What Will Recreational Marijuana Legalization Mean for California? Q&A with Lynne Lyman

What Will Recreational Marijuana Legalization Mean for California? Q&A with Lynne Lyman


This initiative goes further than any other
initiative anywhere in the world when it comes to marijuana legalization. Hi, I’m Zach Weissmueller for Reason TV, here
with Lynne Lyman, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance and proponent
of Prop 64, which would legalize commercial marijuana sales in California. So, if you have anything you want to know
about marijuana legalization, start posting in the comments section of this video right
now. So, we’ve seen commercial legalization in
several states now: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska… something resembling it
in Washington, D.C., although because that’s a federal district, it hasn’t really been
implemented. What does it mean for the country if California
jumps on that bandwagon and legalizes it? This initiative goes further than any other
initiative anywhere in the world when it comes to marijuana legalization. You know, we’re really setting a new floor
for what marijuana legalization should include. This is not just about people being able to
smoke their weed. This not about people being able to make their
money. You know, those things will happen in the
process, but this is about rectifying decades of a failed war on drugs that has really been
driven by marijuana offenses if you look at drug arrests. And so, to address that, we’ve taken some
steps in this initiative that we see as reparative justice. The second thing that makes this significant
for the country is the size of California. We will nearly double the number of people
who are living in a jurisdiction that doesn’t have marijuana prohibition through this initiative. And so, we see California– –particularly,
there’s four other states as well. And if all five of us were to pass marijuana
legalization this year, it could really be the tipping point to end prohibition federally. Since California last tried this with Prop
19, and failed at it, there’s been an inflection point in public opinion, where you suddenly
see the majority of people favor marijuana legalization. In a strange way, the biggest obstacle seems
like it might be complacency. People see that medical marijuana is legal
here. It’s pretty easy to get medical marijuana
for just about anybody. So, people think, why bother? Marijuana is only legal for white people in
California, practically. When you look at how the law is being applied. If you are white, and you are 21 or over,
then you can pretty much use marijuana without criminal justice involvement. That is not true for African-Americans in
California or even for Latinos. African-Americans are four times more likely
to get stopped for marijuana, Latinos two times more likely, despite the fact that white
people use and sell marijuana at slightly higher rates than black and Latinos in California. If California were to pass this legalization
of commercial sales of marijuana, what would you expect would happen in terms of the prison
population, the jail population, do you have any idea? My guesstimate is it’s going to be under 10,000
people who are currently in jail who will now be eligible for having their sentence
reduced, much like happened under Prop 47. And this is also applicable retroactively. So to anybody who has a marijuana offense
on their record going back 5, 10, 50 years will be eligible to have their record cleared. And I think that could– –having gone through
this with Prop 47, where in LA county alone we had 800,000 people eligible for Prop 47
record change, I’m guessing that we’re going to be at half a million, at least, statewide
for the marijuana change. So, hundreds of thousands of Californians
will be able to have their record cleared. And I’m thinking it’s going to be between
five and ten thousand will be able to petition to get released from jail. But I think, then, people are maybe thinking,
well, there’s not really many people that are being punished just for marijuana. But you mentioned that it is kind of the foundation
of the drug war. Could you expound on that a little bit? Yeah, well, when you look at mass incarceration
and how we got where we are–for those of your viewers who may not know–we have five
percent of the world’s population and twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners. And what has got us here is the war on drugs
and our drug laws. So the biggest sort of feeder is drug arrests. About 1.2 to 1.5 million drug-related arrests
a year. Half of those are marijuana-only offenses. We’ve seen that law enforcement has really
just not eased up, generating 700-800,000 arrests in this country every year and continuing
to keep our prisons and our jails, which is where a lot of these folks are going–even
in other states–overfull. What has California, in crafting this initiative,
Prop 64, learned from what these other states have done right and done wrong? The governor recently signed into law medical
marijuana regulation. And so, for the most part, Prop 64 just builds
on the bureaucratic structure–call it–there’s a new bureau: The Bureau of Marijuana Control. It’s inside the Department of Consumer Affairs,
kind of like the ABC has always been for liquor retailers, they will be for cannabis retailers
and cultivators, all the licenses. So, one of the things we learned was, be intentional,
arrests drop drastically. All marijuana-related arrests drop drastically
after legalization in every jurisdiction. The racial discrimination in that disparity
continues to exist, just at lower numbers. And so, that was one of the reasons it was
important to protect kids from the criminal justice system with this initiative. And I’d like to dig a little bit more into
the details of the regulation in a second, but first we’ll turn to our questions. We’ve got a couple pulled up from Facebook. Josh Kelly asks, “How can we convince long
standing, anti marijuana citizens that marijuana is a good thing?” Well, I don’t know if I would ask anybody
who believes that to change their mind and believe that marijuana is a good thing. What I would ask that person is, “Is marijuana
