Following states like Colorado and Oregon, California voters will get the chance to vote on likely more than one proposal on the 2016 ballot for legalization of recreational usage of marijuana. The state already has a large medical marijuana industry, but recent polls indicate that more and more California voters are in favor of recreational marijuana legalization. Is legalization of recreational marijuana coming in 2016 for California residents?
California has long been at the forefront of marijuana decriminalization and legalization. It was the first state to approve the usage of marijuana as a medical treatment and has since paved the way for nearly half of the United States to create and implement its own medical marijuana laws. Los Angeles recently saw its first marijuana vending machine installed. Currently, low-level possession, even outside of medical use, is decriminalized and handled more like a speeding ticket than a majorly punishable offense. Still, it is argued that marijuana, a substance potentially safer or at least comparable to alcohol and tobacco, should be legalized and regulated similarly.
A Change in Public Opinion
A Field Poll conducted in late 2013 by the Field Research Corporation surveyed California voters and found an interesting shift in voter preference over marijuana legalization. The organization conducted an earlier poll in 1969 and found that 75 percent of the state’s population favored strict laws against marijuana. Opinions on marijuana in California have shifted since then. The 2013 study shows that more than half of the state’s voters, 56 percent, support legislation to decriminalize marijuana usage and legal cultivation. The study shows that most voters would choose to have marijuana in California regulated just like alcohol and tobacco, with age restrictions and other requirements.
This shift in voter opinion makes for an interesting situation on the November 16 ballot. Voters should expect at least one legalization proposal on the ballot, as four or more proposals have already been submitted this year. The latest, called the 2016 California Bipartisan Decriminalization of Cannabis Act, proposes that adults 21 years old and older be able to legally possess up to five pounds of cannabis and allow for cultivation. Sales of marijuana would be taxed like any other sale in California, but include an additional 15 percent special excise tax.
What Is Next?
Per California law, petitioners are required to collect at least 365,880 valid signatures to get their proposal on the ballot. While it is unlikely that every proposal will make the cut, it is nearly guaranteed that at least one will. If legalization is passed, California will still have a long road ahead of it. Those opposed to legalization worry about exposure to children, how marijuana will be advertised, what forms of marijuana will be available, and what it will affect beyond state lines. All of these issues will be challenges for the state to overcome if legalization happens in 2016.
Until the vote in November, possession of marijuana is a crime. Getting in touch with an experienced San Jose criminal defense attorney may be necessary if you are facing charges. The qualified attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas Nicholas Cvietkovich are available to assist you.