The November 8 general election has ushered in a landslide for cannabis legalization across the country. And now, after 20 years with legal medical cannabis, California has legalized recreational marijuana.
Along with Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts, California has taken its place among the U.S. states that have legalized marijuana for adult recreational use. Unlike Nevada and Massachusetts, however, California is the Union’s most populous state. With 39.1 million people, California is home to 12% of the nation’s total population. And that means that California’s vote to legalize recreational marijuana could very likely create a domino effect of similar laws across the country. Furthermore, some 20 percent of all adults now live in states that have legalized cannabis for recreational consumption.
Here’s the specifics on California’s new legal marijuana law. Adults 21 years of age and older will be allowed to possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana — that’s just over an ounce of weed — and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana. Individuals may also grow up to six plants on private property so long as the plants are shielded from public view. It remains illegal to possess cannabis anywhere minors are, like schools and youth centers, and to consume marijuana in public or anywhere smoking is prohibited. Driving while smoking is also illegal.
California Legalizes Marijuana With Prop. 64
Yesterday, Californians cast their votes on Proposition 64, a proposition that drew praise and criticism from both sides of the divide. But supporters won out, earning 56% approval. Supporters succeeded by using a strategy that painted legalization as both a criminal justice and social justice issue. While citing the failed war on drugs and California’s swollen prison system, advocates for legalization argued that ending the war on pot would cut down on the racial inequality of arrests and convictions for minor drug charges.
Also, it’s the case that supporters of Prop. 64 significantly outspent opponents to the legislation. In the days leading up to the general election, committees and support groups backing legalization had raised some $23 million dollars. Among donors were silicon valley giants like Sean Parker of Napster and Facebook fame. Parker provided the single largest donation to pro-legalization groups. However, anti-legalization opponents only spent $6 million on their campaign to defeat Prop. 64.
What’s Next for California?
With the passage of Prop. 64, California stands poised to become the largest legal cannabis market on the planet. California has long been the center of cannabis culture in the United States. First of all, California has the country’s longest-standing medical marijuana law. The state legalized medical use of marijuana in 1996, exactly twenty years ago. As a result, the state has been home to a kind of slow-burn of (sometimes illicit) cannabis innovation. And now, the real nature of the marijuana economy in California can come out of the shadows.
The vote to pass legal recreational use makes it official, finally, that California is the cultivation capital of the country. The natural climate and soil conditions of the state make it ideal for growing ganja. Furthermore, marijuana companies have had two decades to position themselves for the explosion in commerce that is about to take place, especially across state lines. Both of California’s neighbors to the north, Oregon, and Washington, also have legal recreational marijuana. Now, the entire Pacific coast of the United States is completely weed legal.
According to the The New York Times, California officials are predicting tax revenue will top $1 billion from cannabis sales. Furthermore, the language of the proposition ensures that some of that revenue will go toward researching medical marijuana, environmental protections, and drug education programs.