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Will California fully legalize marijuana in 2016?

California voters elected to legalize marijuana for medical purposes in 1996. However, use of recreational marijuana remains against the law. Voters rejected a 2010 ballot initiative that would have fully legalized the drug in the state.

A Washington, D.C.-based group is seeking to take another crack at legalizing marijuana in California. The Marijuana Policy Project has filed with the secretary of state to begin raising and spending money in favor of a campaign to put another initiative on the ballot, this time in 2016.

The group’s executive director said that partial legalization has been “enormously detrimental” to California, in part because of the lost potential tax revenue over the last 18 years. Besides California, the group is hoping to legalize marijuana in Arizona, Massachusetts and Nevada in 2016. Meanwhile, two more states and the District of Columbia will have ballot initiatives this November.

The efforts come after lawmakers in Colorado and Washington State fully legalized marijuana. The drug is still illegal under federal law, even for medicinal uses, but federal authorities have so far not taken action against licensed distributors in those states.

The subject of marijuana legalization remains controversial, despite what seems to be a growing acceptance that its sale and use can be safely regulated. For now, growers, vendors and users of medical marijuana in California may remain vulnerable to possible arrest on drug charges, if authorities challenge their licensing or accuse them of illicit possession or trafficking.

It also remains to be seen if federal law enforcement will ever choose to take action against those operating within the law at the state level.

Source: USA TODAY, “Marijuana legalization effort begins in California,” Sept. 25, 2014

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