Proposition 64 faces the issue of marijuana legalization for recreational use among adults over 21 in California.
A “Yes” vote supports allowing adults 21 and older to legally grow, possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes.
The state would regulate recreational marijuana businesses and handle cultivation and retail taxes for the sale of both medicinal and recreational marijuana, according to the Official Voter Information Guide.
A “No” vote supports keeping cultivation, possession and recreational use of marijuana illegal. Growing, possession and use of medical marijuana would remain legal in California, according to the Official Voter Information Guide.
Proposition 64 aims to create two new taxes that would affect cultivation and retail sale of recreational marijuana.
Growers would be taxed $9.25 per ounce for dried flowers (the commonly smoked part of the plant) and $2.75 per ounce for dried leaves.
Consumers would also face a 15 percent tax on the retail price of marijuana.
Most medical marijuana dispensaries in California currently have $35 and $50 donation caps for 3.5 grams, or an eighth of marijuana plants, said Patrick McNeal, former criminal defense attorney and marijuana industry consultant. McNeal predicts that legalization will cause numbers to fluctuate.
“I think you’re going to find, like cigarettes and alcohol, the price is going to be higher, a large percentage of it is going to be taxes and regulatory costs, and in that model, the quality is going to be down because people are going to mass produce,” McNeal said.
Proponents in favor of a “Yes” vote say that the taxes within the measure would fund education and treatment programs and provide “an environment where marijuana is safe, controlled and taxed,” according to the Official Voter Information Guide.
Opponents in favor of a “No” vote are concerned about medical marijuana patients being taxed, marijuana advertisements airing, small marijuana farmers in northern California losing business and taxation increasing the black market.
“I don’t think it is going to increase the black market, but I don’t think it is going to reduce it. We have had an underground market here thriving in a fairly large scale for 40 years,” McNeal said. “I personally think that there’s going to be people, that once they realize they have to go through the regulation and taxes and it’s going to impact their profit margin, you’re going to see they just want to stay underground.”
Revenue would depend on city and county compliance, federal enforcement and how marijuana prices and consumption would be affected by the measure.
Analysts in the Official Voter Information Guide estimate that revenue may reach numbers in the millions or possibly even hit close to the $1 billion mark like Colorado. However, they predict that revenue would not be as high in the first several years while businesses begin to establish.
“I think we’re going to far surpass Colorado. We have about seven times as many people as far as population,” said Kandice Hawes-Lopez, executive director for OC NORML. “People thought that Colorado was big business. Wait until it gets going with California. As long as we don’t have push back from our bureaucrats, I think we can grow even larger than Colorado.”
According to the proposition, $2 million per year would be given to the UC San Diego Center for Medical Cannabis Research to study medical marijuana.
$10 million per year for 11 years would be given to public California universities to research and evaluate the implementation and impact of Proposition 64.
$3 million per year for five years would be given to the California Highway Patrol to study marijuana-related driving impairment and future plans for enforcement.
$10 million, increasing each year by $10 million until reaching $50 million in 2022, would be given to community nonprofits who support rehabilitation, job placement, mental and medical healthcare and legal services.
The remaining revenue would be divided with 60 percent going to youth programs featuring drug education, prevention and treatment; 20 percent to tackle environmental issues that have resulted from the underground marijuana industry and 20 percent to study safety issues like impaired driving, which may arise with the passing of the proposition.
Currently, possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is punishable by a $100 fine and selling marijuana for nonmedical purposes is punishable by four years in jail or prison.
Ballotpedia.org estimates that tens of millions of dollars would be saved if Proposition 64 were to pass.
“To some extent, if it’s legitimized and we find that we are dealing with civil enforcement instead of criminal enforcement, it’s got to be a savings to the penal and court system to some extent,” McNeal said.
McNeal said that unlike Colorado, California has already lessened enforcements of soft drugs over the last five years.
“Certainly the savings would be that level if you compare it to what they were spending five years ago, but they pretty much toned that down,” McNeal said. “When you see a raid of a dispensary, most of the time the officers are not arresting the employees, they’re citing them with tickets and they’re citing the business and that’s handled civilly or a little more informally.”
Another component to the proposition states that cities and counties will have the discretion to allow or restrict the sale of marijuana in their jurisdictions. However, possession will no longer be able to be reprimanded criminally.
“If the county doesn’t want you to have it there, you’re going to have to be able to go across county lines and buy your flowers there,” McNeal said. “The big deal is you’ll no longer be criminally liable if you’ve got it in your possession while you’re there, so long as it is for personal use … You can’t market it, you can’t distribute it but you can have it for your own use.”
Hawes also added that if counties choose not to allow retail sales, their law enforcement will not benefit from tax revenue.
People under the age of 18 caught in possession of marijuana will be required to attend a drug education or counseling programs and complete community service.
Effect on the Industry
Legalization of marijuana in California would affect the thriving medical marijuana industry and small name brands that have developed out of it, including the livelihoods of growers and cultivators.
“This (proposition) is going to legitimize what has previously been an underground industry,” McNeal said.
While Proposition 64 restricts big businesses from getting involved in the industry for five years, opponents of the proposition fear that legalization will inevitably lead to big business and the destruction of small grows, taking jobs and pride of the product away from the industry.
Hawes and McNeal both likened the marijuana industry to the alcohol industry, whose big brands are more popular but less personalized than their private brewery counterparts.
McNeal said that in Butte County, growers on average have about 10 to 20 plants whereas the introduction of big business would lead to 500 to 2,000 plants.
“Most of these growers are proud of what they’ve got and they develop names and reputations, and that’s how that industry thrives and that’s how you can be relatively sure of quality control. That’s going to go away with the big grows … It’s going to affect the culture,” McNeal said.