California Legalizes Marijuana with Proposition 64 (2016)



California Proposition 64, Marijuana Legalization (2016)



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California Proposition 64, California Marijuana Legalization
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Election date
November 8, 2016
Approved Approved
State statute

2016 measures
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Proposition 60 Defeated
Proposition 61 Defeated
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Proposition 63 Approved
Proposition 64 Approved
Proposition 65 Defeated
Proposition 66 Approved
Proposition 67 Approved
Voter guides
Campaign finance
Signature costs

California Proposition 64, the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, was on the November 8, 2016, ballot in California as an initiated state statute. Supporters referred to the initiative as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. It was approved.

  “yes” vote supported legalizing recreational marijuana for persons aged 21 years or older under state law and establishing certain sales and cultivation taxes.
  “no” vote opposed this proposal to legalize recreational marijuana under state law and to establish certain sales and cultivation taxes.[1]

Effective dates:[1][2]

  • November 9, 2016: Proposition 64 legalized using and growing marijuana for personal use.
  • January 1, 2018: Proposition 64 allowed for the sale and taxation of recreational marijuana.

This election was one of Ballotpedia’s top 10 state-level races in 2016. Click here to read the full list.

Election results

Proposition 64
Result Votes Percentage
Approved Yes 7,979,041 57.13%
No 5,987,020 42.87%
Election results from California Secretary of State


Looking for more information about marijuana on the ballot in 2016? Explore other Ballotpedia articles on the subject below.
Presidential candidates on marijuana • Marijuana laws in the U.S.
Drug Policy Alliance • Marijuana Policy Project • NORML • SAM Action
Recreational marijuana on the ballot
Arizona Prop. 205 • California Prop. 64 • Maine Question 1 • Massachusetts Question 4 • Nevada Question 2
Medical marijuana on the ballot
Arkansas Issue 6 • Florida Amendment 2 • Montana I-182 • North Dakota Measure 5

Status of marijuana in California

In California, the possession or use of marijuana for recreational purposes was illegal going into the election. The passage of Proposition 215 in 1996 legalized medical marijuana. Although the Department of Justiceunder President Obama did not prosecute most individuals and businesses following state and local marijuana laws, both medical and recreational marijuana were illegal under federal law in 2016.[3][4]Proposition 64 made recreational marijuana legal in California state law.

Changes to state law

Proposition 64 allowed adults aged 21 years or older to possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes. The measure created two new taxes, one levied on cultivation and the other on retail price. Prop. 64 was designed to allocate revenue from the taxes to be spent on drug research, treatment, and enforcement, health and safety grants addressing marijuana, youth programs, and preventing environmental damage resulting from illegal marijuana production.[1]

State of ballot measure campaigns

The Yes on 64 campaign outraised opponents 12-to-1. Supporters raised $25 million in contributions, while No on 64 raised $2.1 million. Sean Parker, founder of Napster and former Facebook president, had contributed $8.6 million to Yes on 64. As of February 1, 2017, the California secretary of state reported that Julie Schauer, based in Pennsylvania, contributed almost $1.4 million in opposition to Proposition 64, which amounted to about 65 percent of opposition funds.[5][6][7] California’s two largest newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, endorsed the measure. The California Democratic Party also endorsed Proposition 64, and the California Republican Party came out in opposition. Support for the initiative ranged between 51 and 60 percent, averaging around 56 percent, between September and November 2016.

Initiative design

Marijuana users

Proposition 64 legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults aged 21 years or older, permitting smoking in a private home or at a business licensed for on-site marijuana consumption. Smoking was to remain illegal while driving a vehicle, anywhere smoking tobacco is, and in all public places. Up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana are legal to possess under this measure. However, possession on the grounds of a school, day care center, or youth center while children are present remains illegal. An individual is permitted to grow up to six plants within a private home as long as the area is locked and not visible from a public place.[3]

Marijuana sellers

According to this proposition, businesses needed to acquire a state license to sell marijuana for recreational use. Local governments could also require them to obtain a local license. Businesses were not authorized by the proposition to sell within 600 feet of a school, day care center, or youth center.[3] The initiative also prevented licenses for large-scale marijuana businesses for five years in order to prevent “unlawful monopoly power.”[8]

Marijuana regulation

The Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation was renamed the Bureau of Marijuana Control and became responsible for regulating and licensing marijuana businesses.[3]

Counties and municipalities were empowered to restrict where marijuana businesses could be located. Local governments were also allowed to completely ban the sale of marijuana from their jurisdictions. Moreover, local jurisdictions were allowed by the measure to “reasonably regulate” the personal growth, possession, and use of marijuana plants allowed by Prop. 64.

Marijuana taxation

Proposition 64 created two new excise taxes on marijuana:

  • A cultivation tax of $9.25 per ounce for flowers and $2.75 per ounce for leaves, with exceptions for certain medical marijuana sales and cultivation
  • A 15 percent tax on the retail price of marijuana

Taxes will be adjusted for inflation starting in 2020.[1] Local governments were authorized to levy taxes on marijuana as well.

