California Proposition 19 (also known as the Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Act) was a ballot initiative on the November 2, 2010 statewide ballot. It was defeated, with 53.5% of California voters voting "No" and 46.5% voting "Yes." If passed, it would have legalized various marijuana-related activities, allowed local governments to regulate these activities, permitted local governments to impose and collect marijuana-related fees and taxes, and authorized various criminal and civil penalties. In March 2010, it qualified to be on the November statewide ballot. The proposition required a simple majority in order to pass, and would have taken effect the day after the election. Yes on 19 was the official advocacy group for the initiative and California Public Safety Institute: No On Proposition 19 was the official opposition group.
Supporters of Proposition 19 argued that it would help with California's budget shortfall, would cut off a source of funding to violent drug cartels, and would redirect law enforcement resources to more dangerous crimes, while opponents claimed that it contains gaps and flaws that may have serious unintended consequences on public safety, workplaces, and federal funding. However, even if the proposition had passed, the sale of cannabis would have remained illegal under federal law via the Controlled Substances Act.
possess up to 28.5 grams (1 oz) of cannabis for personal consumption.
use cannabis in:
a non-public place such as a residence
a public establishment licensed for on site cannabis consumption.
grow cannabis at a private residence in a space of up to 25 square feet (2.3 m2) for personal use.
Local government regulation of commercial production and sale
Local governments may:
Authorize the retail sale of up to 28.5 grams of cannabis per transaction to persons 21 and older.
Regulate the location, size, hours of operation, and signs and displays of the establishments authorized to make these sales.
Authorize larger amounts of cannabis for:
personal possession and cultivation, or
commercial cultivation, transportation, and sale.
Allows for the transportation of cannabis from a licensed premises in one city or county to a licensed premises in another city or county, without regard to local laws of intermediate localities to the contrary.
Allows the collection of taxes to allow local governments to raise revenue or to offset any costs associated with cannabis regulation.
Maintenance and addition of criminal and civil penalties
Maintains an employer's right to address consumption of cannabis that affects an employee's job performance.
Maintains existing laws against interstate or international transportation of cannabis.
Every person 18 years of age or older who hires, employs, or uses a minor in transporting, carrying, selling, giving away cannabis, or knowingly sells or gives away cannabis to someone under the age of 14, shall be imprisoned in state prison for a period of three, five, or seven years.
Every person 18 years of age or older who knowingly sells or gives away cannabis to someone older than the age of 14 but younger than 18, shall be imprisoned in the state prison for a period of three, four, or five years.
Every person 21 years of age or older who knowingly sells or gives away cannabis to someone older than the age of 18 but younger than 21, shall be imprisoned in county jail for up to six months and fined up to $1,000 per offense.
Any person who is licensed, permitted, or authorized to sell cannabis, who knowingly sells or gives away cannabis to someone under the age of 21, will be banned from owning, operating, or being employed by a licensed cannabis establishment for one year.
The State Board of Equalization estimated that imposing a $50 per ounce levy on cannabis sales could generate $1.4 billion a year in new tax revenue, thus generating a large amount of revenue at a time when the state was experiencing financial pressure. This estimate came from the BOE's 2009 analysis of California Assembly Bill 390 based on a 2006 report entitled "Marijuana Production in the United States." These statistics were based on production estimates derived from marijuana eradication efforts from 2003 to 2005.
According to the States Legislative Analyst's office, passage of the proposition could have a significant fiscal impact, including:
Significant savings to state and local governments; potentially up to several tens of millions of dollars annually due to reduction of individuals incarcerated, on probation, or on parole.
Freeing up cells used to house marijuana offenders, which could be then used for other criminals, many of whom obtained early release because of a lack of jail space.
Major reduction in state and local costs for enforcement of marijuana-related offenses and the handling of related criminal cases in the court system, providing the opportunity for funds to be used to enforce other existing criminal laws.
Potential increase in the costs of substance abuse programs due to a projected increase in marijuana usage, possibly resulting in reduced spending on mandatory treatment for some criminal offenders, or in the redirection of these funds for other offenders.
Potential reduction in both the costs and offsetting revenues of the state's medical marijuana program, as some adults over 21 would be less likely to participate in existing programs if obtaining marijuana were made less difficult.
Providing the opportunity for significant additional tax revenue stream from businesses engaged in marijuana-related commerce.
Reduction in fine collection under state law but a potential increase in local civil fines authorized by existing local laws (the cumulative effect on fines was indicated to be largely unknown).
In regard to potential savings from the reduction of incarcerated individuals, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations, 1,639 state prison inmates were in prison for marijuana-related crimes at a cost of $85 million per year.
Several arguments were used in support of passing Proposition 19. Supporters argued that legalizing marijuana in California would help alleviate the drug war in Mexico. Based on the theory espoused by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy that up to 60% of Mexican drug cartels’ profits come from sales of marijuana, legalizing the drug in nearby California would drastically cut their funding. As a result, supporters of this argument believed that legalization would lead to a decrease in drug-related violent crime in Mexico.
