Grandfather of National Pot Groups Endorses California Legalization Effort

Grandfather of National Pot Groups Endorses California Legalization Effort
File photo by Enrie Manrique/L.A. Weekly

A statewide marijuana legalization effort backed by California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Silicon Valley billionaire Sean Parker is getting its ducks in a row.

Earlier this winter the board of a competing initiative by ReformCA, a coalition of major pro-legalization groups, voted to suspend its Control, Regulate and Tax Cannabis Act, thus giving the Newsom-Parker proposal, known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), the advantage as the only major legalization initiative aiming for the November ballot in California.

Over the weekend the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, better known as NORML, threw its weight behind AUMA.

NORML's board voted in Washington, D.C., to endorse AUMA, the group's executive director, Allen St. Pierre, confirmed.

"With the largest population of both marijuana producers and consumers in the United States, along with the largest voting delegation in Congress, the importance of voters in America's most populous and influential state, California, passing a binding marijuana legalization ballot initiative in 2016 can't be overstated," St. Pierre said. "On the matter of ending marijuana prohibition in America, as California goes, so too goes the rest of the nation."

However, with AUMA still gathering the necessary signatures to be on the November ballot, the state chapter of NORML is holding off on endorsement.

"We have the policy of not endorsing until something has made the ballot," NORML's California director, Dale Gieringer, told us. "We're likely to support whatever gets on the ballot."

The national group has the same policy but decided to make an exception.

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"The NORML board reversed its former policy of waiting until an initiative has officially qualified for the ballot before endorsing it, believing our endorsement could have a greater impact on the eventual outcome if it came earlier in the process," the nonprofit group said in a statement.

AUMA aims to regulate marijuana like alcohol, allowing up to one ounce for those 21 and older. Dispensaries regulated by state authorities could sell it.

"There are other proposed initiatives in California that include provisions that are even more consumer-friendly," NORML states, "but those alternatives have little chance of qualifying for the ballot or being approved by a majority of the state’s voters."

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