Marijuana is hot topic in California, especially because there’s a vote on legalizing recreational marijuana due in November, 2016. Medical marijuana is already legal and was declared so in Proposition 215 in 1996 and the Senate Bill 420 in 2003. Now patients with chronic illnesses like AIDS, cancer, etc., can grow or purchase marijuana with their doctor’s prescription.
They have an identity card that allows them to legally possess the cannabis so if they’re caught in possession of marijuana, they can simply show their card to prove their legal right to it. Even possession of one ounce of marijuana isn’t a crime, but is considered to be a misdemeanor that’s similar to a traffic violation. It comes with a $100 fine; there is no requirement for a court appearance and the person won’t be saddled with a criminal record.
The regulation around medical marijuana is very loose and critics have said that it’s very easy to obtain marijuana legally for virtually any ailment in California. That’s one of the reasons why both critics and supporters have lobbied for a solid and distinctive law on the use of marijuana, both recreational and medical.
Support for Recreational Use
California has a very strong cannabis culture with many powerful and influential people lobbying to turn marijuana legal. This has been a long time coming for supporters, because several attempts to make cannabis legal for adult use have been thwarted by the smallest margins in the past. Here’s the journey towards legalization in brief:
• November 1972 state election – A bid to decriminalize marijuana was defeated by 66.5% votes.
• July 1975 Senate Bill 95 – Marijuana was decriminalized in California and the punishment was reduced to $100 fine for possession of one ounce or less. Harsher punishments were included for possession of more than one ounce of marijuana.
• November 1996 Ballot Proposition 215 – People with cancer, AIDS, anorexia, arthritis, migraines, spasticity, glaucoma, and other such chronic diseases were allowed to purchase or grow medical marijuana on the basis of a doctor’s prescription. It also offered doctors protection against persecution if they prescribed marijuana to patients.
• September 2010 State Senate Bill – This bill reduced possession of an ounce or less to a misdemeanor.
• November 2010 Proposition 19 – This was a bid to legalize recreational marijuana but was defeated by 53.5%.
As you can see, marijuana has a long, rocky journey in California but the cannabis movement has been gaining strength. There’s a new proposition in play that could finally legalize recreational use of marijuana in California.
Proposition 64 is better known as Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act; it’s a voter’s initiative and it has considerable amount of support. People are enthusiastic that this bill will pass and legalize recreational marijuana because it’s quite comprehensive and covers majority of the concerns people have about marijuana use. Here are some highlights of this proposition:
• The proposition seeks to grant adults of over 21 years of age the right to possess, consume, and grow marijuana and hemp.
• Recreational marijuana will incur 15% sales tax and cultivation tax of $9.25 per ounce on the cultivation of flowers and $2.75 per ounce on the cultivation of leaves.
• These taxes won’t apply to the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana because the aim is to keep medical marijuana safe and affordable for patients.
• No license for large corporations and businesses for the cultivation and sale of marijuana for 5 years in order to avoid unreasonable restraints on competition and unlawful monopoly on power.
There are several provisions on the control and regulation of marijuana, including business locations, rights of employers, and the problem of driving under the influence. This proposal has the strongest likelihood of getting passed, though there are many in place to legalize recreational marijuana that would be voted on in 2016.
Experts and researchers agree that this proposition is very beneficial to marijuana users, as well as the state and local governments. There are some details that would need to be ironed out in court, but it’s is the best solution currently available. There are many advantages if the proposal becomes a law and they include:
• Potentially $100 million in reduced costs because state and local governments aren’t compelled to enforce various marijuana-related actions and offences.
• Reduced burden on the local court system, which frees up room to handle other, more relevant cases.
• Potentially $1 billion annual earnings through tax on cultivation and sale of marijuana. Majority of these funds would be spent on education, prevention, and treatment for substance abuse.
Currently, the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuanaproposition has collected over 600,000 signatures and this number continues to grow every day. There are many political and influential heavy-weights that back it and would like to see it succeed and they include:
• Bernie Sanders – 2016 Democratic Presidential Candidate
• Gavin Newsom – Lieutenant Governor of California
• Sean Parker – Former President of Facebook and Founder of Napster
• Marijuana Policy Project of California
• Los Angeles County Democrats
• California State NAACP
• Drug Policy Action
• Californians for Sensible Reform
• New Approach PAC
• National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
• California Medical Association
• California Democratic Party
There are some concerns and opposition, even from people who grow and consume marijuana. Opposition is divided into two different factions because some people are against the full legalization of marijuana while others oppose certain portions of the bill.
Will California Legalize Marijuana in 2016?
The movement certainly has more traction now than ever before. Many respectable organizations and individuals have worked to spread awareness of the benefits of legalization and these benefits include:
• Better control over marijuana distribution and consumption.
• Destabilizing the illegal marijuana industry.
• Better safety for hikers and explorers who fall prey to traps set in place to protect illegal growing fields in public places.
• Denying access to individual under the legal age limit.
With increased awareness, it’s entirely possible that marijuana will be legalized in 2016 because public opinion is strongly in favor of the legislation.