Explaining Proposition 64: How California would legalize marijuana
If the proposition passes, the following changes would be implemented:
Proposition 64 legalizes marijuana under state law, for use by adults 21 or older
Starting immediately, it would no longer be a crime in California to buy, possess or transport limited amounts of marijuana for personal use. You could cultivate up to six plants in the privacy of your own home – either indoors or outdoors, as long as it’s not visible to the public.
“They can’t sell it, but they can grow it for their own personal use,” explains Richard Miadich, the lawyer who wrote the initiative and works for the Yes on 64 campaign.
Miadich says you can only smoke or consume marijuana products – including edibles – at a private home, or at a business that gets a license to allow on-site consumption.
“You cannot use marijuana, ingest marijuana in any way, in public,” he says. “You can’t use it or ingest it anywhere where smoking is prohibited.”
A lot of taxes, in fact.
There would be a state excise tax on cultivation of $9.25 per ounce of marijuana flowers and $2.75 per ounce of marijuana leaves; and a state excise tax on sales: 15 percent of the retail price.
That’s on top of the regular sales tax that we pay on everything from cars to couches, though medical marijuana patients would be exempt from sales tax. And local governments can throw their own excise tax on top too.
Consumers wouldn’t pay the cultivation tax directly. But if you live in a city with a particularly high sales tax rate that chooses to also add a local excise tax, your total taxes might reach 30 percent.
“That, to me, is ridiculously high,” says Jamie Kerr, the founder of a storefront medical marijuana dispensary in the city of Shasta Lake and an opponent of Proposition 64. She wants to see California legalize marijuana but says this is the wrong way to do it.
“That (combined tax rate) exceeds the threshold at which we start to promote the illicit market,” Kerr says, “and that’s a concern.”
“You want to strike the right balance,” counters initiative author Richard Miadich, “of not having a tax that's so high that you perpetuate the illegal market – which is what of course we want to eliminate by enacting this initiative – but not have a tax rate that's so low that it encourages overuse by adults, for example.”
Miadich says the tax rates set by Proposition 64 are just starting points. The Legislature can adjust any rates it decides need to be tweaked.
Although California voters legalized medical marijuana in 1996, it wasn’t until last year that the governor and Legislature finally created a regulatory framework. The regulations themselves are still being written.
“The state will be in charge of licensing cultivators, manufacturers, distributors and retailers of nonmedical marijuana,” Miadich says, “just like it is for medical marijuana.”