Even though cannabis-initiatives aren’t on the ballot this November, now is the ideal time to consider  the historic laws regarding marijuana usage in California. Starting in 90s, Californians have been paving the way for legalization. Here’s a look back on the ballot initiatives that made adult-use recreational cannabis possible.

California Proposition 215, the Medical Marijuana Initiative (1996)

The Compassionate Care Act or Prop. 215, was a big step for medical patients in the Golden State. This initiative allows card-carrying patients and their caregivers to use, grow and possess small amounts of cannabis. Until 2017, these doctor-prescribed medical marijuana cards were the only way to legally obtain cannabis

The passage of this law made California one of only fourteen U.S. states to allow medical marijuana. A survey conducted by the American for Safe Access medical marijuana group estimated that in 2008, California had over 200,000 medical cannabis users.

Now that recreational use is legal for adults 21 and over, it seems plausible that people may not seek the advice of medical caregivers to get high. While many products, especially microdosed edibles, are only available for medical use, the growing selection of cannabis products available recreationally May satisfy the needs of the cannabis-curious.

California Proposition 36, Probation and Treatment for Drug-Related Offenses (2000)

Passed in 2000, this initiative lessened the penalties people charged with cannabis-related infractions would face. Instead of giving cannabis transporters and growers without a medical marijuana card automatic jail time, Prop. 36 stated that charges could be dismissed upon successful completion of a drug treatment program.

California Proposition 64, Marijuana Legalization (2016)

Prop. 64, which passed on the Nov. 2, 2016 ballot allowed for the recreational use of marijuana by adults one rate age of 21. Californians had previously tried to pass a similar Adult Use of Marijuana Act in 2010, which was called the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010.

This allowed cannabusinesses to bring their operations aboveground and led to a boom in weed-related services and products. According to the Orange County Register, California had 6,000 licensed cannabis businesses in April.

New regulations, such as the Track-and-Trace system records the inventory of cannabis products through the commercial suppliers, as a way to increase accountability and cut out unlicensed suppliers and distributors.

Prop. 64, also called the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) laid the foundation for the legal cultivation, sale and use of recreational marijuana. Currently, marijuana-related laws are still in flux with many canna-businesses falling into somewhat grey areas of legalization. For example, many jurisdictions that allow the sale of cannabis don’t allow for public consumption.

Pending propositions may bring additional scrutiny to cannabis collectives, many of which formed in the 90s using the Compassionate Care Act as legal grounds to conduct business among card-carrying medical cannabis users. But, according to H&S Code section 11362.775, collectives licensing will expire in Jan. 2019, just one year after the MAUCRSA passed.

What does the future hold for cannabusinesses and consumers in California? It’s hard to say but with marijuana use on the rise and stigma on the decline, it seems plausible that the golden state will continue its pot-friendly policies.


Posted by:Veronica An

Veronica enjoys good food, good company, and good music. She pens poems, short stories, op-ed articles, and non-fiction pieces. Her favorite place to write is under the California sunshine.

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