Legality of Cannabis by U.S. Jurisdiction

Proposition 64

Marijuana Legalization
Legalizes marijuana under state law, for use by adults 21 or older. Imposes state taxes on sales and cultivation. Provides for industry licensing and establishes standards for marijuana products. Allows local regulation and taxation. Fiscal Impact: Additional tax revenues ranging from high hundreds of millions of dollars to over $1 billion annually, mostly dedicated to specific purposes. Reduced criminal justice costs of tens of millions of dollars annually.
Votes %
Yes 7,979,041 57.13%
No 5,987,020 42.87%
Valid votes 13,966,061 95.59%
Invalid or blank votes 644,448 4.41%
Total votes 14,610,509 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 19,411,771 75.27%

Source: California Secretary of State[1]

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) (Proposition 64) was a 2016 voter initiative to legalize cannabis in California. The full name is the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act.[2] The initiative passed with 57% voter approval and became law on November 9, 2016,[3][4] leading to recreational cannabis sales in California by January 2018.


Possession or sale of cannabis in the United States is prohibited by federal law. In 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act, establishing marijuana as a Schedule I drug, the strictest level of prohibition. Voters then rejected California Proposition 19 (1972), which sought to remove the criminalization of marijuana under California law.[5] In 1976, Governor Jerry Brown signed the Moscone Act, which reduced the penalty for possession of marijuana from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Voters passed California Proposition 215 (1996), making California the first state to legalize medical cannabis in the United States.[6] In United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative (2001), the Supreme Court of the United States found that California's medical prescription providers were still subject to criminal prosecution.[7] In Gonzales v. Raich (2005), the U.S. Supreme Court found that Congress's interstate commerce clause power allowed it to prohibit an Oroville, California, woman, who was following California law, from growing and consuming marijuana entirely inside her home.[8]

In September 2010, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation reducing possession of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction. In November voters rejected California Proposition 19 (2010), which would have legalized recreational marijuana use, imposed no state taxes, and allowed employers to fire an employee for workplace use of marijuana only after showing it had caused impaired work.[9]

In 2012, voters passed Washington Initiative 502 and Colorado Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana use in those states. Two other states followed later in 2014, when voters passed Oregon Ballot Measure 91 (2014) and Alaska Measure 2 (2014). In July 2015, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Stanford University faculty released the final report of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, which recommended regulations for recreational marijuana use in California.[10]

On November 4, 2014, California Proposition 47 was passed. Also known as the Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act, Proposition 47 made the punishment for the possession of controlled substances in the state of California drop down from a felony to misdemeanor.[11] This law's reclassification of possession related felonies as misdemeanors made it possible for those priorly convicted to petition their felony charges which for some means shorter sentences and others less restrictive charges on their record.[12]

On May 4, 2016, the group sponsoring the initiative announced that it had collected over 600,000 signatures for the proposal; enough to get it on the 2016 ballot.[13][14] On June 28, the measure was certified by the Secretary of State for the November ballot.[15] On July 1, the Secretary of State released a list of propositions with AUMA listed as Proposition 64, then later in the day renumbered it to 63; and, on July 2, released a final list restoring it to Proposition 64.[16]


According to California Legislative Analyst's Office, the measure changes California law to legalize the possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana. Individuals over age 21 are allowed to possess, cultivate, and sell marijuana; the state regulates commercial activities related to commerce for recreational use; a 15% excise tax and an additional $9.25 per ounce of flower or $2.75 per ounce of leaf will be collected; and possession and cultivation of certain amounts for personal use is legalized statewide.[17]

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) (Proposition 64) provides an array of opportunities ranging from economic stimulation of several markets and industries to financial relief of the criminal justice system, which are over-burdened with backlogged and pending cases for non-violent cannabis offenders.[18] Revenue paid into the new California Marijuana Tax Fund will allocate 60% of outflows to youth programs, 20% to environmental damage clean-up, and 20% to public safety.[17]

Under Prop 64, new state regulation laws will require stringent product development systems to establish distributional industry standards regarding testing, packaging, and labeling.[19]

Prop 64's new state regulations provide a platform for a fully transparent, highly efficient seed-to-sale tracking system through the newly created State Regulatory Agency—the Bureau of Marijuana Control—formerly known as the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation.[20]

