Prop 64 Could Legalize Marijuana in California
Although medical marijuana is legal in California, the possession of marijuana for recreational use is illegal. Under current law, possession of more than 28.5 grams is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. Possession of less than that amount is punishable only by a criminal fine, but such a conviction would still result in a criminal record for drug possession, which is often more damaging than a fine.
That could all change on Tuesday, November 8, 2016, when California voters will decide whether Prop 64 passes or fails. The proposed law would legalize recreational marijuana in California. If it passes, California will join Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington as states where marijuana is fully legal. Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada will be voting on similar ballot initiatives on Tuesday.
What Would Prop 64 Do?
- Legalize marijuana under state law for use by adults age 21 or older.
- Designate state agencies to license and regulate the marijuana industry.
- Impose state excise taxes of 15% on retail sales of marijuana and state marijuana cultivation taxes of $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves.
- Exempt medical marijuana from some taxation.
- Establish packaging, labeling, advertising, and marketing standards and restrictions for marijuana products.
- Prohibit marketing and advertising marijuana directly to minors.
- Allow local regulation and taxation of marijuana.
- Authorize resentencing and destruction of records for prior marijuana convictions.
- Raise up to $1 billion in additional tax revenues and reduce criminal justice costs by tens of millions of dollars per year.
What Is the Public Debate?
Some have voiced concern that legalizing marijuana would raise health costs, affect safety on roadways, and lead to companies marketing cannabis products to children. But these criticisms are speculative.
The Los Angeles Times endorsed Prop 64: “On balance, the proposition deserves a ‘yes’ vote. It is ultimately better for public health, for law and order and for society if marijuana is a legal, regulated and controlled product for adults. Proposition 64 — while not perfect — offers a logical, pragmatic approach to legalization that also would give lawmakers and regulators the flexibility to change the law to address the inevitable unintended consequences.”
The California Growers Association, comprised of independent marijuana farmers and businesses, has officially remained neutral. But many within that community have voiced concern that regulations placed on farmers may pave the way for large agribusinesses to price smaller growers out of business.
Is Prop 64 Expected to Pass?
If Prop 64 Passes, Will It Really Be Legal? What About Federal Law?
Growing, selling, and possessing marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and Prop 64 won’t change that. Although the federal government has generally refrainedfrom enforcing anti-marijuana laws in states where it has been made legal for recreational purposes, the Obama administration “steadfastly opposes” marijuana legalization, and there is at least some risk that the FBI could take action against California growers and dispensaries.
For casual users and small-time growers, Prop 64 would legalize marijuana in the sense that federal laws would not likely be enforced against them. However, possessing marijuana is still a federal crime. Therefore, until federal law changes, you should never put any marijuana product in the mail via the United States Postal Service, carry it with you into an airport where there will be TSA agents, or take it onto any federal property where you might be searched.
Even if Prop 64 passes, marijuana use could still adversely impact issues such as federal benefits or federal employment.
If Prop 64 Passes, Does My Past Conviction for Marijuana Possession or Cultivation Still Stand?
One of the most significant aspects of this bill is that it authorizes resentencing of past convictions. Generally speaking, most misdemeanor crimes would be lowered to mere infractions, and many felony marijuana possession charges would be lowered to misdemeanors.
If you have a marijuana-related conviction on your record, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand the impact Prop 64 may have on your life. For more information about Prop 64 and how the new law could affect you, please contact the Law Offices of Scott D. Hughes today at 714-423-6931.