legalization better than what we have today?” So, reducing the numbers of people who go
into the criminal justice system for marijuana, and a product that’s safer for consumers,
regulated by public health, and the people who do that…. Isn’t that a better option, even if you don’t
like marijuana and you think it’s a bad thing. Robert Rosales says, “Why can’t 18-year-olds
get prescription marijuana when 10-year-olds can get oxycontin?” Well, actually, Prop 64 does not affect Prop
215, which is the Compassionate Use Act, which allowed medicinal marijuana for patients. We don’t touch that. Prop 215 applies to 18 and over. It’s interesting, the politics of medical
marijuana and commercial marijuana. Because we saw, last time, during Prop 19,
a strange anti-marijuana force arose in Northern California with the growers: The small, family
farms growing marijuana were afraid they were going to get crushed by commercialization,
so they actually came out against commercial legalization. What has Prop 64 done to address that and
kind of bring them into the fold? One of the big pieces that we try to be responsive
to that concern is a five-year ban on large licenses. So, for the first five years, no large licenses
will be given out. And that’s 22,000 square feet or above. We also wrote into the licensing regime that
the regulating agency has to consider whether handing out this particular license to this
particular business would lead to the creation of a monopoly. The licensing is where we get into the areas
of concern for me, from a libertarian perspective. There’s kind of a self-conscious approach
to approach it like the wine industry or beer, where you have the tiered system. So, you know, you can get a license to be
a distributor or a grower or a retail seller, but it may be impossible to hold all of those
licenses. There’s not what they call, “vertical integration.” Not under Prop 64. Oh, ok. We put a special license type, license type
number 19, which is called the “micro license.” So for small shops, you can get a license,
fully vertically integrated, 10,000 square feet or less. And what’s the rationale for this kind of
tiered licensing once they get bigger? The licensing, for the most part, replicated
what the governor and the legislature passed for medical last year. We did add that micro license. We added the five-year ban. So we did a few little improvements around
the edges, to protect the growers and the small business people. And, in terms of personal use, and growing
in your own home, that’s treated as a totally separate thing, right? Yeah, that’s back to personal use. So, you can have up to an ounce of flower,
marijuana flower on you, up to 8 grams of concentrate, or up to six plants at home. Let’s see, we have another question from Matt
Vest, “What would you say to people who believe that cannabis is a ‘gateway drug’?” That it’s not. You just can’t find any hard scientific evidence
behind that theory. What we do see is that people who end up having
problematic drug use at some time later in their life probably were doing everything
that they could at a really young age. Meaning, alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, whatever
what is in their family’s, you know, medicine cabinet. There is no causation between using marijuana
and ending up with problematic drug use. Jeff Hamilton asks, “Doesn’t over-regulation
of marijuana tend to undercut the gains made by decriminalization by continuing to make
the the black market attractive for buyers and sellers?” It’s particularly a challenge in California
that the other states have not had. Because in California, because of medical
marijuana legalization in 1996, we’ve had a 20-year-old marijuana industry. Most of these states didn’t. So we have to transition our underground market
into a legal market. The issue of taxation is related to this. So, if you tax too high, people will stay
in the underground, illicit market. But you have to tax. And we’ve seen that play out in, I believe
in Oregon a little bit, where the taxes were– –It was Washington. Washington. Where the taxes on recreational were so high
that everybody stayed in the medical market, which wasn’t being taxed at all. So they had to adjust. And we may have to adjust as well. If we just had the one excise tax, which was
at 15 percent under retail, it would be fine. But counties and cities have the authority
to add additional taxes on. So if we’re getting up to 30, 35 percent tax,
then yeah. That’s when people are going to stay in the
illicit, underground market. And we’re trying to begin to work with cities
and counties to say, “Don’t go crazy. I know you need money for everything. Don’t go crazy. Start low.” Maria Emmons asks, “Has anyone overdosed on
marijuana?” No, but that doesn’t mean that marijuana isn’t
a–or can’t be dangerous. Right? It is a psychoactive substance. No doubt about it. And consuming too much, consuming it in the
wrong space, consuming it on top of mental health or physical issues you may have, I
think that what we have to do is provide what I call “reality-based drug education” to young
people and to adults. Like, no, it is not going to kill you. Can it be dangerous? Yes. Here’s why. Don’t mix it with alcohol. Don’t take it before you drive. If you’re doing edibles, start small. Don’t be Maureen Dowd. Don’t be Maureen Dowd! Right! Keep a journal of how much you took and how
it made you feel. It’s going to take sixty to ninety minutes,
so wait your ninety minutes. So that’s what we need to do. Not tell people,”Marijuana is going to kill
you!” We had a question from Cash Foley, who asks,
“Does going further than anywhere else in the world put the initiative at risk?” Well… yes! And this is why people can’t be complacent,
and they can’t stay at home. And they can’t say, “Ah, it’s practically
legal, who needs to vote on it?” Or, “The line was too long.” Law enforcement, who is our primary opponents,
are coming on hard. They have some kind of real big scare tactics
up their sleeve, and if they raise they money, then it’s going to be a tough race. Some of the tactics I’ve heard, or, I guess,
