Californians to weigh recreational marijuana use this fall

Voters in California this fall could approve recreational marijuana use for adults who are 21 or older.

Currently, 23 states across the country have laws in place permitting medical marijuana use. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, California was the first state to approve the substance.

Now, the state is poised to take on recreational marijuana use. Voters this fall could decide whether or not to join four other states and Washington, D.C., on legalizing cannabis.

The proposal

On Nov. 8, Californians in the voting booth likely will review a measure that would permit the following for people 21 and older:

  • Possessing and transporting marijuana for recreational purposes
  • Growing up to six plants for recreational purposes
  • Using marijuana for recreational purposes

The Los Angeles Times states that the Adult Use of Marijuana Act imposes a 15 percent tax on the substance's retail sales.

The proposal has collected more than the required 365,880 signatures needed to make it to a vote. Now, officials will have to verify those signatures before placing it on the November ballot.

Public support

The Times points out that the Public Policy Institute of California ran a poll last year to gauge interest in approving recreational marijuana. The research found that 55 percent of the people likely to vote in an election were in favor of such legislation. This is important, as 53 percent of voters defeated a similar measure in 2010. In 1996, when the state passed the medical marijuana measure, more than 55 percent of people voted in favor of doing so.

Current possession laws

Fortunately, the state has decriminalized the possession of less than 28.5 grams of marijuana, treating it as a civil penalty punishable by a fine of up to $100. The penalties are harsher if someone is charged with possessing on a school grounds. Possessing more than 28.5 grams could lead to up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $500.

The law is stricter when it comes to possessing concentrated cannabis. Someone who is charged with any amount of that substance could face up to a year in prison as well as a fine.

Current marijuana sale laws

Selling, transporting or otherwise distributing marijuana is considered a felony drug crime and could lead to two, three or four years of imprisonment. The same actions done with a synthetic cannabinoid compound or derivative is a misdemeanor but still carries with it up to six months in jail.

This proposed new law, advocates say, is a good way to track and regulate marijuana, which could be good for public health overall. Anyone who has questions or concerns about drug laws in California should speak with a criminal defense attorney.