Additionally, the Medical Marijuana Industry will be regulated by several other state agencies: the California Department of Food and Agriculture (to license and regulate marijuana cultivation); the California Department of Public Health (to license and monitor manufacturing of marijuana edibles); the California State Water Resources Control Board (to "regulate the environmental impacts of marijuana growing on water quality"); the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (to regulate cultivation-related impacts on local environments); and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (to regulate nutrients and pesticides utilized for marijuana cultivation).[19]

AUMA allows adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.[21] Adults are also allowed to cultivate up to six marijuana plants inside their homes.[21] Marijuana packaging is now required to provide the net weight, origin, age, and type of the product, as well as the milligram amount per serving of tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, and other cannabinoids, and if any pesticides were used during cultivation.[21]

Smoking marijuana in public is subject to a $100 fine.[21] Driving under the influence of marijuana remains illegal, although some California Highway Patrol officers are concerned that they will be unable to identify intoxicated drivers.[22] The penalty for unlicensed sale of marijuana is now reduced from four years in state prison to six months in county jail.[17]

Businesses selling marijuana require a license from the state-level Bureau of Marijuana Control, and local governments decide permits for businesses to allow on-site consumption.[17] Marijuana shops are prohibited from the sale or consumption of alcohol or tobacco.[17] Local governments are allowed to completely ban marijuana-related businesses.[17]

Reactions and analysis[edit]

State financial analysts estimated Proposition 64 could increase tax revenue by hundreds of millions to one billion dollars.[23] Independent analysts estimated the measure would reduce state and local government expenditures by tens of millions of dollars.[23]

California NORML endorsed the initiative as of March 2016, saying "as well as one of the world's largest economies, California is arguably the most important state to consider marijuana legalization this year."[24][25] California has the biggest legal cannabis market in the United States due to high population density and high cultivation rates.[26]

Ballotpedia called the measure "a clear leader and the most likely to reach the ballot in November 2016".[27]

The Los Angeles Times stated in February, 2016 that the measure was one of 20 legalization initiatives for the 2016 ballot and was the "clear favorite to make the November ballot" due to support from individual donors and well-funded advocacy groups.[28] Billionaire Sean Parker donated $1 million to the effort to get the measure on the ballot,[29] and Weedmaps donated $500,000.[30]

Newsweek stated the success of the initiative would be influential given California's national importance as a "regulatory laboratory",[31] and Reason magazine stated it was poised to approximately triple the number of U.S. residents living in states with legalization.[32] Deseret News (Salt Lake City) expressed concern over a "potential problem when it comes to minorities and recreational marijuana" if the measure passed. Deseret News cited an NPR report from Colorado to conclude that in California, white youth arrests could fall faster than those of minorities, or minority arrests could even increase due to lack of minority access to legal sales and nonwhite ownership of cannabis businesses, worsening the effect of "systemic racism" in pursuing drug crime.[33]

The emerging legal marijuana industry is overwhelmingly white-owned and white-dominated and provides good access to white customers," he says. "So one possibility is that that leaves the illegal market disproportionately composed of people of color, both the buyers and the sellers.

— Keith Humphreys, Stanford University, Morning Edition (NPR)[34]

California Proposition 64 helps to remedy marijuana related incarceration rates considerably. However, some argue that the passing of the MORE Act is a necessary next step down the path of decriminalization of the substance, as it would remove cannabis from the controlled substances list and declassify marijuana as a schedule 1 drug.[35]

The MORE Act could potentially help to remedy some of the racial disparities within America's criminal justice system that proposition 64 does not address. According to Forbes roughly 40000 remain behind bars due to cannabis related charges as of 2020.[36] With the racial gap widening over the past 20 years after the War On Drugs campaign took off, a jump from 3:1 to 5:1 between Black and White incarceration rates occurred.[11] In 2014, black people made up roughly 14% of the 127,000 drug charges in California.[11]

While Proposition 64 decriminalizes the possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana, the effects are not immediately felt by those with charges made prior to the passing of this law.[37] Those with prior convictions must still petition for shorter sentences, release, or a change from felony to misdemeanor on their records.[38]