the talking points, from that side… It’s very focused on the “protecting the children”
type of argument. And you addressed that a little bit at the
beginning in terms of the labeling, and you’re not allowed to sell it near schools. What about the argument that legalizing something
sends the message to children that it’s OK and therefore more kids are going to experiment
with marijuana before they should? I don’t think it has any merit. I’m a mother of a 12-year-old and, no, she
cannot touch my alcohol. She cannot touch my marijuana. So, I think it’s pretty easy for parents to
be clear about something may be legal, but it’s not safe for children or OK for children
or even acceptable for children. So I think that that’s kind of a dog whistle,
the whole “watch out for the kids” thing, I think is just, you now, the cops trying
to hide behind the children. This is an interesting question from Tim Hess,
“Does California have a plan to store the revenue from weed sales, which has led to
problems in Colorado.” Just so our audience knows what he means,
Colorado took in so much money from commercial marijuana sales that they had a budget surplus
and they had no law in place with what to do with all the extra cash. So does California have a plan if that should
happen? Well, Ithink the California legislature and
the government would be so happy if that happened, but I don’t expect that to happen. One of the things we did learn from Colorado
was to be more prescriptive with the revenue allocation. So we’re very prescriptive. There’s a number of funds. I can run through them if you want. Yeah, just give us a taste of where it’s going. So, at full implementation, which will take
a few years, right, there’s the revenue is expected to be about $1 billion. That’s an estimate from the nonpartisan legislative
analysts office. So, of that billion, there’s some pieces off
the top: $10 million goes to the UC system for research on the impact of legalization. $3 million goes to California Highway Patrol
to do research on driving under the influence. The most exciting piece that comes off the
top is this reparative justice piece, which we call the “community reinvestment fund.” It’s $50 million a year that will go into
those communities that were hit the hardest by the war on drugs, and provide them with
services, legal services, education, economic opportunity, financing, support, etc. The rest is split in percentages three ways. 60% of the remaining, so we’re talking, $500
million potentially, will go to youth drug education, treatment, and prevention. 20% goes to the environment. And that is for environmental remediation
and restoration. There’s been a lot of damage from illegal
grows, particularly up north. And then 20% goes back to the local government. And the local government can pretty much do
what they want with it. If a local government bans commercial sales,
they will not get their 20%. A big outstanding question mark here is, kind
of, what is the federal government going to do if the largest state in the union legalizes
commercial marijuana? We saw under the Obama administration, at
least at the beginning of that administration, there was actually a ramp up of raids on medical
marijuana clinics. Who knows what a Trump administration would
do on this issue. And Clinton administration, you know, she’s
not even ostensibly as liberal Obama. So what do you expect might happen at the
federal level if this passes? Marijuana laws in states are sort of guided
by what’s called the “Cole memo,” and the Cole memo essentially said this–it came out
of Obama’s Department of Justice, several years back–and it said, “We aren’t going
to interfere with the states. States who want to experiment with marijuana
laws, we’re going to stay out, if you follow the eight or ten guidelines.” So, obviously, in every state where we’ve
legalized, we have followed the guidelines to keep the feds out. But the Cole memo becomes no longer the sort
of ruling document with a new presidency. The other issue is funding for the DEA and
the US Attorneys to prosecute marijuana in the states. So there was the Rohrbacher amendment, our
congressman from Orange County, Dana Rohrbacher, with a number of other California congressmen,
on both sides of the aisle, passed legislation a year or two ago that said that the federal
government can’t use federal money to interfere in a state’s marijuana laws. So that would actually have to be changed
by Congress. The Cole memo could just be changed by the
president. But to re-fund the federal government sticking
their hands into our marijuana would take, I believe, a new vote in Congress. What do you see in the next 5 or 10 years? Do you think marijuana legalization is going
to sweep the nation? Are we going to start talking about other
drugs being legalized? What do you expect might happen? Well, I do see this as a tipping point for
marijuana, and I do think marijuana legalization will sweep the nation and eventually federal
prohibition will be ended. I see that on a 5-10 year track. But marijuana legalization is really only
just the first step. So, my organization, the Drug Policy Alliance,
we will be moving towards advancing all drug decriminalization. So, what we call the “Portugal model.” Where nobody can get arrested for using drugs,
ever. I mean, you can still get citations, and you
can be called to do this community service or that, but you cannot get arrested for using
drugs in the country of Portugal. And what have they seen? They implemented this in 2001. And in those years since, they have seen,
of course incarceration and arrests have gone down. But drug treatment has gone up. And staying in drug treatment. And youth use has gone down. And overdoses have gone way down. So we really see marijuana as maybe the low-hanging
fruit of this battle. And this is all very tied into mass criminalization. So, taking away these tools for law enforcement
to overly harass and criminalize people for, you know, what they’re putting in their bodies. Lynne Lyman, thank you for talking to us. It’s good to see you again, Zach. For Reason TV, I’m Zach Weissmueller.

