- Thomson Reuters
California will officially vote on whether to make recreational marijuana use legal this November.
If approved, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) will allow adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use, as well as allow the cultivation of up to six plants, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
The initiative exceeded the 402,000 required signatures needed to qualify for the ballot on Tuesday. Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, is expected to certify the initiative on June 30, reports Reuters.
“Today marks a fresh start for California, as we prepare to replace the costly, harmful, and ineffective system of prohibition with a safe, legal and responsible adult-use marijuana system that gets it right and completely pays for itself,” Jason Kinney, the spokesman for AUMA, said in a statement.
AUMA would also set up a system to license, regulate, and tax the recreational sale of marijuana, allowing California to get a slice of the burgeoning legal-cannabis market.
David Bienenstock, head of content for High Times magazine, wrote in an email to Business Insider that he sees California’s vote as a “tipping point” toward ending prohibition nationally.
Maine, Arizona, and Nevada are also likely to vote on legalization initiatives in November.
- Rick Wilking/Reuters
If the vote follows recent polls, California’s marijuana-legalization initiative will likely pass.
Sixty percent of Californians indicated that marijuana should be legal in a poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California in May. And 56% of respondents in a national CBS poll in April indicated that they supported legalization, up from 53% in 2015.
“Given the support nationally for legalization and the success of programs in other legal states, Americans across the country and across the aisle are rejecting marijuana prohibition as an ineffective and racist policy,” Amanda Reiman, a lecturer at UC Berkeley and a policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance, told Business Insider in an email.
But even though the polls show that a majority of voters support legalization in California, not everyone is on board.
“The dangers of marijuana are pretty clear in terms of motorist safety, criminal activity, impacts on society,” Cory Salzillo, the legislative director of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, told The Associated Press. “We don’t believe that decriminalization will upend the black market.”
- Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/File
But legalization in California would not be without challenges. Though California would be the fifth state to legalize recreational marijuana use – joining Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington – it is by the far the most populous and diverse of the bunch, according to Reiman.
“Challenges in implementation will be related to the size and heterogeneity of California,” Reiman wrote, adding, “California is by far the most diverse state to implement legalization both in culture and in beliefs about marijuana.”
Though there will be challenges, the recreational marijuana industry could be a huge windfall for California’s economy.
In Colorado, where recreational use has been legalized since 2012, the marijuana industry pulled in $140 million in 2016 alone.
“We will not have a perfect system overnight, but moving marijuana from the illicit to legal framework is the first and necessary step to creating the policies we want to see in the future,” Reiman wrote.