The MORE Act calls for a more transparent system in regards to cannabis companies employer/employee demographics which might help to mitigate issues of monopolization within California's cannabis industry that arouse after proposition 64 was passed in 2016.[35]


The California Medical Association endorsed the measure in February 2016.[39] United States Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican, endorsed AUMA in late April 2016.[40] Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders indicated his support for AUMA while campaigning in California in May 2016.[41][42][43] The California Democratic Party endorsed AUMA in June 2016.[44] On July 21, 2016, The Sacramento Bee reported that Gov. Gary Johnson, Libertarian candidate for President, endorsed California's initiative to legalize marijuana.[45] Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi endorsed it a few days before the election, becoming "one of the highest ranking politicians ... openly supporting legalization".[46]

Proponents spent $24.7 million fighting for the measure, with the top contribution being $8.8 million from Sean Parker and affiliates.[23] The measure was supported by the editorial boards of the Los Angeles Times[47] and the San Francisco Chronicle.[48]


A number of organizations like the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, the California Hospitals Association, and the Automobile Club of Southern California expressed opposition to the initiative.[49][50] The California Teamsters Union switched their position to neutral after contributing a relatively large amount to the opposition campaign.[51] According to Capital Public Radio, a Sacramento Superior Court judge ordered the ballot's official arguments to be rewritten, after U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein's claim that Proposition 64 would allow marijuana advertising on primetime television was debunked as "mostly false" by[52]

Opponents spent $1.6 million fighting the measure.[23] The measure was opposed by the editorial board of The Sacramento Bee.[53]

Public opinion[edit]

Public opinion on the legalization of recreational marijuana in California
Poll source Date(s)
Margin of
% support % opposition % Undecided/Don't Know
Insights West Archived 2016-11-08 at the Wayback Machine November 4–6, 2016 401 LV ± 4.9% 55% 39% 5%
SurveyUSA October 28–31, 2016 747 LV and EV ± 3.6% 54% 39% 6%[note 1]
Field/YouGov October 25–31, 2016 998 LV N/A 57% 40% 3%
Public Policy Institute of California October 14–23, 2016 1024 LV ± 4.3% 55% 38% 6%
SurveyUSA October 13–15, 2016 725 LV and EV ± 3.6% 51% 40% 8%[note 2]
CalSpeaks Sacramento State October 7–13, 2016 622 LV ± 7% 60% 30% 10%
Hoover Institution/YouGov October 4–14, 2016 1247 LV ± 3.28% 56% 34% 10%
SurveyUSA September 27–28, 2016 751 LV ± 3.6% 52% 41% 6% [note 3]
Insights West Archived 2016-09-30 at the Wayback Machine September 12–14, 2016 515 LV ± 4.3% 64% 30% 6%
Public Policy Institute of California September 9–18, 2016 1055 LV ± 4.5% 60% 36% 4%
SurveyUSA September 8–11, 2016 712 LV ± 3.7% 52% 40% 8%
Field/YouGov September 7–13, 2016 942 LV N/A 60% 31% 9%
Smith Johnson Research August 17–19, 2016 500 LV ± 4.4% 56% 40% 5%
Probolsky Research August 5–8, 2016 1020 LV ± 3.1% 61.8% 34.9% 3.3%
Institute of Governmental Studies June 29–July 18, 2016 3020 RV N/A 63.8% 36.2% 0%
Public Policy Institute of California May 13–22, 2016 996 LV ± 4.3% 60% 37% 3%
1704 AV ± 3.3% 55% 43% 3%
Probolsky Research February 11–14, 2016 1000 LV ± 3.1% 59.9% 36.7% 3.4%
Public Policy Institute of California May 17–27, 2015 1048 LV ± 4.6% 56% 41% 3%
1706 AV ± 3.6% 54% 44% 2%

Removal of past cannabis infractions[edit]

On January 31, 2018, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced his department would begin to retroactively apply Proposition 64 to misdemeanor and felony marijuana convictions dating back to 1975, recalling and re-sentencing up to 4,940 felony marijuana convictions and dismissing and sealing 3,038 misdemeanors.[54] Los Angeles and San Joaquin counties announced in April plans to automatically clear about 54,000 marijuana-related convictions.[55] The national non-profit Code for America developed the technology and process to automate the dismissing and sealing of these records, which they first piloted with the San Francisco District Attorney's office, and subsequently extended to Los Angeles, San Joaquin, and Sacramento counties. In 2019, Code for America released an open source playbook and software that made every California county able to dismiss and seal records eligible for expungement under Prop 64 automatically, in bulk.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 6 likely or early voters, or 1% of the sample (with rounding), stated that they would not vote on Proposition 64.
  2. ^ 6 likely or early voters, or 1% of the sample (with rounding), stated that they would not vote on Proposition 64.
  3. ^ 4 likely voters, or 1% of the sample (with rounding), stated that they would not vote on Proposition 64.


