Last Update: November 14, 2014
Major gains and some losses in this year’s election
Voters in California and around the country had an opportunity to weigh in on a broad range of marijuana-related issues during this year’s election. Alaska and Oregon voters chose to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults’ use, doubling the number of states that treat marijuana similarly to alcohol. And by an overwhelming margin, Californians significantly improved harsh penalties for those found in possession of marijuana concentrates and hash when they voted in favor of Proposition 47.
In many California communities, voters also considered local initiatives related to the state’s medical marijuana program — many aimed at improving local regulations, but others imposing harsh restrictions or taxes. Unfortunately, many efforts to improve the status quo fell short. Still, some communities did see major improvement. For a summary of local initiatives and results, click here.
Attention is now turning to November 2016 and the opportunity for further improvement. The Marijuana Policy Project has filed a committee with the California Secretary of State to support a 2016 ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in California. We will be part of a broad coalition of local activists, community leaders, organizations, and businesses working to pass a measure similar to the one approved by voters in Colorado in 2012. The new committee, the Marijuana Policy Project of California, has already begun raising funds to help place the measure on the November 2016 ballot.
Stay tuned, and be sure to sign up for our email alerts to stay tuned for updates!
The current legal status of marijuana in California
Under California law, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is a civil infraction similar to a speeding ticket. While this is a more reasonable approach than many states take, California is still punishing tens of thousands of responsible adults for possessing a substance that is objectively safer than both alcohol and tobacco. A December 2013 Field Poll found that 55% of Californians believe marijuana should be legalized.
One of the most tragic failures in the war on marijuana is how hard it impacts racial minorities. The ACLU’s 2013 report entitled “The War on Marijuana in Black and White” shows that where blacks represent 6.7% of the population in California, they account for 16.3% of the arrests (or citations) for marijuana, while rates of usage are virtually the same between black and white populations.
It is true that California’s marijuana laws are not as draconian as some other states, but the state is still wasting precious resources on citing, arresting, and prosecuting marijuana offenders, while ensuring the profits of marijuana sales go to criminals instead of responsible businesses and supporting the state budget. And despite its reputation as being easy-going with respect to marijuana possession and use, California arrested or cited over 21,000 people in 2012 for marijuana-related offenses. Let your legislators know it’s time they stand up for taking a more humane and fiscally sound approach to marijuana policy.
Medical marijuana regulation effort may continue in 2015
The 2013-2014 legislature adjourned without enacting a bill to regulate medical marijuana businesses. Outgoing Deputy Attorney General James Cole recently made headlines when he told the L.A. Times that California should expect further federal law enforcement activity aimed at medical marijuana businesses so long as it continues without a regulatory framework. It is not yet clear whether the legislature will again consider such a bill next year. And with a voter initiative establishing regulations and protections for adult consumers in 2016, it is not clear what such a framework would look like.