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California Democratic Party Reaffirms Support for Legal Marijuana

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A measure to legalize marijuana is likely to appear on California’s ballot this November, and the state’s biggest political party supports the idea.

The California Democratic Party, at its annual convention over the weekend, reaffirmed a platform plank supporting “the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana, in a manner similar to that of tobacco or alcohol.”

The provision was initially adopted the last time the party revised its platform, in 2014.

On Sunday, however, delegates voted to amend the plank by adding a clause specifying that legalization should prioritize “the health and safety of California’s communities over revenue or profits.”

The new language reflects an emerging area of discussion and concern surrounding marijuana’s increasing acceptance and evolving legal status.

Anti-legalization organizations like Smart Approaches to Marijuana often say that ending prohibition will result in a new industry focused solely on making as much profit as possible, sometimes going so far as to say it will be “Big Tobacco 2.0.”

Even many legalization supporters and neutral analysts have made a point to push for tough regulations that restrict the increasingly legal marijuana industry’s ability to advertise or produce edibles that could appeal to children.

While there are several marijuana legalization proposals collecting signatures for November’s ballot, only one appears to have the funding and professional organizing muscle that it will take to qualify. The measure, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), would allow adults over 21 years old to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow as many as six plants in their homes. It would also enact a system to tax and regulate marijuana sales.

In line with the state Democratic Party’s newly adopted platform clause, the measure would prohibit advertising marijuana in a manner aimed at minors or near schools. It also mandates strict regulations governing testing and labeling for marijuana products, including that packaging must be resealable and child resistant.

The effort to collect the 365,880 valid signatures from registered voters in order to qualify the measure for the ballot is being funded by major donors, including former Facebook president Sean Parker and a campaign committee created by Weedmaps. (Full disclosure: Weedmaps owns and operates Marijuana.com.)

The proposal has the backing of the California State NAACP and the California Medical Association. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has also endorsed.

Other leading elected Democrats in the state, such as Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, are vocal legalization opponents.

While the state Democratic Party hasn’t yet endorsed the AUMA measure specifically, its support for the general concept of legalizing and regulating marijuana should help the campaign’s effort to appeal to undecided voters.

According to the California Secretary of State, 43.1 percent of the state’s voters are Democrats, compared to 27.6 percent who are Republicans and 5.3 percent who belong to other parties. Twenty-four percent of registered voters in the state have no party preference.

In 2010, the party was neutral on a ballot measure which would have made California the first state to legalize marijuana. It failed 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent.

A poll released last week found that 60 percent of California likely voters now support legalization.

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