013 The US government issues the federal “Cole Memo” that it will not interfere with state laws that include “robustly enforced” “strict regulations.”

2014 Voters in Oregon, Alaska and Washington DC legalize non-medical adult use.

2015 California legislators pass the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety ACT (MMRSA) that removes the collective legal defense and requires both state and local licenses to provide medical marijuana or share between patients.  State Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom sponsors a Blue Ribbon Commission to get input from voters all over the state in designing a legalization bill for California. Some 17 initiatives are filed by various groups; only AUMA is funded.

2016 The non-medical legalization initiative collected more than enough signatures to be placed on the California ballot. Legalization initiatives are also expected to qualify in AZ, NV, OH, MA, ME and possibly Florida.

How AUMA 2016 works

  • AUMA protects and expands the rights of patients under Prop 215, SB 420 and MMRSA.
  • Creates a legal right for adults 21+ to possess, share and carry small amounts of cannabis and concentrate, grow discrete home gardens and keep the harvest, including resentencing, early release and expungement of criminal records, with a presumption of being eligible.
  • Eliminates marijuana jail offenses for minors, reduces most penalties for adults 18-20, retroactive effect, restorative justice
  • Creates a statewide commercial system based on the  with agency to review and revise policies
  • Complies with Federal “Cole” Guidelines
  • Allows localities wide latitude in licensing
  • Provides for the use of tax revenues
  • Allows legislature to reduce penalties and repeal statutes, cannot change Prop 215

Legalization; not prohibition repeal

  • One ounce / 8 grams / 6 plants
  • Legal for adults 21+ to possess, transport,process, share and give away
  • Legal home-grows up to 6 plants in enclosed space; Localities cannot ban indoor grows
  • May keep the harvest or give it away
  • More than 1 ounce/8 grams/6 plants = Prop 215
  • Civil and criminal penalties for violations


 AUMA and medical marijuana law

  • Protects Prop 215 rights covering larger quantities, all ages
  • Overturns local bans on enclosed, discreet gardens up to six plants, legalizes sharing
  • Expands parental & privacy rights for patients
  • Relieves patients with state MMID card frompaying sales tax; other taxes still apply
  • Caps the MMID Card at $100, less for Medi-Cal

Creates a dual regulatory system

  • Statewide licensing plan parallels MMRSA
  • Licenses: 13 types of cultivation plus retail, manufacture,testing, distribution, and micro
  • No excessive concentration of licenses in a city or county
  • Allows local governments to license, zone, ban businesses or defer to the state program
  • Regulates cannabis as an agricultural product, water, pesticides
  • Testing, labeling, packaging, dosage rules
  • Advertising Restrictions
  • Regulations must be evidence based and feasible

Favors small California businesses

  • Must be a CA resident to get a license (1/2019)
  • Five year delay on issuing large scale licenses
  • Fees are proportionate to business size
  • Smallest, micro-licensees can be vertically integrated but not largest cultivation licensees
  • Five year delay on issuing large scale licenses
  • Anti-monopoly provisions, no price fixing, can’t sell at a loss to undercut competitors

Provides for Commercial Taxes

  • Production tax $9.25 ounce bud, $2.75 per ounce of leaf paid by commercial grower
  • Production tax to be reviewed & revised based on market rates
  • 15% excise tax included in retail consumer’s sales price, + State Sales Tax
  • Requires vote of people to increase local tax (Patients with MMID Card Exempt)

Provides for the use of tax revenues

  • Pay for Administrative Costs of Commercial Licensing
  • $10 mil for CA Universities to study implementation
  • $3 mil to CHP to study DUI’s
  • $50 mil grants for economic development of communities affected by prohibition
  • $2 mil to Center for Medicinal Cannabis research
  • 60% Youth Education and Prevention
  • 20% Environmental Restoration & Preservation
  • 20% Local Law Enforcement Grants
  • No CMT funds go to localities with bans

Retailers & Distributors

• 26070. (3) “Microbusiness,” for the cultivation of marijuana on an area less than 10,000 square feet and to act as a licensed distributor, Level 1 manufacturer, and retailer under this division, provided such licensee complies with all requirements imposed by this division on licensed cultivators, distributors, Level 1* manufacturers, and retailers to the extent the licensee engages in such activities.

* Sites that manufacture marijuana products using nonvolatile solvents, or no solvents.

