Proposed California Marijuana Initiative Allows Cannabis Cafés

The measure includes a generous home cultivation limit, and it does not define drugged driving based on THC levels.


Jacob Sullum

This week Reform CA, the leading campaign to legalize marijuana in California next year, filed the proposed language of its ballot initiative. Like the initiatives in the four states that have legalized marijuana so far, the Control, Regulate, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2016 would allow adults 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in public. Like three of those initiatives, it also would let people share up to an ounce at a time with other adults and grow marijuana at home.

Unlike the other initiatives, the California measure would limit home cultivation not by the number of plants but by area: up to 100 square feet. Based on an estimate by the consultants who advised Washington's marijuana regulators, a professional grower could produce as much as nine pounds of usable marijuana per harvest in that amount of space, although the typical home garden probably would be much less productive. Home growers would be allowed to possess and share (but not sell) whatever they produced.

The proposed initiative would establish an Office of Cannabis Regulation within the California Department of Consumer Affairs, overseen by a newly created California Cannabis Commission and charged with licensing and regulating marijuana businesses. The office would be required to start issuing "provisional licenses" to existing medical marijuana dispensaries by July 1, 2017, meaning that legal recreational sales could begin as early as then. July 1 is also the deadline for beginning to write regulations for the newly legal recreational industry. Licenses under the new rules would be issued by January 1, 2018. The initiative authorizes three levels of taxation: $2 per square foot of canopy on commercial growers, $15 per ounce on the first sale, and a 10 percent retail sales tax. Local governments could ban marijuana outlets but only with the approval of local voters.

Unlike the earlier initiatives, the Reform CA measure clearly leaves the door open to cannabis consumption outside of private residences. Consumption is legal in "a private residence or such other location as permitted under this Act." Consumption "in a public street, school, playground, public transit vehicle, or any public property" would be an infraction subject to a maximum fine of $500 (which seems steep to me, especially since the corresponding fines in other states range from $50 to $260). Likewise consumption "on any property where such activity is prohibited by the property owner, resident, operator, manager, or business owner." The implication is that consumption in private businesses would be legal (subject to existing restrictions on smoking) as long as the owner says it's OK.

That means cannabis-friendly bars, restaurants, or clubs would be allowed under state law. So would cannabis-friendly limos and similar privately operated conveyances, since consumption in a vehicle is prohibited only "in the driver compartment." In fact, the initiative, like a Massachusetts measure that is expected to appear on the ballot in that state next year, apparently would allow consumption on the premises of marijuana merchants, since it authorizes the Office of Cannabis Regulation to establish "controls governing on-site consumption of cannabis and cannabis products."

The California initiative wisely does not establish a definition of drugged driving based on THC blood levels, an unreliable measure of impairment. Instead it says "a person shall be deemed to be under the influence of cannabis if, as a result of consuming cannabis, his or her mental or physical abilities are so impaired that he or she is no longer able to drive a vehicle or operate a vessel with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances." It adds that "this standard shall be the sole standard used in determining driving under the influence allegations."

The initiative sensibly distinguishes between "minors" who are younger than 18 and minors who are 18, 19, or 20 (who in other contexts are recognized as adults). Hence an 18-to-20-year-old who shares marijuana with another 18-to-20-year-old commits an infraction punishable by a $100 fine, the same category as underage possession. If the person providing the marijuana is 21 or older, the offense is still an infraction, but the maximum fine rises to $500. Providing marijuana to someone younger than 18 can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. By contrast, there is no felony option in California for providing alcohol to a minor. That inconsistency is hard to justify, especially since alcohol is in several important ways more dangerous than marijuana. 

Reform CA says the initiative is still subject to revision, although feedback must be submitted by midnight tomorrow.

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  1. “alcohol is in several important ways more dangerous than marijuana.”

    Alcohol drinks itself, yep.

    1. After consumption of both substances is understood, of course. – Some people really work at not understanding things.

  2. the California measure would limit home cultivation not by the number of plants but by area: up to 100 square feet.

    Just a doggone minute! Is that the area of the soil or the area covered by the leaves?

    Good thing MJ is “legal”, huh?