Marijuana revenue

Revenue from the two taxes will be deposited in a new California Marijuana Tax Fund. First, the revenue will be used to cover costs of administrating and enforcing the measure. Next, it will be distributed to drug research, treatment, and enforcement, including:[1]

  • $2 million per year to the UC San Diego Center for Medical Cannabis Research to study medical marijuana.
  • $10 million per year for 11 years for public California universities to research and evaluate the implementation and impact of Proposition 64. Researchers would make policy change recommendations to the California Legislature and California governor.
  • $3 million annually for five years to the Department of the California Highway Patrol for developing protocols to determine whether a vehicle driver is impaired due to marijuana consumption.
  • $10 million, increasing each year by $10 million until settling at $50 million in 2022, for grants to local health departments and community-based nonprofits supporting “job placement, mental health treatment, substance use disorder treatment, system navigation services, legal services to address barriers to reentry, and linkages to medical care for communities disproportionately affected by past federal and state drug policies.”

The remaining revenue will be distributed as follows:[1]

  • 60 percent to youth programs, including drug education, prevention, and treatment.
  • 20 percent to prevent and alleviate environmental damage from illegal marijuana producers.
  • 20 percent to programs designed to reduce driving under the influence of marijuana and a grant program designed to reduce negative impacts on health or safety resulting from the proposition.

Marijuana penalties

Individuals under age 18 convicted of marijuana use or possession are required to attend drug education or a counseling program and complete community service. Selling marijuana without a license is punishable by up to six months in a county jail, a fine up to $500, or both.[3]

With Proposition 64’s approval, individuals serving criminal sentences for activities made legal under the measure became eligible for resentencing.


Text of measure

Ballot Box Update: California’s Proposition 64, Marijuana Legalization

Ballot title

The official ballot title was as follows:[9]

Marijuana Legalization. Initiative Statute.[10]

Ballot summary

The long-form ballot summary was as follows:[3]

  • Legalizes marijuana under state law, for use by adults 21 or older.
  • Designates state agencies to license and regulate marijuana industry.
  • Imposes state excise tax of 15% on retail sales of marijuana, and state cultivation taxes on marijuana of $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves.
  • Exempts medical marijuana from some taxation.
  • Establishes packaging, labeling, advertising, and marketing standards and restrictions for marijuana products.
  • Prohibits marketing and advertising marijuana directly to minors.
  • Allows local regulation and taxation of marijuana.
  • Authorizes resentencing and destruction of records for prior marijuana convictions. [10]

The shorter ballot label summary was as follows:[3]

Legalizes marijuana under state law, for use by adults 21 or older. Imposes state taxes on sales and cultivation. Provides for industry licensing and establishes standards for marijuana products. Allows local regulation and taxation. Fiscal Impact: Additional tax revenues ranging from high hundreds of millions of dollars to over $1 billion annually, mostly dedicated to specific purposes. Reduced criminal justice costs of tens of millions of dollars annually.[10]

Petition summary

The long-form, official ballot summary for Proposition 64 was changed from the initial summary provided to initiative proponents for the purpose of circulating the initiative for signature collection. The original summary provided for inclusion on signature petition sheets was:[9]

Legalizes marijuana and hemp under state law. Designates state agencies to license and regulate marijuana industry. Imposes state excise tax on retail sales of marijuana equal to 15% of sales price, and state cultivation taxes on marijuana of $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves. Exempts medical marijuana from some taxation. Establishes packaging, labeling, advertising, and marketing standards and restrictions for marijuana products. Allows local regulation and taxation of marijuana. Prohibits marketing and advertising marijuana to minors. Authorizes resentencing and destruction of records for prior marijuana convictions.[10]

Fiscal impact

Note: The fiscal impact statement for a California ballot initiative authorized for circulation is jointly prepared by the state’s legislative analyst and its director of finance. The statement was as follows:[9]

The size of the measure’s fiscal effects could vary significantly depending on:
(1) how state and local governments choose to regulate and tax marijuana,
(2) whether the federal government enforces federal laws prohibiting marijuana, and
(3) how marijuana prices and consumption change under the measure.

  • Net additional state and local tax revenues that could eventually range from the high hundreds of millions of dollars to over $1 billion annually. Most of these funds would be required to be spent for specific purposes such as youth programs, environmental protection, and law enforcement.
  • Net reduced costs potentially in the tens of millions of dollars annually to state and local governments primarily related to a decline in the number of marijuana offenders held in state prisons and county jails.[10]

Full text

The full text of the measure is available here.



Yes on 64, also known as Californians to Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana while Protecting Children, led the campaign in support of Proposition 64.[11]

Keith Stroup, founder of the pro-marijuana legalization group NORML, said, “I think, without question, we are going to win California, and I really do believe that is the ultimate tipping point for this issue nationwide.”[12]



Former officials



Civic organizations
  • ACLU of California[13]
  • African American Alcohol and Other Drug Council of LA County
  • All of Us or None, Southern California
  • Berkeley Patients Group
  • Break the Chains: Communities of Color and the War on Drugs
  • Broken No More
  • California Academy of Preventive Medicine
  • California Cannabis Industry Association
  • California Council of Churches IMPACT
  • California Council of Land Trusts
  • California Medical Association
  • California NAACP
  • Cut50
  • Drug Policy Alliance
  • Ella Baker Center
  • Ensohara Inc.
  • Equality California[23]
  • Friends Committee on Legislation of California
  • Harm Reduction Services
  • HealthRight 360
  • Institute of the Black World 21st Century
  • Justice Not Jails
  • Los Angeles Community Health Project
  • Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership (LARRP)
  • Marijuana Policy Project of California
  • Moms United to End the War on Drugs
  • Our America Initiative
  • Our Revolution[24]
  • Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing
  • Planning and Conservation League[25]
  • Progressive Christians Uniting
  • Project Cannabis
  • Project Inform
  • Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce
  • Students for Sensible Drug Policy
  • William C. Velasquez Institute
  • Youth Justice Coalition
Law enforcement organizations
  • Blacks in Law Enforcement of America[13]
  • Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
  • National Latino Officers Association


