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California Just Gave The Legalization Movement A Monumental Victory

The legalization movement just bagged the biggest prize of the election. California voters have passed Proposition 64 -- the initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in the Golden State according to Politico.

Leading up to Election Day, polls suggested the initiative had strong support among likely voters. So the victory isn't a surprise, but it is nevertheless crucial to the fight for marijuana reform.

Kevin Sabet, who heads the anti-cannabis group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), recognized the state's importance last August when he told The Los Angeles Times, "If there's one thing we agree on with legalization advocates, it's that California is important."  

That's because what happens in the Golden State will have ripple effects elsewhere in America. 

"California tends to be not just a cultural trend setter in this country but also a political trend setter," Paul Armentano - Deputy Director of NORML - told Civilized. "So it's certainly plausible that a significant win in California will have ripple effects across the United States."

California now becomes the 5th state to legalize recreational marijuana. Here's what Prop 64 will do for the Golden State.

Proposition 64

Proposition 64 is more comprehensive than any other marijuana ballot measure being voted on this year. It covers details ranging from measures to keep big business from gobbling up the industry, to protecting appellations so that only marijuana grown in the state's famous emerald triangle can use branding associated with the region. As a result, it's impossible to summarize every detail of this intricate proposal.

Here are some highlights.

Prop 64 will make it legal for people 21 or older to buy and possess up to one ounce of marijuana, excluding concentrates like hash (the cap on those is 8 grams). Customers will pay a 15 percent sales tax on recreational cannabis, which is roughly the same rate as other current and prospective legal states like Arizona and Nevada.

Residents will also be allowed to grow up to six plants per household but not per person. So if a house has four adult occupants, the limit would still be six plants.

Regulation will be overseen by the new Bureau of Marijuana Control, which will be part of the state's Department of Consumer Affairs. The DCA will also handle licensing retailers, distributors and micro-businesses (e.g. craft cannabis growers). The Department of Food and Agriculture will be responsible for licensing cultivators and ensuring the industry is environmentally sound. Meanwhile, the Department of Public Health will license manufacturers of cannabis-based products and product testers. And the state's Board of Equalization will collect cannabis taxes.

Consuming cannabis in public will remain illegal, but Prop 64 will legalize cannabis social clubs (think marijuana bars) so that people can have a puff outside the house. The initiative also includes robust regulations on packaging, labelling and marketing to keep cannabis away from kids. 

The initiative would also overhaul the justice system. Anyone convicted of an offence that would no longer be illegal under the new law will be re-sentenced or released. Arrest and conviction records will be destroyed, giving many victims of prohibition a fresh start.

These criminal justice reforms are unique to Prop 64, but they could become commonplace in the future as legal states like Colorado and Washington are still debating how to deal with people who have cannabis convictions.


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