gavel and marijuana

When Will Marijuana Be Legalized In California?


Marijuana Legalization Efforts

Recreational use of marijuana has effectively been illegal in California for over a century, but that may soon change. Introduced on the 2016 November ballot, Proposition 64 seeks to legalize recreational marijuana in California for the first time since a 1913 legislative error made it a misdemeanor. However, while possession of marijuana would be effectively made legal once Prop 64 passed, legal sale of cannabis products may need to wait until 2018.

Prop 19 For Legal Recreational Marijuana Possession And Cultivation

While attempts have been made to legalize marijuana in California by popular vote before, thus far they have not been successful. Most recently, Prop 19 went to popular vote in 2010. It would have legalized recreational marijuana possession and private cultivation for anyone over 21, but was narrowly defeated by a 53.5% majority.

In the meantime, decriminalization efforts have proven more successful. Back in 1972, another California Prop 19 failed to decriminalize cannabis use and possession, losing to a 66.5% majority. However, three years later California made marijuana possession a civil rather than criminal offense, with possession of small amounts being downgraded to misdemeanor. Since 2000, sentencing has favored treatment over incarceration for first and second offenses, and in 2010 possession of small amounts was downgraded to a violation.

Nevertheless, between 2006 and 2015, half a million people were still arrested for possession and sale of cannabis products in California. Recreational use has still been subject to law enforcement action, and many thousands have been incarcerated.

Prop 215 – The Compassionate Use Act Of 1996

That’s despite the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, also known as Prop 215. Approved by a 55% majority, that legalized the use of medical marijuana in California with a physician’s recommendation. Prop 215 made possession and sale of cannabis legal within the state provided certain criteria was maintained.

Even though Prop 215 legalized medical marijuana use on a state and local level, marijuana is still considered illegal on a federal level. Because recreational use in California has not been considered legal, despite decriminalization, law enforcement efforts against marijuana use have continued on a selective basis. However, thus far, since states such as Colorado and Washington have made recreational use legal for possession, cultivation, and sale, the US government has not attempted to override the will of the state in this matter.

Guidance Of The Bureau Of Marijuana Control

Now in 2016, Prop 64 has the potential to provide the same protection to recreational marijuana users in California. Marijuana cultivation and sale would fall under the guidance of the Bureau of Marijuana Control, and sale of cannabis products regulated by a state issued license. Perhaps most important, individuals serving prison terms for marijuana-related offenses now considered legal would be eligible for re-sentencing and potential release. That said, under Prop 64, counties would retain the option not to allow legal sales of marijuana, though rules governing medical marijuana would remain unchanged.

Prop 64 And The Outcome Of The November General Election

Precisely when marijuana is legalized in California first depends on the outcome of the November general election, pursuant to the passage of Prop 64. However, even if it passes, the first state licenses to sell marijuana may not be issued until January, 2018. Until then, only medical marijuana sales may technically remain the only legal way to sell cannabis products.

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