Medical marijuana is legal in roughly half the U.S., while recreational marijuana use is legal in the five states of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and our nation’s capital, the District of Columbia.
The legalization of recreational marijuana use will be on this November’s ballot in California, along with other states of Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts and Maine according to CNN Money. California is widely seen as having a potential snowball effect for cannabis policy reform, since it was the first state to allow medical marijuana in 1996 and is our nation’s most popular state.
What can you expect if this law gets passed?
Adults age 21 and older would be allowed to possess, transport and purchase up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants for recreational use.
If voters approve this initiative, it would impose a 15% sales tax on retail sales and additional taxes on growers.
Recreational legalization gives rise to a whole new economy, although highly regulated, around the sales of cannabis, edibles, oils, lotions and paraphernalia. According to NPR, In Colorado, marijuana businesses are prohibited within 600 feet of schools and cannabis products could not be marketed to kids or easily be confused with candy.
Legalization would allow for a huge increase in tax revenues. According to CNN Money, marijuana tax revenue in Colorado hit $42 million during the 2014-2015 fiscal year, higher than the alcohol tax revenue during the same time.
Drug-impaired driving would still be illegal, although these laws are bound to be more difficult to enforce and prosecute.
Marijuana is still illegal with the federal government, which means it cannot be transported between legal states, even those that border each other. Due to federal banking laws, banks refuse to handle finances from marijuana businesses. In most cases, dispensaries only deal in cash.
A key factor that drives the desire for decriminalization is the reduced cost of incarcerations. According to Vice News, President Obama admitted that the U.S. criminal justice system is “so heavily skewed towards cracking down on non-violent drug offenders” and that the system more negatively affects “communities of color.”
Legalization would reduce the costs to local and state governments for enforcing marijuana related laws, which could exceed $100 million annually, according to statement by Secretary of State, Alex Padilla. On the other hand, we can expect an increase in stoned driving and an increase in harder crimes due to lapse in judgment caused by smoking marijuana.
Legalizing marijuana is said to do one thing that decades-long war on drugs could not achieve, driving down prices and reducing profits for Mexican drug cartel exports. Drug dealers are among the major opponents to marijuana legalization.
In California, the key supporters of this ballot measure include: the California Democratic Party, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California NAACP and the California ACLU.