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The ACLU Backs Legal Cannabis in California

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Unparalleled inequality from California’s law enforcement has led the American Civil Liberties Union to endorse AUMA. The Adult Use of Marijuana act is expected to be on the ballot this November in California.

The ACLU gave the initiative a boost with its endorsement Wednesday.

“The disastrous war on marijuana in California continues to ensnare thousands of people – particularly young people of color – in the criminal justice system every year,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli of the ACLU of California. “It is time to move from prohibition to regulation. AUMA will establish a controlled and regulated market for adults, significantly reduce the harm done to young people under current marijuana laws, and generate substantial revenue for drug education and for the communities most devastated by the war on drugs.”

The controversial proposed recreational bill would legalize cannabis for adults over 21, but it would impose some restrictions not welcomed by all cannabis business owners. Not every level of the cannabis industry would benefit. Still, AUMA has the best chance at regulating cannnabis on a state level.

The ACLU now joins the California Council of Land Trusts, California Medical Association, and California NAACP in endorsing AUMA.

In 2011, the punishment for minor possession was reduced from a misdemeanor to an infraction, equaling a traffic ticket. Then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger signed the bill after Proposition 19 failed to legalize cannabis in California. Even with decriminalization measures in place, 60,000 more people in California were arrested for cannabis between 2011 and 2014, according to the California Department of Justice.

According to the ACLU’s numbers, 70 percent of all cannabis arrests are minorities. New infraction data from Fresno and Los Angeles Police Departments found racial disparities even at the lowest levels of law enforcement. Both Los Angeles and Fresno are known for the highest rates of racial inequality in California- along with Oakland and other cities.

It is disappointing to see that even at the level of infractions, California law enforcement are incapable of applying the law equally across racial lines,” said Alice Huffman of the CA-Hawaii NAACP. “I am hopeful that full legalization as proposed in the Adult Use of Marijuana Act will drastically reduce the numbers of young people of color being funneled into the criminal justice system for minor drug offenses.”

One of the best parts of AUMA is its potential to retroactively remove penalties for adults that are already in the system.

“The only way to begin to unravel this legacy of disparate enforcement is to move marijuana into a fully regulated market at the statewide level,” said Amanda Reiman of the Drug Policy Alliance.

The ACLU also pointed out that people under the age of 20 account for 73 percent of misdemeanor arrests, however, obviously AUMA only helps adults over the age of 21.

Americans are now calling legal marijuana a civil liberty, and Californians are willing to fight for it.

Benjamin Adams

Benjamin Adams has been a journalist since 2006 and is the Californian correspondent for

His written work has been seen in Cannabis Now Magazine, Culture Magazine, and Treating Yourself Magazine. He’s also written for Merry Jane and

Benjamin studied Art and Argumentative Writing at the University of Utah.

He’s tried cannabis in places ranging from Copenhagen to Jamaica.


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