Californians Support for Marijuana Legalization Reaches All-Time High


California has long been a trendsetter in many areas, and marijuana is no exception. California was the first medical marijuana state and the freedoms and commerce enjoyed by the California cannabis community has spread throughout the land. However, the Golden State now lags behind Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and our nation’s capital in legalization for all adults over 21. Local and national advocates hope that the most populous state will legalize in 2016, providing yet another boost to the momentum for marijuana law reform that we are seeing across the country.

The International Business Times reports:

With 39 million residents, California has the potential to become the country’s largest retail marijuana market, something it could relatively effortlessly incorporate into its already-established medical marijuana industry. Medical pot is a $980 million industry in California, according to a 2014 report from ArcView Group, a marijuana research and investment firm based in San Francisco. Add adult-use marijuana sales to the mix and the market would explode, according to some experts. California’s bustling legal marijuana industry employs an estimated 100,000 people, a figure some expect will blossom ten-fold over the next few years should weed become fully legal in the state.

Several ballot measures are in the works to legalize marijuana in California in 2016. Two groups filed ballot initiatives in April and were busy gathering the signatures they need to qualify for the 2016 election. Similar initiatives failed five years ago.

Many say legalization in other states hinges on what happens in California next year, and if California were to legalize weed, it would have a domino effect across the U.S. “A lot of eyes are on California,” said the state’s Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a legalization proponent, to Bloomberg in April. “It’s very different than almost any other state because of the scale and the magnitude of the change and what it will represent across the country.”

Crafting a legalization measure that can win at the ballot box, is more difficult than people realize. While polls show majority support for legalization across the country, those polls aren’t asking voters about a specific measure. Once the specifics are known regarding the details about home cultivation, tax rate, driving under the influence standards, etc., then support tends to be lower than just a general question about supporting legalization. California, with supportive voters and plenty of potential donors, has a great chance of passing legalization, but the state has some major obstacles as well. The sheer size of the state and the cost of running a statewide election are just daunting. Additionally, there will be many members of the medical marijuana community that will oppose legalization for all adults.

Keeping growers, processors dispensary owners, patients, consumers, activists, funders and politicians happy with a measure that can garner a majority of votes is a daunting task for any state. However, California has some amazing advocates working tirelessly on the issue and I expect California to join the ranks of legalized states in 2016.

Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.