California Proposition 64, the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, was on the November 8, 2016, ballot in California as an initiated state statute. Supporters referred to the initiative as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. It was approved.

Proposition 64 made it legal for individuals to use and grow marijuana for personal use on November 9, 2016. However, the sale and subsequent taxation of recreational marijuana will not go into effect until January 1, 2018.

Status of marijuana in California

In California, the possession or use of marijuana for recreational purposes was illegal. The passage of Proposition 215 in 1996 legalized medical marijuana. Although the Department of Justice under President Obama does not prosecute most individuals and businesses following state and local marijuana laws, both medical and recreational marijuana are illegal under federal law.[3][4] Proposition 64 made recreational marijuana legal in California state law.

Changes to state law

Proposition 64 allowed adults aged 21 years or older to possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes. The measure created two new taxes, one levied on cultivation and the other on retail price. Revenue from the taxes will be spent on drug research, treatment, and enforcement, health and safety grants addressing marijuana, youth programs, and preventing environmental damage resulting from illegal marijuana production.[1]

State of ballot measure campaigns

The Yes on 64 campaign outraised opponents eleven-to-one. As of November 15, 2016, supporters had raised $22.5 million in contributions, while No on 64 had raised $2.1 million. Sean Parker, founder of Napster and former Facebook president, had contributed $8.6 million to Yes on 64. As of November 15, 2016, the California Secretary of State reported that Julie Schauer, based in Pennsylvania, contributed almost $1.4 million in opposition to Proposition 64, which amounted to about 65 percent of opposition funds.[5][6][7] California's two largest newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, endorsed the measure. The California Democratic Party also endorsed Proposition 64, and the California Republican Party came out in opposition. Support for the initiative ranged between 51 and 60 percent, and averaged around 56 percent, since the beginning of September 2016.

Initiative design

Who can use marijuana?

Proposition 64 legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults aged 21 years or older. Smoking was permitted in a private home or at a business licensed for on-site marijuana consumption. Smoking remains illegal while driving a vehicle, anywhere smoking tobacco is, and in all public places. Up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana are legal to possess. However, possession on the grounds of a school, day care center, or youth center while children are present remains illegal. An individual is permitted to grow up to six plants within a private home, as long as the area is locked and not visible from a public place.[3]

Who can sell marijuana?

To sell marijuana for recreational use, businesses need to acquire a state license. Local governments can also require them to obtain a local license. Businesses are not be authorized to sell within 600 feet of a school, day care center, or youth center.[3] The initiative also prevents licenses for large-scale marijuana businesses for five years in order to prevent "unlawful monopoly power."[8]

Who will regulate marijuana?

The Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation was renamed the Bureau of Marijuana Control. It is responsible for regulating and licensing marijuana businesses.[3]

Counties and municipalities have been empowered to restrict where marijuana businesses could be located. Local governments can also completely ban the sale of marijuana from their jurisdictions.

How will marijuana be taxed?

Proposition 64 created two new excise taxes on marijuana. One is be a cultivation tax of $9.25 per ounce for flowers and $2.75 per ounce for leaves, with exceptions for certain medical marijuana sales and cultivation. The second is a 15 percent tax on the retail price of marijuana. Taxes will be adjusted for inflation starting in 2020.[1]

Local governments have been authorized to levy taxes on marijuana as well.

Where will revenue be spent?

Revenue from the two taxes will be deposited in a new California Marijuana Tax Fund. First, the revenue will be used to cover costs of administrating and enforcing the measure. Next, it will be distributed to drug research, treatment, and enforcement, including:[1]

  • $2 million per year to the UC San Diego Center for Medical Cannabis Research to study medical marijuana.
  • $10 million per year for 11 years for public California universities to research and evaluate the implementation and impact of Proposition 64. Researchers would make policy-change recommendations to the California Legislature and California Governor.
  • $3 million annually for five years to the Department of the California Highway Patrol for developing protocols to determine whether a vehicle driver is impaired due to marijuana consumption.
  • $10 million, increasing each year by $10 million until settling at $50 million in 2022, for grants to local health departments and community-based nonprofits supporting "job placement, mental health treatment, substance use disorder treatment, system navigation services, legal services to address barriers to reentry, and linkages to medical care for communities disproportionately affected by past federal and state drug policies."

The remaining revenue will be distributed as follows:[1]

  • 60 percent to youth programs, including drug education, prevention, and treatment.
  • 20 percent to prevent and alleviate environmental damage from illegal marijuana producers.
  • 20 percent to programs designed to reduce driving under the influence of marijuana and a grant program designed to reduce negative impacts on health or safety resulting from the proposition.

What will penalties be?

Individuals under age 18 convicted of marijuana use or possession are required to attend drug education or a counseling program and complete community service. Selling marijuana without a license is punishable by up to six months in a county jail, a fine up to $500, or both.[3]

With Proposition 64's approval, individuals serving criminal sentences for activities made legal under the measure are eligible for resentencing.

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