Also cited were expected financial benefits of passing the measure. Economists lauded an analysis by Jeffrey Miron predicting $7.7 billion in projected savings on law enforcement expenses related to marijuana offenses, as well as expected revenues of up to $6.2 billion annually in taxes. These revenues were calculated based on marijuana sales taxes structured similarly to alcohol and cigarettes. In 2008, California police made 78,500 arrests related to marijuana.
Some civil rights groups lauded Proposition 19 as a way to reduce the disproportionate number of arrests of African-Americans and Latinos in California, many of which were related to marijuana possession. A study released by the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance found that despite having lower marijuana consumption rates than young whites, young Latinos and African Americans were arrested for marijuana possession at much higher rates than whites in the 25 largest California counties.
Supporters also argued that passing the measure would result in additional benefits including tourism and spinoff industries such as cafes and paraphernalia. Based on California’s wine industry, proponents of this theory anticipated that legalizing marijuana in the state could generate up to $18 billion, including the creation of 60,000-110,000 jobs.
Some argued that legalization of marijuana could reduce drug-related violence, based on a study conducted by the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy. This study found that drug law enforcement contributes to increased levels of drug-related violence and suggests that "alternative models for drug control" may be necessary.
Opponents of Prop 19 argued that legalizing marijuana in California using the current proposition would have numerous negative consequences. They cited current Federal laws banning the cultivation, sale, and use of the drug, and claimed that it would create complications with drug trafficking and arrests as well as challenge Federal authority. Opponents also argued that Proposition 19 would complicate regulation across the state by allowing local jurisdictions the power to determine their own laws regarding cultivation and possession. Opponents claimed that this increased government activity would absorb much of the projected tax revenue.
Opponents of the measure also argued that it posed a public safety risk, based on research showing an association between marijuana use and voluntary treatment admissions for addiction, fatal drugged driving accidents, mental illness, and emergency room visits. Opponents also compared Prop 19 to current alcohol and tobacco regulation, arguing that the associated potential healthcare and criminal justice costs outweigh the tax revenue generated.
In response to supporters' claims regarding Prop 19's tax revenue generation, opponents claim the potential benefit is vastly overstated. Opponents also criticized the measure for failing to include specific accompanying tax proposals. Opponents also rejected the argument that revenue increases from the measure would improve the state budgetary deficit, dismissing it as a short-term fix.
Since California essentially decriminalized the possession of marijuana in 1976, opponents reject the idea that legalization would free law enforcement to pursue violent crime in lieu of marijuana-related crime. A Rand Corporation study found that passage of the measure would likely do little to curtail the drug trade and cartel violence stemming from Latin America. Opponents also argued that passage would reflect softening attitudes in America toward drug consumption.
Supporters of medicinal marijuana use expressed concern that Prop 19 could burden growers with increased regulations. Also cited were potential confusion caused by double selling rules and a potential threat to existing protections for medical marijuana users.
The first cannabis prohibition laws in California were passed in 1913. In the 1972 California November elections, a similar initiative to Proposition 19 which would have legalized cannabis was on the ballot, coincidentally also named Proposition 19. It failed to pass, with 66.5% voters voting "No" and 33.5% voting "Yes." In 1976 the passage of the Moscone Act changed small-scale possession of marijuana from a felony to a misdemeanor. Two decades later in 1996, Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana, passed with 56% of the vote. In 2003 the California Senate Bill SB 420 clarified some of Proposition 215 to address critics and issues that arose since it was passed. In 2005, Oakland’s Measure Z, one of the first marijuana taxes, made marijuana possession one of the lowest law enforcement priorities. It was passed by 65% of the voters. In July 2010, Oakland approved a cultivation ordinance.
Proposition 19's originator is Richard Lee, a marijuana legalization activist and medical marijuana provider based in Oakland. Lee named political consultant Chris Lehane as the head of the campaign to pass the measure. In order to qualify for the ballot, the initiative needed 433,971 valid petition signatures. The initiative proponents submitted 694,248 signatures, and it qualified through the random sample signature check.
Stance on initiative
In response to growing demand for a vote on the legal status of marijuana, California governorArnold Schwarzenegger said in May 2009, "I think it's time for a debate. And I think that we ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana and other drugs, what effect it had on those countries, and are they happy with that decision." However, in his signing statement for California SB 1449, which decriminalized possession of less than an ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction, Schwarzenegger said he opposed Proposition 19, calling it "deeply flawed" and claiming that its potential for generating tax revenue has been overstated.
Analysis of different polling techniques showed significant differentials in support for Proposition 19. Polls conducted by a live interviewer showed substantially less support for Proposition 19 than automated polls. It was suggested that there was a "social desirability bias" causing people to deny their support for Proposition 19 to live interviewers.
Another discrepancy was noted in the Action News/SurveyUSA poll taken in late October. Those interviewed via landlines opposed the initiative 53% to 43%, while those on cell phones supported it 54% to 29%.