16 Facts About the ReformCA 2016 California Marijuana Legalization Initiative


ReformCA, also known as the California Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, has posted its long-awaited initiative language for 2016 California marijuana legalization.

The group boasts an impressive array of backers and has already amassed some serious funding. The co-proponents are Dale Sky Jones, the chancellor of Oaksterdam University, who was the spokesperson for the 2010 legalization effort that opened up the national discussion of realistic ways to end marijuana prohibition, and Ms. Alice Huffman, a national board member for the NAACP and president of the civil rights organization’s California affiliate.

Here are sixteen things you should know about the 2016 California marijuana legalization initiative, known officially as The Control, Regulate, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2016. Look them up for yourself in the language using the superscripted sections as your guide:

  1. Marijuana will be legal for adults 21 and older. It will be legal to possess, process, share, and transport up to an ounce of marijuana products[§26011(a)].
  2. A California ounce is heavier. ReformCA’s language stipulates that “One ounce of cannabis” means 28.5 grams. That’s 150.5 milligrams heavier than an ounce actually is[§26000(i)].
  3. Home grow will be legal for adults 21 and older. Adults are allowed to cultivate up to a 100 square foot garden and possess all the marijuana that garden produces[§26011(c)]. It appears that many adults could cultivate collectively, as marijuana licensing specifically “shall not infringe on the rights… [of] cultivation of homegrown cannabis individually or collectively.”[§26027]
  4. There will likely be public consumption “marijuana lounges”. Adults are allowed to consume marijuana at a private “residence or such other location as permitted under this Act”[§26011(b)]. The Cannabis Commission can place “reasonable conditions upon any cannabis license” for “governing on-site consumption… at licensed retail facilities”[§26029(a)(3)].
  5. Parents can’t lose their kids over pot. Child protective services can’t bring child endangerment charges against adults who are lawfully possessing and cultivating cannabis and even unlawful possession and cultivation on its own is no reason to remove children or bring charges against their parents[§26012].
  6. There will be eight types of commercial marijuana licenses: Cultivator, Nursery, Manufacturer, Distributor, Retailer, Transporter, Tester, and Researcher. You’ll need to be a 21+ adult with two years’ residency in California and no violent or fraudulent felonies in your past. Marijuana crimes older than three years will not count against you. Cultivator licenses will be in tiered categories by size, with a special “craft” tier for farms below one-half acre in size. Existing medical marijuana industries will be granted provisional licenses and given precedence in acquiring the new commercial licenses[§26028].
  7. There will be cultivation, production, and sales taxes[§31003].
    1. Cultivation tax will be $2 per square foot of canopy, with half going to the city or county where the grow resides and half going to a state environmental protection fund.
    2. Production tax will be $15 per ounce of flowers sold and $3 per ounce of marijuana products, but only $5 per ounce of flowers and $1 per ounce of products for the “craft” tier growers’ first 500 pounds. Ninety percent of that tax goes to the state Cannabis Safety Fund and ten percent goes to the city or county.
    3. The sales taxes will be 10 percent for edibles and extracts and 5 percent for flowers and other products. Those taxes go to the state Cannabis Safety Fund, but will not be charged to medical marijuana patients. There will also be 5 percent local tax benefiting the city or county, but that cannot be charged to medical marijuana patients on Medi-Cal. All the other existing marijuana sales taxes are preempted.
  8. Those tax collections will help poor kids. The state will provide $30 million as a start-up loan to get the Cannabis Commission running. After paying back that loan, 50-to-60 percent of the revenues in the Cannabis Safety Fund will go toward preschool reimbursements, infant and toddler care, youth counseling, drug education, youth services, and gang diversion. Another 2-to-20 percent will fund research on legalization’s effectiveness, reliable impairment testing, public education, and for substance abuse and mental health treatment[§26021].
  9. The old criminal marijuana laws are repealed. ReformCA’s language repeals Health & Safety Code Section 11357 (possession), Section 11358 (cultivation), Section 11359 (possession for sale), Section 11360 (trafficking), Section 11361 (furnishing to minors), and Section 11485 (seizure), as well as Vehicle Code Section 23222(b) (possession in a car)[§26001(a)]. It also replaces those laws with the following new laws:
