California’s laws regarding drug use, specifically marijuana, have undergone some recent changes, especially in the wake of the movement to legalize marijuana in several states.
As the first state to legalize medicinal marijuana nearly two decades ago, California continues to garner national attention because of its changing laws surrounding drug use. The recent passing of Proposition 47, which changed medical marijuana regulation and created a buzz surrounding the legalization of recreational marijuana, was just another example of California’s drug laws continue to change dramatically.
California legalized medical marijuana in 1996; however, the state has not established set standards surrounding the cultivation, production, and sale of the drug. Currently, California allows local governments to determine how they want to implement the state’s medical marijuana law, which has caused significant discrepancies in how businesses operate throughout the state. San Francisco, for example, has defined a clear system in which it dictates where and how dispensaries operate, while other cities, such as San Diego, remain largely unregulated and provide little to no control over where and how these businesses function. California is currently debating measure AB1894, which would create a division within California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control dedicated to regulating all medical marijuana-related entities. This proposal would allow the state to impose fees and generate revenue for the state.
California voters recently passed Proposition 47, a law that reduces drug possession and some property crimes to misdemeanors. This has made California the first state to defelonize nearly all accounts of drug possession with intent for personal use. Proposition 47 will significantly reduce the number of incarcerations in the state and provide individuals with the ability to seek help and treatment for addiction, rather than being trapped in the criminal justice system. The passing of this proposition also indicates a major shift in the public’s perception of the “Three Strikes Law,” in which anyone with three felonies, violent or non-violent, would be put in prison for life. Now, at least 10,000 inmates with no history of violent or sexual crimes will have the ability to challenge their sentence.
California is currently debating legalizing marijuana, potentially following in the footsteps of Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon, all of which have recently legalized recreational marijuana. Some lawmakers believe California’s recent move to regulate medical marijuana is an indicator of the state’s evolving views on recreational use. As laws regarding the incarceration of those who use drugs like marijuana have changed, many lawmakers believe it is time to start looking for new solutions. Public opinion polls indicate that many people seem to be favor of legalizing recreational use of marijuana, although it is thought that the issue will not be proposed to California voters until 2016.
Public and legal opinion surrounding marijuana use in California has dramatically shifted over the past two decades. While there have been many significant steps taken to provide treatment to those suffering from drug addiction, the legalization of marijuana may still create more problems with addiction in the state, especially among adolescents and young adults. Although there are strict laws regarding who may buy or use marijuana, increased availability will make it easier for it to end up in the hands of teens. Much like the increased availability of prescription drugs in households leading to an increase in prescription drug addiction, the presence of marijuana in many households will likely have negative consequences as well.