  • Sean Parker, founder of Napster and former president of Facebook[28]
  • David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap[13]
  • Troy Dayton, founder of Arcview
  • Troy Vaughn, pastor, president and CEO of Christ-Centered Ministries
  • Al Harrington, retired NBA player[29]
  • Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matters
  • Kevin Drum, political blogger for Mother Jones[30]
  • Shawn “Jay Z” Carter, hip hop artist[31]
  • Shailene Woodley, actress[32]
  • Common, hip-hop artist[33]
  • Olivia Wilde, actress
  • Jesse Williams, actor
  • Russell Simmons, music entrepreneur
  • Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is the New Black
  • Danny Glover, actor
  • Michael K. Williams, actor
  • Tim Robbins, actor
  • Ty Dolla $ign, rapper
  • John Forte, rapper and recording artist
  • Los Rakas, hip-hop group
  • Pusha T, hip-hop artist


Yes on 64’s “Safeguards”

Supporters made the following arguments in support of Proposition 64:[3]

  • The proposition has specific safeguards that would protect children while allowing responsible adult use of marijuana.
  • The proposition would incorporate best practices from other states that already legalized marijuana use and would adhere to recommendations provided by California’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy.
  • The proposition would generate tax revenue and decrease law enforcement costs, providing funding for things like afterschool programs, drug prevention education and drug/alcohol addiction treatment, law enforcement training and research on impaired driving, and other programs.
  • The proposition would prevent legislators from using generated revenue for their pet projects.
  • The proposition would provide an environment where marijuana is safe, controlled, and taxed.
  • The proposition would decrease black market and drug cartel activity.

Official arguments

Dr. Donald O. Lyman, former chief of chronic disease and injury control at the California Department of Public Health, Gretchen Burns, executive director of Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing, and Steven Downing, former deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, wrote the official argument in support of Proposition 64 found in the state’s voter guide. Their argument was as follows:[3]

Proposition 64 finally creates a safe, legal, and comprehensive system for adult use of marijuana while protecting our children.

Marijuana is available nearly everywhere in California – but without any protections for children, without assurances of product safety, and without generating tax revenue for the state.

Prop 64 controls, regulates and taxes adult use of marijuana, and ends the criminalization of responsible adult use.

California Medical Association supports Prop 64 because it incorporates best practices from states that already legalized adult marijuana use, and adheres closely to the recommendations of California’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, which included law enforcement and public health experts.

How Prop 64 Works:

  • Under this law, adults 21+ will be allowed to possess small amounts of nonmedical marijuana, and to grow small amounts at home for personal use. Sale of nonmedical marijuana will be legal only at highly regulated, licensed marijuana businesses, and only adults 21+ will be permitted to enter. Bars will not sell marijuana, nor will liquor stores or grocery stores.

Child Protections:

  • Drug dealers don’t ask for proof of age and today can sell marijuana laced with dangerous drugs and chemicals. 64 includes toughest-in-the-nation protections for children, requiring purchasers to be 21, banning advertising towards children, and requiring clear labeling and independent product testing to ensure safety. 64 prohibits marijuana businesses next to schools.

The independent Legislative Analyst’s Office found that 64 will both raise revenue and decrease costs. By collecting unpaid taxes from marijuana, it will bring in over $1 billion of revenue every year to help California. And it could save tens of millions of dollars in reduced law enforcement costs. Together, that is a benefit of $11 billion over the next decade.

  • 64 corrects mistakes from past measures that didn’t direct where money goes. Instead, this measure is specific about how money can be spent. Prop 64 specifically prevents politicians from diverting money to their separate pet projects.
  • 64 pays for itself and raises billions for afterschool programs that help kids stay in school; for job placement, job training, and mental health treatment; for drug prevention education for teens; to treat alcohol and drug addiction; and to fund training and research for law enforcement to crack down on impaired driving. Over the next decade, these programs will receive billions in revenues.

Every year, there are more than 8,800 felony arrests for growing or selling marijuana in California, resulting in some very long prison sentences. This is an enormous waste of law enforcement resources. Prop 64 will stop ruining people’s lives for marijuana.

The tough, common sense regulations put forth in 64 are supported by the largest coalition ever in support of marijuana reform, including Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Democratic and Republican Congressmembers, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the California NAACP, the California Democratic Party and many others.

We all know California’s current approach toward marijuana doesn’t make sense.
It’s time to put an end to our broken system, and implement proven reforms so marijuana will be safe, controlled, and taxed.


Campaign advertisements

The following video advertisements were produced by committees supporting Proposition 64:[34]


Yes on 64’s “Revenue”


A Drug Policy Action ad featuring Jay Z



No on Prop. 64 logo.jpg

No on 64 led the campaign in opposition to Proposition 64.[35]