    1. There will be just two $100 marijuana infractions possible: possession of less than an ounce by people under 21 and sharing marijuana between 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds[§26002(a)].
    2. There will be nine $500 marijuana infractions possible: adults (21+) sharing or selling with young adults (18-20), possession of one ounce to one pound by people under 21, possession of more than one ounce outside the home or for export, toking in public, toking where prohibited, driving while passengers toke, and growing pot where it can be seen or is insecure[§26002(b)].
    3. There will be four misdemeanor “wobblers” possible: This “wobbler” means that the crime can be charged as a misdemeanor crime, with possible six months in jail and $1,000 fine, or treated as an infraction with up to $500 fine. These wobblers would be possessing more than a pound, outside your home or with intent to export, selling between an ounce and a pound, cultivating more than a 100 square foot personal garden, or any cultivation by people under 21[§26003].
    4. There will be two juvenile misdemeanors possible: It is a first offense $250 fine, second offense $500 fine, and third offense ten days in juvenile custody for any minor under 18 to possess marijuana at a school or sell marijuana anywhere[§26004].
    5. There will be three marijuana misdemeanors: These all come with possible six months in jail and $1,000 fine and include selling more than a pound, possession at a school by someone 18 or older, and toking while driving, piloting, or boating[§26005].
    6. There will be eight felony “wobblers” possible: These may be treated as six month / $1,000 misdemeanors or as felonies, including furnishing marijuana to minors, exporting marijuana out of state, cultivating on parks and federal land, using marijuana as cover for drug trafficking, use of violence in marijuana distribution, hiring people under 21 for marijuana businesses, greater than $10,000 worth of black market activity, and manufacturing extracts with explosive volatile solvents (BHO, for example)[§26006].
  10. You can petition to have your previous marijuana criminal records destroyed[SECTION 5]. If you are currently on probation, you can petition the court for early termination[SECTION 8]. If a court has required you to register because of violations of the old marijuana laws now repealed, you will no longer have to register once you’ve completed your sentence[SECTION 9].
  11. You have to actually be impaired to get a DUI: The “sole standard” to be used in determining if someone is too high to drive is that “he or she is no longer able to drive a vehicle… with the caution of a sober person.” Thus, arguing about the levels of inactive metabolites or active THC in the blood can’t secure a DUI conviction without showing he or she couldn’t drive cautiously[§26007].
  12. You can be fined for your marijuana overages: You can be fined $50 per ounce in possession and $10 per square foot of cultivation when you exceed the limits of personal possession and home grow. Or it can be a flat $2,000 per day, and these apply to all the new crimes (but not infractions) created by this law[§26008].
  13. You still won’t get all the rights you deserve: Your boss can still fire you for marijuana metabolites in your hair, urine, or saliva. Cities can still deem marijuana a “public nuisance”. You can still be banned from possession in public buildings, private property, and prisons. You’re still subject to environmental protection laws. Your landlord can prohibit your marijuana smoking in his or her property[§26009(a)].
  14. This will not change the medical marijuana laws… The law shall not infringe on Prop 215 or SB 420, the laws that govern medical marijuana in California[§26009(b) & (c)].
  15. …However, medical marijuana patients will gain new rights: Schools, employers, and landlords would be prohibited from discriminating against medical marijuana patients, and child protective services would have to treat marijuana-using patients like patients who use any other prescription medicine[§26010].
  16. It will take a 60 percent vote in the California Legislature to change any of this[SECTION 13].

There are other 2016 California marijuana legalization initiatives out there, but ReformCA brings the biggest backers and funders to the table. This is just their draft and some of the details may change after hearing from stakeholders. But I believe this is largely what 2016 California marijuana legalization will look like.

"Radical" Russ Belville is a blogger, podcaster, and host of The Russ Belville Show, a daily two-hour talk radio show focused on the evolution of the legal marijuana industry in the United States. The program is airing live at 3pm Pacific Time from Portland, Oregon, on CannabisRadio.com, with podcast available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Russ began his marijuana activism in 2005 with Oregon NORML, then in 2009 went on to work for National NORML, and found and direct Portland NORML.in 2015.