  1. ^ "Statement of Vote - November 8, 2016, General Election". December 16, 2016. Retrieved January 7, 2017.
  2. ^ Olson Hagel & Fishburn LLP (December 7, 2015), Initiative documents for the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (amended) (PDF), 15-0103 – via California Office of the Attorney General
  3. ^ Patrick McGreevy (November 8, 2016), "Californians vote to legalize recreational use of marijuana in the state", The Los Angeles Times
  4. ^ Will Houston (November 7, 2016), "Know your rights post-Prop. 64", Eureka Times-Standard, archived from the original on November 9, 2016, retrieved November 9, 2016
  5. ^ "California Marijuana Legalization, Proposition 19 (1972)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  6. ^ "California Proposition 215, the Medical Marijuana Initiative (1996)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  7. ^ United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, 532 U.S. 483 (2001).
  8. ^ Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005).
  9. ^ "California Proposition 19, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative (2010)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
  10. ^ "Final Report on Marijuana Policy is Full with Recommendations". American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. 22 July 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  11. ^ a b c Mooney, Alyssa C.; Giannella, Eric; Glymour, M. Maria; Neilands, Torsten B.; Morris, Meghan D.; Tulsky, Jacqueline; Sudhinaraset, May (2018-08-01). "Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Arrests for Drug Possession After California Proposition 47, 2011–2016". American Journal of Public Health. 108 (8): 987–993. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2018.304445. ISSN 0090-0036. PMC 6050868. PMID 29927653.
  12. ^ "Proposition 47: The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act". Archived from the original on 2022-05-30. Retrieved 2022-05-29.
  13. ^ Jimi Devine (May 4, 2016), "California marijuana legalization 2016 campaign launches with Lt. Gov. Newsom", San Francisco Chronicle, archived from the original on May 5, 2016, retrieved May 5, 2016
  14. ^ Trevor Hughes (May 4, 2016), "California likely to vote on marijuana legalization in November", USA Today
  15. ^ Merrit Kennedy (June 29, 2016), "California To Vote On Legalizing Recreational Marijuana", NPR
  16. ^ Jim Miller (July 5, 2016), "California ballot measure numbers change twice in 28 hours", Sacramento Bee
  17. ^ a b c d e f Analysis of A.G. File No. 2015-103, California Legislative Analyst's Office, December 22, 2015, retrieved May 1, 2016
  18. ^ " - Working to Reform Marijuana Laws". Retrieved 2016-11-14.
  19. ^ a b California Legislative Analyst's Office. "California General Election, November 8, 2016: Official Voter Information Guide". Secretary of State of California. Archived from the original on November 24, 2016. Retrieved November 23, 2016.
  20. ^ "California Proposition 64, Marijuana Legalization (2016)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 2016-11-14.
  21. ^ a b c d Margolis, Jacob (6 September 2016). "California Report: 6 Ways Recreational Pot Would Change California — and 7 Ways It Wouldn't". KPCC. Archived from the original on 5 November 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  22. ^ O'Neill, Stephanie (13 July 2016). "California Report: How Can You Tell If a Driver Is Stoned?". KPCC. Archived from the original on 5 November 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  23. ^ a b c d Orr, Katie. "Election 2016: Proposition 64". KQED News. Archived from the original on 20 October 2016. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  24. ^ "NORML Endorsed AUMA, Now We Need Your Help". 23 March 2016. Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  25. ^ "California, Rejoice! AUMA Is Getting A Vote!". 2016-06-29. Archived from the original on 2016-08-16. Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  26. ^ Moiseeva, Ekaterina (Katya) (2020). The Legalization of Cannabis in California: Contested Meanings and Ideational Change (Thesis). UC Irvine.
