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Marijuana legalized in more states: Is California next?




hemp plant marijuana weed
hemp plant marijuana weed
Photo by Sean Douglas via Flickr Creative Commons

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Residents of Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. voted to legalize marijuana Tuesday night. 

Oregon's new pot law mimics the ones already in place in Colorado and Washington state.

It legalizes personal possession, production and sale of marijuana for people 21 years and older.

Washington D.C.'s law, however, is a bit different.

To tell more about it and how Tuesday night's vote might change the marijuana debate, Politico reporter Byron Tau joins Take Two. 

While California hasn't legalized recreational marijuana yet, how does legalization in places like D.C., Oregon and Alaska possibly affect what's going on in our home state?

Tamar Todd of the Drug Policy Alliance joins the show for more. 

Todd was one of the drafters of the Oregon measure that just passed and she has her eyes on California in 2016. 

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

 

Guest: Byron Tau

What is the current policy on possession of pot in Washington D.C.?

As of this summer, possession of a small amount of marijuana has been decriminalized. It's no more than a $25 fine if you're caught with it on your person or in your house. You can still be arrested for consuming and smoking it publicly, but generally speaking, marijuana is largely decriminalized here in DC.

This new initiative is called "grow and give." Explain how it works.

The law that passed last night, and overwhelmingly—about 70 percent of city residents voted for it—allows adults 21 and older to grow marijuana in their own home for their own use, but not for sale. It allows up to six marijuana plants, three of them mature at any given time, and allows adults to possess and carry up to two ounces of marijuana. Consumption in public is still illegal.

The one thing that's missing here, compared with other states that have legalized recreational pot, is the commercial aspect. Why do you think proponents of pot legalization in Washington D.C. went with this particular strategy?

There's a quirk in the city's laws that prevents voters from approving anything that would cost the city money. A retail system for distribution of marijuana would require an entirely new agency, entirely new tax laws, the city to essentially start policing and regulating the sale of pot, so backers of this initiative decided to allow simply the growing of pot in your own home for your own use.

Guest: Tamar Todd

Let's talk about the context. A decade ago I think most people would have said California would have been one of the first, if not the first, state in the nation to legalize recreational pot and now we've been beaten out by several states. Why do you think that is?

I think what last night demonstrated is the huge, unprecedented momentum for marijuana law reform that is rapidly accelerating since Colorado and Washington took the leap to adopt a new approach to marijuana in 2012. When we proceeded in Oregon and Alaska and D.C. in this midterm election it was viewed as taking a risk—there was going to be lower turnout. But what we saw last night was these real decisive victories that are showing that marijuana law reform is non-partisan, across ideological spectrums and can win in these elections when people thought traditionally that it didn't.

California has always been a leader on this issue. It was the first state to adopt a medical marijuana law. It was also the first to put one of these initiatives on the ballot with Prop 19 in 2010.

What I think we'll see in California in 2016 is it will embrace the best elements of the jurisdictions that have passed marijuana legalization and regulation and will marry those lessons to the specific needs and concerns of California. And round two in California will win based on the momentum we've seen generated last night, in 2016.

Would you ever consider a grow and give approach like D.C.?

D.C.'s law differs only in that it does not include the regulatory piece. The laws that passed in Washington and Colorado and last night in Oregon and Alaska include the grow and give component, except for the Washington state law that doesn’t include the home grow provision. But they go a step further, which I think is a desirable policy piece of allowing the state to regulate and control the actual cultivation and distribution of marijuana in a controlled setting. And that really gets to some of the harms of marijuana prohibition and our approach thus far helps push out the illicit market, control the product, regulate it and generate the millions of dollars in revenue in Washington and Colorado that’s now directed towards funding for education and other pressing needs.