By Matt Cortina
Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996. Proposition 64 would legalize recreational marijuana—that is, you wouldn’t need a doctor’s note—for adults over 21 years of age, with a lot of stipulations.
If passed, smoking marijuana in public and while driving would be illegal, as would possession in school zones. Californians would be able to possess up to 28.5 grams at a time, and could cultivate six plants at home.
In order to sell marijuana, businesses would be required to get a state license. On top of that, municipalities would be able to ban the sale of recreational marijuana, but they won’t receive a share of the tax revenue. Businesses would also not be able to sell within 600 feet of a school, day care center or youth center.
A newly reformatted Bureau of Marijuana Control would regulate and license marijuana businesses. Though both medical and recreational marijuana sales are technically illegal under federal law, the Department of Justice, under President Obama’s direction, has said it would not prosecute those following local and state marijuana sales laws. Currently, recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, and in addition to California, voters in Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada and Arizona will also be voting on statewide legalization measures. Half the country currently allows either medical or recreational marijuana sales.
Two new taxes would be created and levied on cultivation and retail sales of marijuana. Revenue from the taxes would be used to fund drug research, youth programs, remedies to environmental concerns regarding marijuana cultivation, and an initiative to help police determine whether or not a driver is high. The taxes would include $9.25 per ounce for flowers (aka buds) and $2.75 per ounce for leaves, with exceptions for certain medical marijuana sales and cultivation. The other tax would be a 15 percent tax on the retail price of marijuana. Local governments, if they allow recreational marijuana sales, could add on additional local taxes.
Penalties for using or possessing marijuana underage include community service and drug counseling. If businesses are caught selling illegally, they would face jail time and fines.
Proponents of Proposition 64 say legalization is a long time coming.
“Marijuana is available nearly everywhere in California—but without any protections for children, without assurances of product safety, and without generating tax revenue for the state,” wrote Steven Downing, deputy chief of the L.A. Police Department, and Donald Lyman, former chief of chronic disease at the California Department of Public Health, in the proposition’s official support statement.
Proponents expect about $1 billion every year in new tax revenue should Proposition 64 pass, and the nearly 8,800 marijuana-related felony arrests to cease upon legalization.
Opponents claim that Proposition 64 would double automobile accidents, citing the proposition’s lack of standards for “high driving”—the measure only includes a mechanism to finance research on the subject. They also claim danger, citing that people will be able to grow plants inside their home, inside of school zones.
Opponents also claim ads for smoking will increase, the black market for drugs will increase and underprivileged neighborhoods will experience a proliferation of marijuana retail shops nearby, hurting the local community.
For Proposition 64:
California Democratic Party, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, ACLU of California, California NAACP, California Nurses Association
Contributions for Proposition 64:
Yes on 64 (business, physician, environmental and social justice PAC): $15,156,939.70
Drug Policy Action (nonprofit): $4,470,000
Fund for Policy Reform (nonprofit): $4,237,000
Against Proposition 64:
California Republican Party, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Bill Brough and dozens of sheriffs, district attorneys and police organizations
Contributions against Proposition 64:
No on Proposition 64 (California Public Safety Institute): $1,124,001.16
Sam Action Inc. (nonprofit): $1,364,000
Correction: Donald Lyman is the former Chief of Chronic Diseases at the California Department of Public Health. A previous version of this story indicated he was still in that position.