California voters have approved Proposition 64, legalizing marijuana in the nation’s largest state. The new law focuses on undoing the most egregious harms of marijuana prohibition, which have disproportionately impacted communities of color; restoring and protecting public lands and waterways that have been damaged by the lack of statewide regulation under current law; and protecting youth by preventing access to marijuana. It enacts across-the-board retroactive sentencing reform for marijuana offenses, while establishing a comprehensive, strictly-controlled system to tax and regulate businesses to produce and distribute marijuana in a legal market.
The Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, played a key leadership role in the California campaign — co-drafting the initiative, coordinating the political mobilization, social media, public relations and more, and raising over $5 million to fund the effort.
“This represents a monumental victory for the marijuana reform movement,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “With California’s leadership now, the end of marijuana prohibition nationally, and even internationally, is fast approaching.”
With California voters choosing to end prohibition, the state will now get a formal regulatory system for one of its largest markets, gaining massive tax revenue, safety protections and an end to the horrific and wasteful enforcement laws that have left millions of Californians saddled with arrest records.”
Tuesday’s results also have monumental international ramifications, as momentum grows to end marijuana prohibition in Europe and the Americas. Over the past two years, Jamaica has enacted wide-ranging marijuana decriminalization; Colombia and Puerto Rico issued executive orders legalizing medical marijuana; and medical marijuana initiatives have been debated in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Italy. In 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana on a national level, and Canada’s governing Liberal Party has promised to do the same.
“With its carefully crafted provisions for helping to heal the damage caused by the war on marijuana to poor communities and people of color, Prop 64 represents the new gold standard for how to legalize marijuana responsibly,” said Lynne Lyman, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “This not only protects youth from accessing marijuana products, it also protects them from being harmed by the criminal justice system. Young people can no longer be arrested for marijuana offenses, which data consistently show us is a primary gateway to the criminal justice system. And with hundreds of thousands of residents eligible to have their records cleared, Prop 64 is a major victory for Californians who care about justice.”
By shifting away from counterproductive marijuana arrests and focusing instead on public health, states that have legalized marijuana are diminishing many of the worst harms of the war on drugs, while managing to raise substantial new revenues. A recent Drug Policy Alliance report found that Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon have benefitted from a dramatic decrease in marijuana arrests and convictions, as well as increased tax revenues, since the adult possession of marijuana became legal. At the same time, these states did not experience increases in youth marijuana use or traffic fatalities.
Earlier today, Florida became the first state in the South to approve medical marijuana and North Dakota approved it as well.
DPA will hold a teleconference tomorrow (Wednesday) at 12:30pm ET to discuss the national implications of today’s votes. California, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada voted on marijuana legalization, while Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota and Montana voted on medical marijuana. Results are expected shortly in these other states.