Local government

  • Apple Valley City Council[36]
  • Calipatria City Council
  • Citrus Heights City Council
  • El Cajon City Council
  • Escalon City Council
  • Kingsburg City Council
  • Mission Viejo City Council
  • Oceanside City Council
  • Rancho Cucamonga City Council
  • San Diego County Board of Supervisors[40]
  • Scotts Valley City Council
  • Whittier City Council
  • Solano County Board of Supervisors
County and city officials
  • Bill Horn, Supervisor, San Diego County[36]
  • Susan Peters, Supervisor, Sacramento County
  • Glen Bozar, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Upland
  • Rich Kinney, Mayor, City of San Pablo
  • Violeta Lewis, RN, Mayor Pro Tem, City of La Puente
  • Dennis Michael, Mayor, City of Rancho Cucamonga
  • Kevin Muldoon, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Newport Beach
  • Ray Musser, Mayor, City of Upland
  • Andre Quintero, Mayor, City of El Monte
  • Sal Alatorre, Lynwood City Council Member
  • Jim Davis, Sunnyvale City Council Member
  • Dean Grose, Los Alamitos City Council Member
  • Kristal K. Jabari, San Marcos City Council Member
  • Sharon Jenkins, San Marcos City Council Member
  • John Minto, Santee City Council Member
  • Dan Reid, Lawndale City Council Member
  • Cathy Schlicht, Mission Viejo City Council Member
  • Debbie Stone, Upland City Council Member
  • Bernadette Suarez, Lawndale City Council Member
  • Carol Timm, Upland City Council Member
  • Alan D. Wapner, Ontario City Council Member
  • Joe Angle Zamora, Santa Fe Springs City Council Member
  • Tom Allman, Sheriff, Mendocino County[36]
  • Doug A. Binnewies, Sheriff, Mariposa County
  • Edward Bonner, Sheriff, Placer County
  • Tom Bosenko, Sheriff, County of Shasta
  • Bill Brown, Sheriff, Santa Barbara County
  • Rick Di Basilio, Sheriff, Calaveras County
  • Adam E. Christianson, Sheriff, Stanislaus County
  • Mike Downey, Sheriff, Humboldt County
  • Steven L. Durfor, Sheriff, Yuba County
  • Steve Freitas, Sheriff, Sonoma County
  • Bruce Haney, Sheriff, County of Trinity
  • Sandra Hutchens, Sheriff-Coroner, Orange County
  • Scott Jones, Sheriff, Sacramento County[41]
  • Jon E. Lopey, Sheriff, Siskiyou County
  • Bill Lutze, Sheriff, Inyo County
  • John McMahon, Sheriff, San Bernardino County
  • Margaret Mims, Sheriff, Fresno County
  • David Robinson, Sheriff, Kings County
  • Keith Royal, Sheriff, Nevada County
  • Martin A. Ryan, Sheriff, Amador County
  • Tim Standley, Sheriff, Sierra County
  • Rick Stevens, Sheriff, Alpine County
  • Donny Youngblood, Sheriff, County of Kern
District attorneys
  • Tony Rackauckus, District Attorney, County of Orange[36]
  • Mike Ramos, District Attorney, County of San Bernardino
  • Jeff Reisig, District Attorney, County of Yolo
  • Anne-Marie Schubert, District Attorney, County of Sacramento


  • Auto Club of Southern California
  • California Hospital Association
  • California Association of Highway Patrolmen
  • California Police Chiefs Association
  • DUID Victim Voices
  • Fight Crime, Invest in Kids California
  • Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs
  • Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs
  • California College and University Police Chiefs Association
  • California Correctional Supervisors Association
  • California District Attorneys Association
  • California Narcotic Officers Associations
  • California Peace Officers Association
  • California State Sheriffs’ Association
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Office of the First Presidency[42]
  • Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana
  • Community Action, Service & Advocacy
  • Community Alliance for Healthy Minds
  • International Faith Based Coalition
  • Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers
  • Los Angeles Police Protective League
  • National Network of Youth Ministries
  • New Dawn Construction Company
  • North Coastal Prevention Coalition
  • Organization for Justice and Equality
  • Palomar Health Communities Coalition Escondido
  • Peace Officers Research Association of California
  • Riverside County Law Enforcement Administrators Association
  • Riverside Deputy Sheriffs Association
  • Safety Wellness Advocacy Community Coalition
  • San Diego School Boards Association
  • Santee Solutions Coalition
  • Smart Approaches to Marijuana of Northern California – SAM Action
  • The Small Farmers Association
  • Vista Community Clinic
  • Weed for Warriors Project

Public safety officials

  • Vincent Bancroft, Detective, Supervisor Gang and Narcotics, LA Police Department[36]
  • Michele M. Leonhart, Former Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration
  • Michael Borges, Chief of Police, Escalon Police Department
  • Christopher W. Boyd, Chief of Police, Citrus Heights Police Department
  • Ruben Chavez, Chief of Police, Livingston Police Department
  • Miguel Colon Jr., Chief of Police, Imperial Police Department
  • Stephen Wayne Cramer, Chief of Police, Cloverdale Police Department
  • Timothy Crawford, Glendora Police Officers Association
  • William Damiano, Chief of Probation, Humboldt County
  • Dan DeSmidt, Chief of Police, Belmont Police Department
  • Aaron W. Easton, Chief of Police, Marysville Police Department
  • Steve Frazier, Chief of Police, Madera Police Department
  • Greg Garner, Chief of Police, Selma Police Department
  • Jerel Haley, Chief of Police, Atascadero Police Department
  • John Incontro, Chief of Police, San Marino Police Department
  • Ron Lawrence, Chief of Police, City of Rocklin Police Department
  • Michael Massoni, Chief of Police, Retired, South San Francisco Police Department
  • Matthew McCaffrey, Acting Chief of Police, Novato Police Department
  • Andrew Mills, Chief of Police, Eureka Police Department
  • Robert E. Moody, Chief of Police, Claremont Police Department
  • Karl E. Doppelreiter, Chief of Police, Retired, Ferndale Police Department, California State Parks Law Enforcement Division
  • Mark Raffaelli, Chief of Police, South San Francisco Police Department
  • David Reynoso, Chief of Police, El Monte Police Department
  • Salvatore Rosano, Chief of Police, Retired, Santa Rosa Police Department
  • Robert Sanderson, Chief of Police, Retired, Arcadia Police Department
  • Joseph Santoro, Chief of Police, Retired, Monrovia Police Department
  • Frank J. Scialdone, Chief of police, retired, Fontana Police Department
  • Ron Scott, Chief of police, retired, Livermore Police Department
  • Robert N. Sharpnack, Chief of Police, Costa Mesa Police Department
  • Bret Smith, Chief of Police, Ferndale Police Department
  • Sam Spiegel, Chief of Police, Retired, Folsom Police Department
  • Brian Stephens, Captain, Eureka Police Department
  • Richard Sullivan, Chief of Police, Retired, Isleton Police Department
  • Jennifer Tejada, Chief of Police, Emeryville Police Department
  • George Turegano, Chief of Police, Huron Police Department
  • Brian Uhler, Chief of Police, South Lake Tahoe Police Department
  • Jose Rivera, Sergeant, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office
  • Dennis Vrooman, Captain, Murrieta Police Department
  • Pat Walsh, Chief of Police, Lompoc Police Department
  • Dan Watson, Chief of Police, Retired, Mammoth Lakes Police Department
  • Steve Watson, author and Captain, Eureka Police Department
  • William Winters, Chief of Police, Retired, California Police Chiefs Association
  • Shelley Zimmerman, Chief of Police, San Diego Police Department

Other individuals

  • Randall Avila, Vice-Chair, City of Monterey Park Recreation and Parks Commission[36]
  • Dennis Bauer, Policy Advisor, Orange County Board of Supervisors
  • Jason Browne, President, California Liberty Alliance
  • Gabriel Carranza, Sr. Deputy, RSA
  • Richard E. Cervants, California Senior Legislature
  • Jon Daily, LCSW, CADCII, Recovery Happens Counseling Services
  • Robert L. DuPont, MD, President, Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc.; First Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • Dr. Vince Fortanasce, Neurologist
  • Dr. David Gonzalez, Transportation & Parking Commissioner, City of Whittier
  • Dr. David K. Hall, Mt. San Antonio College Board of Trustees
  • Rex Haught, Attorney, Gunner & Haught
  • William Scott Herbold, MD, Adult Psychiatrist, Clinical Professor, American Psychiatric Association
  • Tim Holmgren, Safeguard Fillmore
  • Eileen Jandrisevits, MS, MFT, CADC-I, SAP, Substance Abuse Provider, California Department of Transportation
  • Rebecca Kinkead, Probation Officer, Retired
  • Bill Kousens, President, Aerowind Corp.
  • Alice Lai-Bitker, Former Chairman, Board of Supervisors, Alameda County
  • Peter Lapidus, Peter Lapidus Construction Inc.
  • Dr. Roneet Lev, MD FACEP, Emergency Physician, Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego
  • Evelyn Li, MD
  • Michael Marks, Board Member, Sacramento Valley Teen Challenge
  • Julius Metts, MD, American Academy of Family Physicians and CAFP, UAPD
  • Roger Morgan, Chairman, Take Back America
  • Shauna Nason-Liberty, Surgical Technologist
  • T.J. Nelsen, Author, Houseboats, Drugs, Government and the 4th Estate
  • Tamu Nolfo, PhD
  • Glen Ratcliff, 54th District Candidate for State Assembly
  • Dr. Martha Sanchez, Parks and Recreation Commissioner, Pico Rivera
  • Brian N. Sipes, Former Fillmore City Council Member
  • Ron Stark, CEO/Founder, Moving to Zero
  • Julian R. Stern, Commissioner, Redondo Beach Public Safety Commission
  • Majid Talebi RPH, BCPP, Psychiatric Pharmacist
  • Dr. Fred Van Vleck, Superintendent, Eureka Public Schools
  • Edwin Weaver, Executive Director, Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley
  • Sue Webber-Brown, Executive Director, Drug Endangered Children Training & Advocacy Center


Opponents made the following arguments in opposition to Proposition 64:[3]

  • The proposition would result in more highway fatalities and more impaired driving.
  • The proposition would allow marijuana growing near schools and parks and would erode local control.
  • The proposition would increase black market and drug cartel activity.
  • The proposition would allow marijuana smoking advertisements to be aired.
  • The proposition would hurt underprivileged neighborhoods.
  • The proposition would put small marijuana farmers in northern California out of business.[43]

Official arguments

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), Doug Villars, president of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, and C. Duane Dauner, president of the California Hospital Association, wrote the official argument in opposition to Proposition 64 found in the state’s voter guide:[3]

There are five huge flaws in Proposition 64 that directly affect you and the people you care about.

Flaw #1: Doubling of highway fatalities.

The AAA Foundation for Highway Safety reports that deaths in marijuana-related car crashes have doubled since the State of Washington approved legalization. Yet, incredibly, Proposition 64’s proponents refused to include a DUI standard for marijuana, making it extremely difficult to keep impaired drivers off our highways.

Flaw #2: Allows marijuana growing near schools and parks.

Proposition 64 actually forbids local governments from banning indoor residential growing of marijuana—even next door to an elementary school—provided the crop is limited to six plants, (and that is a lot of marijuana). The California Police Chiefs Association adds that “by permitting indoor cultivation of marijuana literally next door to elementary schools and playgrounds, Proposition 64 is trampling local control.”

Flaw #3: Will increase, not decrease black market and drug cartel activity.

“Organized crime filings have skyrocketed in Colorado since marijuana legalization,” says Past President of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police John Jackson.” We had 1 filing in 2007 and by 2015, we had 40. Since your Proposition 64 repeals the prohibition on heroin and meth dealers with felony convictions getting into the legal marijuana business, it could be much worse in California.”

Flaw #4: Rolls back the total prohibition of smoking ads on TV.

Tobacco ads have been banned from television for decades, but Proposition 64 will allow marijuana smoking ads in prime time, and on programs with millions of children and teenage viewers.

Flaw #5: Proposition 64 is an all-out assault on underprivileged neighborhoods already reeling from alcohol and drug addiction problems.

Bishop Ron Allen of the International Faith Based Coalition representing 5,000 inner-city churches calls Proposition 64 an “attack on minorities” and asks “Why are there no limits on the number of pot shops that can be opened in poor neighborhoods? We will now have a string of pot shops to go with the two liquor stores on every block, but we still can’t get a grocery store. Proposition 64 will make every parent’s job tougher.”

In short, Proposition 64 is radically different from legalization measures in other states, and would repeal countless consumer protections just passed last year and signed into law by Governor Brown.

If the proponents’ Rebuttal below doesn’t answer these five questions, then the only reasonable decision is to vote “No”.

1. Why is there no DUI standard in your initiative to let our CHP officers get drug-impaired drivers off the road? It is not sufficient to simply commission a “study”.
2. Why does Proposition 64 permit indoor cultivation of marijuana right next door to playgrounds and schools?
3. Why does Proposition 64 allow felons convicted of dealing meth and heroin to be licensed to sell marijuana?
4. Why does Proposition 64 permit marijuana smoking commercials on TV?
5. Why is there no limit on the number of pot shops that can be placed in a single neighborhood?

They’ve gotten it wrong, again. We strongly urge your “No” vote on Proposition 64.

To get the facts, visit


Campaign advertisements

The following video advertisements were produced by No on Prop 64:[44]


No on Prop 64’s “Smoke”


No on Prop 64’s “Chocolate”



California Growers Association logo.gif

The California Growers Association (CGA), an association of independent marijuana farms and businesses, was neutral on Proposition 64.[39] In deciding whether to support, oppose, or remain neutral on the initiative, the organization polled its 750 members. The CGA found a three-way split, with 31 percent supporting, 31 percent opposing, and 38 percent undecided on Proposition 64.[45]

Hezekiah Allen, Executive Director of the CGA, contended that while he agrees with Proposition 64 from a “social and criminal justice perspective,” he was skeptical of the measure from an “economic justice perspective.” Allen said he would vote against the initiative because it favors big business, not independent marijuana farmers and retailers.[39] Lauren Fraser, a CGA board member, stated, “We see a huge threat to the longevity and sustainability of the existing cannabis cultivation community.” Eleanor Kuntz, another board member, added, “[neutrality is] the appropriate position for the collective we represent.”[46]

Campaign finance

Total campaign contributions[47]
as of February 1, 2017[48]
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $25,066,820.98
Circle thumbs down.pngOpposition: $2,077,438.80

As of February 1, 2017, the support campaign raised $25,066,820.98 in funds, over 12 times more than the $2,077,438.80 the opposition campaign raised.[49]


As of February 1, 2017, the following PACs were registered to support Proposition 64. The total amounts raised and expended below were current as of February 1, 2017.[50]

Note: Ballotpedia does not count donations or expenditures from one PAC to another since that would amount to counting the same money twice. As some supporting committees contributed to other supporting committees, the aggregate total was not simply the sum of the individual committees’ funds. See the methodology section for more information.
Ballot measure committee Amount raised Amount spent
NEW APPROACH PAC (MPO) $7,694,000.00 $12,349,194.05
DRUG POLICY ACTION – NON PROFIT 501C4, YES ON PROP. 64 $4,470,000.00 $4,470,000.00
FUND FOR POLICY REFORM (NONPROFIT 501(C)(4)) $6,140,000.00 $6,140,000.00
Total $25,066,820.98 $31,013,416.87

Top donors

Sean Parker and affiliates provided around $8,610,563 to the campaign supporting Proposition 64, which was about 34 percent of the campaign’s total contributions. As of February 1, 2017, the top five donors in support of this initiative were:[50][5]

Donor Amount
Sean Parker and affiliates $8,610,563.73
Fund for Policy Reform $6,140,000.00
Drug Policy Action – Non-Profit 501c4 $1,250,000.00
Henry Van Ameringen $1,250,000.00
Daniel Lewis $1,250,000.00


As of February 1, 2017, the following PACs were registered in opposition to Proposition 64. The total contributions and expenditures listed were current as of February 1, 2017.[51]

Note: Ballotpedia does not count donations or expenditures from one PAC to another since that would amount to counting the same money twice. As some SAM Action Inc. contributed to No on Prop 64, the aggregate total was not simply the sum of the individual committees’ funds. See the methodology section for more information.
Committee Amount raised Amount spent
MOMS STRONG AGAINST PROP 64 $6,281.64 $6,281.64
Total $2,077,438.80 $2,070,838.00

Top donors

The initiative’s opponents received financial backing in the amount of about $2.07 million. The California secretary of state reported that Julie Schauer, based in Pennsylvania, provided $1,364,000 to ballot measure committees registered to oppose Proposition 64.[5][6][7][52]

In March 2016, the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council donated $25,000 to the opposition campaign. In July, the council’s chief lobbyist, Barry Broad, stated that the group had adopted a neutral stance on Proposition 64.[53]

The secretary of state reported the following list of the top donors to committees registered to oppose Proposition 64:[5][6][7][54][55]

Donor Amount
Julie Schauer $1,364,000
Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action (SAM Action) $489,150
California Teamsters Public Affairs Council $25,000
Peace Officers Research Association of Claifornia PIC $25,000
Californians for Jobs, Assemblymember Jim Cooper Ballot Measure Committee $25,000


Ballotpedia calculates campaign finance based on the political committees registered to support or oppose a measure and independent expenditures, when relevant and available. When a committee is registered to support or oppose multiple measures it is impossible to distinguish between funds used for one measure and funds used for the other.In calculating campaign finance for supporting and opposing committees, Ballotpedia does not count donations or expenditures from one ballot measure committee to another since that would amount to counting the same money twice. This method is used to give the most accurate information concerning how much funding was actually provided to and spent by the opposing and supporting campaigns.

Ballotpedia subtracts out committee-to-committee contributions—both cash donations and in-kind contributions. Because of this, it is possible for certain committees to have negative contributions. Negative contributions mean that a committee has provided more contributions to other committees than it has received. If expenditures exceed contributions, it means the committee has accrued unpaid bills, has unpaid or unforgiven loans, or has contributed a certain amount of in-kind services to another committee.

Ballotpedia provides information about all reported in-kind donations. In-kind contributions are also counted toward total expenditures since, with in-kind gifts, the contribution and services or goods are provided simultaneously. Ballotpedia does this to provide the most accurate information about the cash-on-hand of supporting and opposing campaigns.

Media editorials


  • The Californian Aggie: “Legalizing the use of recreational marijuana would also go a long way in helping to solve some deep-seated inequities, particularly toward people of color in the criminal justice system. Some of the worst casualties of America’s drug war have been those found in possession of marijuana, with bizarre prison sentences being doled out seemingly at the presiding judge’s discretion.”[56]
  • The Daily Californian: “At this point, it’s so easy to get a medical marijuana card that most residents of California can obtain cannabis anyway. Might as well make it easier to regulate.”[57]
  • East Bay Express: “Prop. 64 is a pragmatic and fair first step to legalize the plant for adults and end drug-war policies that unjustly target people of color and poor Californians. This will save the state money and generate new revenue to fund oversight. It’s the right choice.”[58]
  • East Bay Times: “In this new regulatory territory, the Legislature likely will tweak the rules as needed. Fortunately, Prop. 64 permits such change. It’s smart flexibility that many initiatives lack. … Opponents will try to pick holes in Prop. 64, but the initiative is generally solid — and long-overdue. California voters should approve Proposition 64.”[59]
  • The Highlander: “This editorial board believes that legalization of marijuana is a logical decision, based on its ubiquity and comparative harmlessness when compared to tobacco products. There is simply no reason to continue enforcing antiquated laws banning this substance, when it can be utilized for positive medical purposes.”[60]
  • Los Angeles Times: “On balance, the proposition deserves a “yes” vote. It is ultimately better for public health, for law and order and for society if marijuana is a legal, regulated and controlled product for adults. Proposition 64 — while not perfect — offers a logical, pragmatic approach to legalization that also would give lawmakers and regulators the flexibility to change the law to address the inevitable unintended consequences.”[61]
  • The Mercury News: “Current law lags behind societal norms. Forty-four percent of Americans polled last year told Gallup they had tried pot. Even the current and past two presidents toked, although Bill Clinton infamously claimed he didn’t inhale. Our police, judges and jailers have bigger issues than pot-smokers.”[62]
  • The Modesto Bee: “But the people getting wealthy from recreational marijuana will be paying taxes. They won’t be cartel members. Authorities suspect those who kidnapped four Modesto brothers and forced them to work as slaves on a Calaveras County pot farm were cartel-connected. There are far worse stories from throughout northern California. When marijuana is decriminalized, the criminals will eventually go out of business. Polling shows Proposition 64 is entirely likely to pass. It should.”[63]
  • Orange County Register: “Prop. 64 is the first step toward a rational drug policy. Prop. 64 gives California the opportunity to not only regulate the marijuana industry, but to make adjustments and clarifications when necessary. Though marijuana is currently illegal under federal law, the federal government has taken a hands-off approach to states choosing to responsibly regulate marijuana.”[64]
  • San Diego City Beat: “State-governed regulation of marijuana will increase safety by decreasing business in the streets. Plus, the state will make more than one billion dollars annually and save tens of millions on criminal justice costs. It’s about time California lit up (if you’re 21 and over).”[65]
  • San Diego Free Press and OB Rag endorsed Proposition 64 and cited Dough Porter, who said, “I do see legalization as a social justice issue. Public behavior offending the sensibilities of the elites and the strong strain of Calvinist piety in the dominant culture have served as a basis for repression of minorities and unconventional thinkers in Western civilization.”[66]
  • The San Diego Union-Tribune: “Proposition 64 is a policy gamble, but the downside decreases the more one looks at its basics and at how similar laws have played out elsewhere.”[67]
  • San Francisco Chronicle: “One of the critical elements of Prop. 64 is that — unlike its predecessor, Prop. 19 — it preserves the right for cities and counties to add their own overlays of regulations and taxes, or even bans, on marijuana businesses. The experience of medical marijuana has shown that community standards on the scale, location and practices of distribution points can vary widely. It also would allow local governments to ban outdoor cultivation. And, again, unlike Prop. 19, it empowers employers to enact policies against marijuana use during the workday.”[68]
  • San Francisco Examiner: “Prop. 64 would also potentially save thousands of people from the criminal justice system who are now incarcerated each year on marijuana-related charges. The law would insist that marijuana be used responsibly by adults. It had never made sense why marijuana was criminalized while alcohol wasn’t. Prop. 64 would correct that injustice.”[69]
  • San Mateo Daily Journal recommended a “Yes” vote on Proposition 64.[70]