    1. 100 square feet is a heck of a lot more than we have now. – Save us from people who insist on getting everything, all at once. – Marijuana reform is a process, not an event.

  3. That is actually not such a bad list. Sure, it doesn’t go as far as it should, but especially comparing it to the other states that have legalized it, it seems better. I will gladly take baby steps toward more freedom rather than in the other direction.

  4. Sounds good, but I’m not holding my breath it’ll pass. California had a recreational weed proposition years before Colorado and Washington. But the anti-marijuana people ran ads filled with lies (surgeons and airline pilots could go to work high and not get fired). The idiot voters believed them and the proposition failed. I’m sure they’ll do the same thing this time around. We’ll see…

    1. Also the NorCal growers campaigned against it. I’m curious what they will do this time.

    2. Yes, but public opinion has been changing, largely by “herd instinct”. The reason for the change in opinion is partly because of the death of older people, but mostly (AFAICT) because people tend to adopt the opinions of people around them, & are influenced by the teaching fx of the law. That is, as they see states legalize mj, they conclude mj must not be so bad, or they wouldn’t be legalizing it, and if mj’s not so bad, why not legalize it in their state too?

      Same thing happened w same-sex marriage, although IMO that was to the detriment of liberty.

      1. I hope you’re right. It’s just that the previous recreational weed proposition had huge public support until they began running those fraudulent ads filled with lies. I can see the same thing happening this time around and don’t trust my fellow Californians to use their brains and do the right thing. However, I’d love to be proven wrong here.

        1. I have a feeling voters won’t fall for the same lies this time around. And I don’t think prohibitionists are going to come up with any better ones.

  5. This all sounds pretty good except for the blanket provision of fining $500 for consuming on “public property.” So that mean if smoke in the middle of a state forest, 20 miles away from any other person, I’m a criminal and will be punished? – Why is that? – Do hunters get fined for drinking beer in their camps at night?

    1. If you’re 20 mi. away from any other person, nobody knows you’re in violation, so the penalty is 0.

      1. Okay, suppose you’re in the same scenario, but a Ranger sees you toke from a mile away with his binoculars.

        1. The point is the “no consumption in public places” should only be defined as those public places that are indoors or if outdoors, very near other people. – Anything else is absurdly, oppressively restrictive. – Especially for consumption by vaporization or edibles.

  6. The implication is that consumption in private businesses would be legal (subject to existing restrictions on smoking)

    Better check that last bit, Jacob. If the smoking laws are like those recently enacted in NY (or maybe just NYC), they apply only to tobacco smoking, not to smoking other materials (not even lobelia IIRC). I understand the recent rounds of smoking restrictions in at least some other jurisdictions apply specifically to tobacco alone or in mixtures, too.

  7. Just what an over-medicated, schizophrenic, violent country needs: more ready access to psychotropic drugs.

    1. It’s too bad you know so little about what you’re trying to comment on. While alcohol is infamous for causing huge numbers of traffic deaths and injuries, and fuels much violence, marijuana is famous for creating peaceful, friendly attitudes.

      Every year, the soccer championships held in Europe have been plagued by alcohol-fueled fan violence. Every year except for 2000. That was the year the games were held in Amsterdam. All observers noted the remarkable lack of violence and laid back atmosphere.

      No one wondered why.

      1. And, of course, the preponderance of the research shows marijuana is NOT a significant cause of auto accidents. – Marijuana is not alcohol. The preponderance of the research shows marijuana consumption is NOT a significant cause of auto accidents.

        In February, the Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk report, produced by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, found that while drunken driving dramatically increased the risk of getting into an accident, there was no evidence that using marijuana heightened that risk. In fact, after adjusting for age, gender, race and alcohol use, the report found that stoned drivers were no more likely to crash than drivers who were not intoxicated at all.…..54810.html…..-accidents

  8. ReformCa’s Director Charged with taking Bribes from Pot Dispensaries,
    Board of Directors of the Campaign to “ReformCA” took a heavy hit as a key player was indicted on Federal Fraud Charges.

    This group of people has long been associated with strong-arm tactics in their bid to control California’s marijuana market.

    https://californiacannabiscoalition. org/reformcas-dan-rush-endicted-for-fraud/

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