Proposition 64 and the Legalization of Marijuana in California

MarijuanaCalifornia is one of the latest states to consider legalizing marijuana. This November, the state will vote on Proposition 64 (“Prop 64”), which proposes to legalize marijuana and hemp for recreational use. Under Prop 64, adults who are 21 or older could have up to one ounce of pot and grow up to six plants.  Marijuana would be taxed at 15% and commercial growers would have to be licensed. Marijuana would still be illegal for minors and advertising to children would be prohibited. Prop 64 would additionally allow for certain individuals who have been convicted of marijuana violations to be resentenced or get their records cleared. 

Benefits of Prop 64 include estimated revenue of over $1 billion annually. Cannabis research firms claim that legalizing marijuana for adult social use will cause California’s marijuana market to grow at a rate of 18.5 percent per year, reaching $6.46 billion by 2020. Additionally, Prop 64 would save the law enforcement and prison systems about $100 million each year because fewer people would be prosecuted for marijuana-related offenses. The additional revenue generated is intended to be allocated for: teen drug prevention and treatment, law enforcement training, supporting economic development, and protecting and restoring the environment. 

Current polls show that support for Prop 64 stands at 60 percent or higher.

Arguments for Prop 64

Supporters of Prop 64 argue that the war on drugs is a failure and a waste of resources, causing drug cartels to thrive. They additionally argue that this is a civil rights issue, as the current laws are racially biased, putting a disproportionate number of racial minorities in prison. Supporters stress that the tax on marijuana would bring much-needed revenue to California and its decriminalization would alleviate crowded courtrooms. 

Prop 64 is backed by California’s Lieutenant Governor, Gavin Newsom (D), the California Democratic Party, the ACLU, the California Medical Association and the California NAACP. As of August 5, supporters have raised $6 million to support the proposition.

Arguments Against Prop 64

Opponents to Prop 64 argue that marijuana is a gateway drug that will lead to more dangerous drugs and that legalizing it will not stop the black market. They claim that increased marijuana smoking will lead to increases in cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and the decline of brain function. Opponents point to a study by the American Automobile Association that found that fatal crashes involving drivers who were high on marijuana doubled in the state of Washington after the state legalized marijuana. 

Prop 64 is opposed by many law enforcement agencies, including the head of the California Police Chiefs Association and the California District Attorneys Association. The proposition is also opposed by the California Hospital Association, the California Teamsters Union, and the Small Growers Association. 

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a vocal opponent, has said that Prop 64, "allows marijuana smoking ads in prime time, on programs with millions of children and teenage viewers." 

Spokesman for the No On Prop. 64 Campaign, Wayne Johnson, notes that Prop 64’s current advertising and marketing restrictions state that, "Any advertising or marketing placed in broadcast, cable, radio, print and digital communications shall only be displayed where at least 71.6 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be 21 years of age or older, as determined by reliable, up-to-date audience composition data."  Johnson states that this standard is “ridiculous” because “[i]t only applies to the tiniest handful of shows.”

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