Over the past many years, the question has continually arisen across the United States regarding the legalization of marijuana. While federal laws make possessing or using the substance a crime, many states have taken measures to make marijuana legal. Of all the states that have done so, perhaps none have led the way more than California. While most people think these laws are extremely recent, the fact is California has been actively pursuing the decriminalization of marijuana for many decades. If you are interested in the status and history of marijuana laws in California, here is some fascinating information on how many of today’s modern laws came to fruition.
Surprisingly to many people, marijuana laws have been hot topics in the United States since 1911, when the governor of Massachusetts signed the first law in the nation prohibiting the sale and possession of the drug. From there, states such as California began to question the effectiveness of these laws, and thus sought to make the substance legal to be sold, possessed, and used by those who chose to do so.
While the federal government continued to pass marijuana laws aimed at punishing those who had the drug in their possession, California was doing just the opposite. Despite many laws being passed by the federal government from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, California embarked on a bold new initiative known as Proposition 19. The proposal, aimed at decriminalizing personal marijuana use, was first introduced in 1972 and defeated by voters. However, as voters in Berkeley began to pass such measures as the Berkeley Marijuana Initiative, public opinion in the state began to sway. Thus, in 2010 Prop 19 was yet again brought to a public vote, but was defeated by a much smaller margin than previous times.
While the question of personal marijuana usage in California continued to be debated by politicians and the public, medical use of marijuana was another matter. As more and more scientific evidence began to be presented affirming the positive aspects of this, voters had the opportunity to make history by allowing the use of marijuana for medical reasons. When Proposition 215 was on the ballot in 1996, voters did just that, passing the law and making the use and sale of marijuana for medical purposes legal in the state. However, even with the passage of Prop 215, this state law conflicted with federal statutes.
Once medical usage of marijuana was approved by voters, the next step for advocates was to legalize the personal use of marijuana. To make this happen, numerous lobbying efforts were undertaken in the California Assembly and at many levels of local governments. Due to these efforts, in 2016 former governor Jerry Brown appointed what became known as the state’s first “pot czar,” who was responsible for overseeing the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulations. Finally, in 2016 voters approved Proposition 64, known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, it set off a firestorm of both criticism and praise not just across California, but many other states in the nation.
Even with the passage of various laws within the state legalizing the use of marijuana for medical and recreational use, there are still many variances that can land individuals in conflict with state and federal laws. For example, it is still possible to be in violation of certain laws regarding possessing or growing more marijuana than is legally allowable. As such, it is usually recommended any business involved in the growing and/or selling of marijuana retain an attorney who is well-versed in past and present marijuana laws in California. By doing so, legal guidance and advice will be available should state or federal authorities make accusations of certain violations. In these circumstances, livelihoods and reputations are at stake, so all necessary precautions must be taken.