8 thoughts on “What Will Recreational Marijuana Legalization Mean for California? Q&A with Lynne Lyman”

  • It always seems to pop up, crime rates will go down if it's legal . . . If you make ANY illegal crime legal then crime rates rates will drop. If murder was legal then more murders would happen but it wouldn't be a crime, if child rape was legal then there would be less crimes and so on. Then you have the people that say well that's why we need laws in place to make it legal and protected via age. Lets take something that is already legal as an example: Driving, driving is legal as long as you have the right age, papers, and licence and yet most people that drive do it, or have done it illegally, WHOA! Slow down there you can't say that MOST people do it illegally you can't even prove such a thing! Have you ever got a speeding ticket? Parking violation? Headlight or taillight go out and not noticed? Driven without a seat belt? Or ever drove after drinking or on any medication? Most of those are fines, tickets, or violations. So does making something legal make it right? Why can't we just make a THC free "weed" ? Take away the high and you are left with less people abusing it for a mind altering substance plus you still get the medical use benefits. Then all the junkies can get started on the legalization or meth . . . cuz of um more money revue and um less crime punishments

  • Richard Barr says:

    Why not hate on something worthy
    There should be people hating like the Clintons and Obamas. Atleast pot has several good qualities.

  • harwood philips says:

    i got high quality marijuana,shipping and tracking confirmation, cash on delivery only in USAe,CANADA and some part of EUROPE…interested persons should contact +17043505861 on whatsapp for more info thanks

  • Carolyn Miller says:

    Pass it in Tn,,,already!!!! U,,,jackasses!!!! Get rid of u little..pills!!!!an alochol…that's what killing people,,,dumb. People !!!! Tell just a.bunch,,,of idots!!!!

  • I love the prison and criminal justice reform component of this interview. The war on drugs is such a mess and has hurt our country and our citizens so badly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *