These days it’s easy for misconceptions to develop around laws and ballot initiatives, and California’s Prop 64 is no exception. There’s broad agreement on the big changes it brings: legalizes marijuana for adults 21 and over, funds needy causes like research, harm reduction and community investment, and institutes standards and regulations to protect minors. It’s the details where things get thorny. Let’s look at a few questions and myths that have arisen around Prop 64.
Does Prop 64 interfere with medical marijuana?
This has been a concern for many people, but not one that is borne out by Prop 64 itself. The confusion stems from a misreading of Prop 64’s text, which led some to believe that only a patient’s primary care physician will be able to recommend medical marijuana. How did this belief come about? One key phrase is “attending physician.” Prop 64 did not create this term, but it comes up in reference to existing medical marijuana law, which stipulates that cannabis can only be recommended by a patient’s attending physician, but this is not the same as your primary care physician. Rather, the attending physician is the physician that attended to you at the visit where you got your medical cannabis recommendation. In short, Prop 64 does not affect who can be a patient. William G. Panzer provided a thorough explanation of how Prop 64 actually provides additional protections for patients in an article for The Leaf Online.
But Prop 64 permits counties to disallow the sale of marijuana.
Yes, but this doesn’t apply to medical marijuana. If Prop 64 passes, medical marijuana remains unchanged, and can still be purchased from a licensed dispensary in any county. Incidentally, if a city or county votes to not issue commercial licenses under Prop 64, they do not receive any of the local government grants allocated by the tax revenue from the sale of recreational cannabis. Prop. 64 only addresses local control of marijuana for recreational sales. It does not change existing law regarding local control for medical sales.
Does Prop 64 allow patients and other consumers to grow their own plants?
Yes. Again, the specifications for non-patients do not affect medical marijuana--patients will still be allowed to grow what they need to treat their condition. As for everyone else, they will be permitted to grow up to six plants. Existing law, as interpreted by the courts, allows localities to ban all home cultivation by patients and caregivers for medical use and many have done so. Thus, Prop. 64 will allow cultivation of at least up to 6 plants by patients and caregivers in areas of the state where they are currently complete bans.
Does Prop 64 allow people to smoke at home?
Absolutely. This initiative is about increasing freedoms, after all. Under Prop. 64 you can smoke marijuana anywhere other than in public or in areas where smoking tobacco is prohibited. Prop. 64 also allows for the licensing of on-site consumption for businesses.
How does Prop 64 affect small cannabusinesses?
It makes sense to wonder if Big Marijuana will become the next corporate oligopoly. Prop 64 works to keep small-scale growers and retailers thriving. The initiative allows for but does not require vertical integration--meaning that a business that sells cannabis does not have to own every part of the process from seed to sale. Prop. 64 also includes a special microbusiness license that will allow small businesses to be completely vertically integrated under one license. For the largest cultivators, vertical integration is actually prohibited and the largest cultivation licenses will not be issued for five years.
Why is the initiative so long?
In a word: legalese. The length and detailed nature of the initiative is not to make it opaque or confusing, but to be free of vague, exploitable language. Opponents of the law are bound to try and find holes in it, and the specificity and density of the language protect against that. To give one example of Prop 64’s complexity, it allows for 19 different licenses, and defines what each is for, who can apply for them and when they are eligible to do so.
Prop 64 is more than a good idea, it is an expertly crafted law that brings a thoughtful approach to marijuana legalization. If passed, it will likely be a model that other states draw on. It is a complex set of proposals, but it is precisely these details that ensure that legalization in California is done in a way that protects patients, growers, retailers and consumers. This is legalization done right.
Owen Poindexter is a consultant with the Californians for Responsible Marijuana Reform campaign.