Legalization of recreational marijuana in California will become reality if voters approve Proposition 64 on November 8. The proposed law makes the possession, cultivation, use, and sale of cannabis legal for adults 21 and older.
Recreational marijuana is widely supported by Californians. In a survey of likely voters released earlier this week by Field Poll and the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, 57 percent say they will approve Prop. 64.
“In addition to California’s population size and enormous economic and cultural significance, legalizing marijuana there will be hugely politically impactful,” Tom Angell, chairman of drug reform advocacy group Marijuana Majority, told the Huffington Post.
“Nov. 8 is the most important day in the history of the marijuana legalization movement.”
While voters will probably favor Proposition 64 on November 8, it will take some time before recreational marijuana users will be able to buy the product. California will spend the next year writing the rules for regulating the drug. Most estimate the state will not even start issuing licenses to sell recreational cannabis until at least January 2018.
A previous marijuana legalization initiative was shot down. In 2010, Proposition 19 lost by seven points, 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent. Since then, attitudes towards cannabis have changed and much of the “opposition has melted away,” according to Mark DiCamillo, the director of the survey.
Six years ago, voters between the ages of 40 and 49 broadly opposed marijuana legalization. However, the new survey indicates this same age group now supports Prop. 64 by two to one. Nearly 74 percent of younger adults, aged 18 to 29, say they will vote to pass the measure. Additionally, voters in inland counties that strongly disliked the previous cannabis legislation are now showing signs of approval.
In 1996, California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. Approving recreational pot in California, the sixth-largest economy in the world, would be a tremendous windfall for supporters of marijuana legalization.
“The size of the California market coming online and being legal is going to be fairly significant,” said John Hudak, a marijuana policy expert and author.
“The economic implications are tremendous, and certainly there will be political implications.”
Advocates for legal marijuana contend prohibition has failed and Proposition 64 will allow the state to regulate the sale and distribution of cannabis much like it already does with alcohol. The legalization of cannabis will generate an estimated $1 billion annually in new revenue for the state.
Law enforcement officials and the California Hospital Association say Proposition 64 is a risk to public safety. They argue the loose advertising rules contained in the proposed marijuana law make it easy for children to be exposed to cannabis ads. In addition, the proposed legislation lacks verbiage that sets a legal limit for drivers.
While nationwide polls indicate growing support for marijuana legalization, the federal government still considers cannabis an illegal substance. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, the same category as heroin and LSD.
Some wonder if legalizing marijuana in California will help change federal policy.
“The stakes couldn’t be higher,” Angell said.
“Big wins will dramatically accelerate our push to finally end federal marijuana prohibition, perhaps as soon as 2017.”
Marijuana is the most common illegal drug used in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 20 million Americans smoke weed every month. In 2015, roughly 47 percent of adults admitted to using marijuana at least once in their lifetime.
While California will vote on Tuesday for recreational marijuana legalization, four other states – Maine, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Arizona – have similar measures on the ballot. Nearly 25 percent of the U.S. population would have access to legal cannabis should California’s Proposition 64 and all the other measures pass on Election Day.
[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]