California is one of the states that were voting for the legalization of recreational marijuana on Tuesday November 8, 2016. Voters approved Proposition 64 making California the largest and most populous state to approve cannabis use for recreational purposes. The state had made a similar attempt six years ago but voters rejected the move. The win comes after an intense campaign that cost more than $16 million.The money raised by supporters was ten times more than that raised by the opponents. The proposition attracted support from all quarters including business executives who have no interest in the marijuana industry. Legalizing recreational cannabis has many implications for users and players in the industry. The state government will earn additional revenue from the proposed heavy taxation on cultivation and distribution of the drug.
The move will lead to an increase in the demand for the drug, which will increase revenues from its distribution. California legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes 20 years ago and become one of the leading markets for the drug in the US. The high population and large entertainment industry will make the state the leading center for distribution, research and development on cannabis use. Proposition 64 allows individuals above 21 years of age to buy, possess, transport, and use marijuana for recreational purposes. However, the usage is limited to 28.5 grams of the drug.
The approved proposition also allows licensed individuals to grow and sell marijuana in California and other states where the drug is legalized. Adults can grow up to six plants for personal use. Proposition 64 allows retail sales of marijuana by licensed shops. The shops will incur a taxation fee of 15%. California has joined four other states that have passed similar laws, which include Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Distributors and users of medical marijuana are excited about the outcome of the vote. However, it will take some time before the businesses can start selling cannabis on retail basis. The proposition limits the sale of the drug to licensed shops and gives the state government up to January 1, 2018 to start issuing licenses to retailers.
There are mixed reactions to the approval of the proposition. Proponents of the law see it as the first step to winning the war on drugs. During the campaigns, the supporters of the proposition pointed out the high cost of enforcing drugs laws in California and other states as well. The federal and state governments use billions of tax revenue to curb drug abuse without earning significant revenues from drugs. Legalizing cannabis use does not only earn state governments additional revenues but also reduces the costs of maintaining congested legal and judicial systems. The prisons are already too congested with drug users who had to turn to the black market to buy or sell the drug. Proposition 64 prohibits large corporations from growing or distributing the drug. The prohibition gives individuals and small scale business an opportunity to benefit from selling the drug.
The state government may consider allowing medical centers that are licensed to sell marijuana for medical use to sell it recreational purposes before the state starts issuing licenses. Such a move will eliminate the delay in using the recreational drug, which is irrational because voters have already made the decision to approve the proposition. The medical centers can get temporal license that will expire once the state issues annual licenses to retailers. Players that support this move argue that creating an unnecessary delay may force users to buy the drug from the black market. One advantage of the approved proposition to the drug users is that price of medical marijuana will remain the same. The new tax charges will only apply to recreational marijuana.
Other issues arising from the approval of Proposition 64 include the differences in standards in the proposition and the standards in the law legalizing marijuana for medical use. The state has to draft new regulations and standards that apply to selling or using the drug for medical and recreational uses. For instance, the new law requires procedures of determining when a user is too intoxicated to drive. The outcome of the vote does not change the provisions on the places where people can smoke the drugs. Smoking in public and other prohibited places remains illegal. Licensed retailers will not be allowed to sell the drugs to minors and neither are users allowed to smoke the drug near children.
The laws prohibiting marketing the drug to minors and driving under its influence remain effective. Users and distributors must abide by existing laws even when buying and selling the drug for recreation use to avoid fines. The state is expected to earn at least one billion dollars from the drug every year in tax revenues. The largest percentage of this revenue will be generated from excise taxes charged on growers and distributors. Growers will incur an additional charge $9.25 per ounce on flowers and another $2.75 per ounce on cannabis leaves. The state will spend the tax revenues generated from the drug on law enforcement, research, and development. Part of the tax revenue will be used in rehabilitation centers and in providing mental health services to recovering users.
The voters’ decision to legalize marijuana use for recreational purposes does not change the federal government’s stand on the drug. The federal government still classifies marijuana among illegal drugs. However, the decision is likely to initiate similar propositions in other states. The prohibition law may fail if the trend is adopted nationwide. Eventually, the federal government may abolish or amend its prohibition laws to legalize marijuana especially for medical use.