Other points of special interest

  • Sets fines for smoking or vaping in public
  • On-Site Consumption Licenses
  • Local government can license “cup” events
  • Allows hemp production & manufacturing
  • Does not authorize driving impaired, “open container,” or smoking in driver’s compartment
  • ‘Drug Free Workplace’ — can still drug test
  • Landlords don’t have to allow cultivation

Social Justice Restored

  • Makes many misdemeanors legal
  • Reduces many felonies to misdemeanors
  • Retroactive relief for cannabis offenders who are already facing prosecution or sentencing
  • Allows priors to be reduced and/or expunged
  • No jail for under-age offenders, records closed
  • Prior convictions may not prevent licensing
  • Legal cannabis no longer grounds for police search


Recap and Conclusion

  • Legalizes for patients and non-medical adults
  • Takes consumers out of the closet
  • Sends a message to the world that people want cannabis to be treated more like alcohol
  • Emboldens other states, nations to legalize
  • Undermines drug cartels’ market grip
  • Opens world’s largest cannabis market to you

Prepared by cannabis expert Chris Conrad •

Books by Chris Conrad

  • The Newbie’s Guide to Cannabis & the Industry
  • Cannabis Yields and Dosage
  • Shattered Lives: PortraitsFrom America’s Drug War
  • Oaksterdam University
  • Consultation services
  • Expert witness in, 510-275-9311,,


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  2. dress wedding July 12, 2016 at 4:37 am

    Hi again,

    Great work and much appreciated. Reading 63 p0ages has discouraged me for some time now, even though I knew the funding would make this the one we vote on.

    What about the already incarcerated? Karen Byers told me last night this would free them upon passage, but I don’t see that in your analysis here.

    • chrisconrad420 July 14, 2016 at 5:52 am

      Hi, Dress, Karen is correct, here is what it says: AUMA 11361.8 (a) “A person currently serving a sentence for a conviction, whether by trial or by open or negotiated plea, who would not have been guilty of an offense or who would have been guilty of a lesser offense under the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act had that Act been in effect at the time of the offense may petition for a recall or dismissal of sentence before the trial court that entered the judgment of conviction in his or her case to request resentencing or dismissal in accordance with Sections 11357, 11358, 11359, 11360, 11362.1, 11362.2, 11362. 3, and 11362. 4 as those sections have been amended or added by this Act.” Also, “(c) A person who is serving a sentence and resentenced pursuant to subdivision (b) shall be given credit for any time already served and shall be subject to supervision for one year following completion of his or her time in custody or shall be subject to whatever supervision time he or she would have otherwise been subject to after release, whichever is shorter, unless the court, in its discretion, as part of its resentencing order, releases the person from supervision. Such person is subject to parole supervision under Penal Code Section 3000.08 or post-release community supervision under subdivision (a) of Section 3451 of the Penal Code by the designated agency and the jurisdiction of the court in the county in which the offender is released or resides, or in which an alleged violation of supervision has occurred, for the purpose of hearing petitions to revoke supervision and impose a term of custody.” and (d) “Under no circumstances may resentencing under this section result in the imposition of a term longer than the original sentence, or the reinstatement of charges dismissed pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement.”

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  4. SC August 1, 2016 at 4:49 am

    I have a question. Under the AUMA, is there any recourse against an inconsiderate neighbor? One of my family members is a severe asthmatic who is extremely allergic to pot oil and smoke (with the potential for anaphalactic shock). I have nothing personal against pot, it’s allowed my disabled father to wean off more intense medications and live a normal life. Unfortunately since the advent of medical marijuana, we’ve had our share of neighbors who decided it’s their duty to ‘hotbox the world’. We’ve had to move from three separate apartments due to this, and an absolute unwillingness of landlords and LE to do anything. I now live in a house with a similar issue from a nearby condo. This has occasionally resulted in having to leave my own house in the middle of the night for several hours. While the local LE has tried to help out their hands are tied. The condo HOA could care less.

    I understand and respect the right of others to enjoy or self-medicate. I just wish they would expect my family member’s right to breathe. We shouldn’t have to live in a bubble, or worry about the possibility of my family member suffocating in their sleep because a neighbor decided their party was more important. The majority of users I know (many) are responsible and understanding. It would be nice to be able to have adequate recourse against those who are not so considerate.