  27. ^ California Proposition 64, Marijuana Legalization (2016) at Ballotpedia, accessed May 1, 2016
  28. ^ Phil Willon (February 22, 2016), "Only one of California's pot legalization initiatives has the green that counts", The Los Angeles Times
  29. ^ Dennis Romero (April 20, 2016), "Recreational Pot Legalization Gets Closer to the Ballot", LA Weekly
  30. ^ Brooke Edwards Staggs (March 8, 2016), "Is this the year? Momentum's building to legalize pot in California", Orange County Register
  31. ^ Katy Steinmetz (March 17, 2015), "These Five States Could Legalize Marijuana in 2016", Newsweek
  32. ^ Jacob Sullum (May 4, 2016), "California Marijuana Initiative Seems to Have Plenty of Signatures–Recent polls indicate that legalization also has plenty of public support", Reason
  33. ^ Herb Scribner (June 29, 2016), "California may legalize recreational marijuana, but there's a major issue if that happens", Deseret News
  34. ^ Ben Markus (June 29, 2016), "As Adults Legally Smoke Pot In Colorado, More Minority Kids Arrested For It", Morning Edition, NPR
  35. ^ a b Nadler, Jerrold (2022-04-04). "H.R.3617 - 117th Congress (2021-2022): Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act". Retrieved 2022-05-29.
  36. ^ Oleck, Joan. "With 40,000 Americans Incarcerated For Marijuana Offenses, The Cannabis Industry Needs To Step Up, Activists Said This Week". Forbes. Retrieved 2022-05-29.
  37. ^ "California Court of Appeal Reverses Convictions for Possession of Marijuana in Prison". Retrieved 2022-05-29.
  38. ^ "Rundown on California Propositions 57 and 64". Retrieved 2022-05-29.
  39. ^ Christopher Cadelago, "California doctors' lobbying group formally backs marijuana legalization", The Sacramento Bee
  40. ^ Dennis Romero (April 26, 2016), "Conservative Congressman Says Yes to Marijuana", LA Weekly
  41. ^ Kurtis Lee (May 27, 2016), "On the stump, Bernie Sanders makes pitch for legal pot in California", The Los Angeles Times
  42. ^ Dennis Romero (May 26, 2016), "It Looks Like This Recreational Marijuana Thing Is Gonna Happen", LA Weekly
  43. ^ Jessie Hellmann (May 28, 2016), "Sanders: I would vote to legalize marijuana in California", The Hill, Washington, D.C.
  44. ^ Christopher Cadelago (June 20, 2016), "California's largest political party just endorsed legalizing marijuana", The Sacramento Bee
  45. ^ Christopher Cadelago (July 21, 2016), "Libertarian Gary Johnson says he backs California pot legalization", The Sacramento Bee
  46. ^ Meg Anderson (November 5, 2016), "The Trend Toward Legalizing Recreational Marijuana", NPR
  47. ^ The Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times (16 September 2016). "It's time to legalize and regulate marijuana in California". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  48. ^ The Editorial Board of the San Francisco Chronicle (15 September 2016). "Chronicle recommends: Legalize marijuana Yes on Prop. 64". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  49. ^ Brooke Edwards Staggs (May 27, 2016), "Initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in California is on track", Orange County Register[permanent dead link]
  50. ^ Auto Club Urges Against Legalizing Marijuana In California, CBS Local Media (Los Angeles), October 5, 2016
  51. ^ Bergman, Ben (11 July 2016). "Why the Teamsters changed their stance on legalizing pot in California". KPCC. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
  52. ^ Nichols, Chris (5 August 2016). "Feinstein's claim about marijuana ads on 'prime time' TV goes up in smoke". Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  53. ^ The Editorial Board of the Sacramento Bee (17 September 2016). "Slick Proposition 64 is bad for public health". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  54. ^ "District Attorney George Gascón Applies Proposition 64 Retroactively to Every Marijuana Case Since 1975". Archived from the original on 2018-02-03. Retrieved 2018-02-03.
  55. ^ Tchekmedyian, Alene (April 1, 2019). "Prosecutors move to clear 54,000 marijuana convictions in California". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019-04-01.

External links[edit]