Pot advocates in California have moved a step closer to legalizing the drug in next year’s statewide election.
The office of Alex Padilla, California secretary of state, announced in June that three petitions to legalize marijuana have cleared their initial hurdles. The latest, the Responsible Use Act of 2016, was cleared in late June, shortly after the other two.
Meanwhile, state officials released a report suggesting legalization could prove a financial boon for the state. A successful push for reform next year could generate several hundred million dollars in tax revenue each year, according to the report.
Some of that money would go toward drug education and addiction treatment, in addition to water-related projects, medical marijuana research, and regulation of a commercial weed industry.
Activist must collect voter signatures
Proponents behind the Responsible Use Act now have 180 days to collect at least 365,000 signatures. The other petitions must collect the same number within roughly the same time.
If the act passes, it would be legal to buy, possess, or use cannabis within California. The state would regulate a commercial weed industry and tax retail sales.
That would mean a tax of $8 per ounce sold, 20 cents per gallon of THC-infused beverages, and $1 per gram of hash oil or other concentrate. Much of the money would be directed toward specific state projects.
If reform passes next year, California would become at least the fifth state to legalize pot. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska already allow cultivation, sale, possession, and use of marijuana for both recreation and medicine. Washington, D.C., has also legalized the drug.
California is a good bet for legalization
California is one of about 10 states that could adopt reform in the next few years. The others include Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, Ohio, Vermont, Michigan, Illinois, and Hawaii. Others could move in the same direction.
But California is the ultimate prize, the largest state in the union and the producer of much of the nation’s weed supply. It’s also home to a widely mocked medical marijuana program, one so loosely regulated the drug is almost legal already.
California voters adopted MMJ in 1996, making it the first state to do so. In the two decades since, another 36 have passed medicinal weed laws, including the four with recreational legalization.
Critics have complained that there are few rules preventing recreational users from getting their hands on medical cannabis. Reports by the state have called this argument into question, but most observers agree the program is poorly regulated.
Full legalization would almost certainly change that. It would provide sensible regulations on recreational use, regulations that could apply to medical use as well. With a better system and competitive prices, recreational users will have no reason to turn to the medical market anymore.