    • chrisconrad420 November 23, 2016 at 6:47 pm

      Hi, SC, sorry I didn’t see this earlier on but we get so much spam that it’s hard to find the real messages. Prop. 64 does not allow people to make one another sick, but you are right that it is not a legal offense. My suggestion would be one of two things, in the spirit of neighborliness, and that is to talk with your neighbor about it and explain the situation and then either to get a charcoal air filter for them to use or to use in your own apartment to clear out the air. Even a fan in their home to blow it in the other direction from you would be a help, I suspect. It would be nice if you could get them to control the odor from their apartment but a lot of cannabis consumers like the fragrance and think everyone else should, as well, so they may not be as careful as you wish. For those purposes it would probably be better to get a small air filter and keep it near the window or area where the aroma penetrates your home and turn it off or on as needed. That way you don’t have to live in a bubble or argue with your neighbors and you can still get a comfortable night’s sleep. Given the imprecise situation in the law, getting a filter and also educating them to be good neighbors is probably your best bet. Good luck.

  5. aimhigh September 30, 2016 at 12:37 am

    Mr. Conrad, a question,
    The “vertical integration” issue seems to be a major hindrance to the support of this initiative in the grass roots community, and understandably so.
    I have been looking at the language of the initiative to try and untangle this knot..
    You have claimed that “Smallest, micro-licensees can be vertically integrated but not largest cultivation licensees”…ined/#more-738

    But section 26053(c) clearly states:
    “c) Except as provided in subdivision(b), a person or entity may apply for and be issued more than one license under this division.”

    And Section 26061(e) states:
    “e)Commencing on January 1, 2023,A Type 5, Type 5A, or Type 5B licensee may apply for and hold a Type 6or Type 7 license and apply for and hold Type 10 license. A Type 5, Type 5A, or Type 5B licensee shall not eligible to apply foror hold a Type 8, Type 11, or Type 12license.”

    In other words, under 26053(c) the ability for multiple licensing is written into the statute and under 26061(e) when the Type 5 licenses kick in in 2023, the only licenses off limits to those with a Type 5, 5A, or 5B license will be a Type 8, Type 11, or Type 12 license.

    So the natural next question is what are Type 8, 11, and 12 licenses. They are as follows:
    Type 8 = Testing
    Type 11 = Distributor
    Type 12 = Microbusiness

    Now we come to the meat and potatoes.
    Testing is moot because it has always been the case that it would be 3rd party.
    Distribution is also moot because my understanding is AUMA guts mandatory distribution.
    Microbusiness also seems moot because those embarking on Type 5 licensing would not be in the micorbusiness category to begin with.
    Notably Type 10 licensing = Retail would be allowed.
    So come 2023, any entity may have a Type 5 license(s) and retail stores which sounds an awful lot like vertical integration(farm to table).

    So it appears that for all practical purposes, the claim that vertical integration is prohibited except for microbusinesses rings hollow upon further analysis. It is a language game.

    Would you please comment one way or the other. I may be missing something in the legalese but I don’t think so.


    • chrisconrad420 October 6, 2016 at 2:51 am

      Hello,, Thanks for the question. I have to take a look at it and get back with you but wanted to let you know that I picked up your comment.

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  8. Lisa Douglas Schubert October 8, 2016 at 1:25 am

    Thank you Mr.Conrad for your work. The Compassionate Use Defence has been entirely disallowed at Citrus Court in California. The public defender’s office is under the impression that only MMJ patients who hold the county issued card are entitled to the CUD . Patients who have previous criminal records are strong armed into guilty pleas with threats of outrageous sentences despite the specific provisions afforded them by Prop215. How will these wrongful convictions be affected by Prop 64’s passage? Will holders of paper doctors recommendations, who have been convicted by these coerced guilty pleas, then finally have Prop 215 and CUD protections? Can these convictions be overturned or cases retried and dismissed? -Lisa

    • chrisconrad420 February 12, 2017 at 4:05 am

      They can go to court to get resentenced at the lower penalties under Prop. 64. That means that most people’s felonies will become misdemeanors and some will be completely erased. Prop. 64 does not change local civil ordinances except those that ban all cultivation of cannabis, now they must allow for enclosed gardens such as greenhouses or indoor gardens. If a locality bans outdoor gardens or commercial activity they cannot receive the law enforcement funds generated by Prop. 64.

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