  • The Bakersfield Californian: “California is not ready to legalize marijuana. No doubt, the recreational use of marijuana will someday — likely soon — become legal. But that day should not be today. The state is not prepared to become the epicenter of the nation’s marijuana industry.”[71]
  • The Desert Sun: “Full legal marijuana use likely is in California’s future, but voters shouldn’t bring it about via Proposition 64. As a ballot initiative the measure has deficiencies that will be difficult to correct without a subsequent statewide public vote later. Time should be taken to craft a strong measure that helps ensure legal pot doesn’t become a state-sanctioned source of new societal ills.”[72]
  • The Fresno Bee: “Our opposition is based on concerns about the measure’s timing and its potential health consequences. There hasn’t been sufficient research into the long-term health effects of using marijuana. What little we do know isn’t good. Marijuana harms developing brains. And for people predisposed to schizophrenia, the drug may trigger its onset and intensify symptoms.”[73]
  • The Record: “Vote no. This is a piecemeal approach to legalizing marijuana. The state needs a comprehensive plan, if marijuana is indeed to be legalized.”[74]
  • The Sacramento Bee: “Too much of it appears commercially, rather than socially driven. It backslides from California’s leadership in the war on another product that is generally smoked – tobacco. And from stoned drivers to potent edibles that, in other states, have endangered children, it poses too many public health risks that could be headed off if we just took our time and legalized in a way that isn’t so rushed.”[75]
  • Santa Clarita Valley Signal: “We urge a ‘no’ vote on Proposition 64. While the AAA Traffic Safety study is not conclusive, it raises a serious concern on two fronts: Will the law, if approved, be enforceable? And will it significantly increase the danger of driving in our car-dependent culture? More study is needed in these areas. Meantime, residents would best be served by avoiding the uncertain legality of ‘legalizing’ an illegal drug. They should instead demand federal representatives rightly air the issue – or vote them out and put in someone who will.”[76]
  • Santa Rosa Press-Democrat: “But it’s not enough to warrant the acceptance of a poorly worded ballot proposition that opens the door to a number of social problems and unknowns — and potentially puts local growers at a competitive disadvantage in a world where the recreational use of marijuana is legal.”[77]
  • The Porterville Recorder: “We do not see as much a problem with making marijuana legal as we do see with trying to regulate its use. Marijuana is called ‘weed’ for a reason. It is a weed and grows like a weed. Even those with black thumbs can grow marijuana. It is a strong plant and anyone with a back yard or a potted plant indoors can grow marijuana.”[78]
  • St. Helena Star: “A majority of our board agreed that this isn’t the right time for Prop 64. California is still fine-tuning its regulations on medical marijuana, based on input from a variety of stakeholders. What kind of regulatory framework will that produce, and how might it be adapted for recreational pot? What’s the best way to keep pot-related ads from kids? How much pot can you ingest and still drive safely? How can cops measure your level of impairment in a way that will hold up in court? It’s plausible that we could have answers to those questions within the next few years. Until we do, it would be premature to impose a new layer of regulations for recreational marijuana use. We urge you to vote no on Prop 64.”[79]
  • Ventura County Star: “California should lift the prohibition on marijuana. When it does, the state will immediately create an enormous and highly profitable new industry. We want to be sure we have sufficient controls over this industry and its impact on residents. Otherwise, the rules will be written by those who stand to benefit from marijuana sales, not by those who use it or are impacted by it. We urge a no vote on Proposition 64.”[80]


See also: 2016 ballot measure polls

Polls with margins of error

[hide]California Proposition 64 (2016)
Poll Support Oppose Undecided Margin of Error Sample Size
USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times
10/22/2016 – 10/30/2016
58.0% 37.0% 5.0% +/-2.3 1,500
Public Policy Institute of California
10/14/2016 – 10/23/2016
55.0% 38.0% 6.0% +/-4.3 1,016
10/13/2016 – 10/15/2016
51.0% 40.0% 9.0% +/-3.7 725
Hoover Institution/YouGov
10/4/2016 – 10/14/2016
56.0% 34.0% 10.0% +/-3.28 1,250
10/7/2016 – 10/13/2016
60.0% 30.0% 10.0% +/-7.0 622
Public Policy Institute of California
9/9/2016 – 9/18/2016
60.0% 36.0% 4.0% +/-3.5 1,702
9/8/2016 – 9/11/2016
52.0% 40.0% 8.0% +/-3.7 712
USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times
9/1/2016 – 9/8/2016
58.0% 34.0% 8.0% +/-2.0 1,879
California Counts
8/15/2016 – 8/24/2016
71.0% 26.0% 3.0% +/-4.0 915
Probolsky Research
8/5/2016 – 8/8/2016
61.8% 34.9% 3.3% +/-3.1 1,020
Probolsky Research
2/11/2016 – 2/14/2016
59.9% 36.7% 3.4% +/-3.1 1,000
AVERAGES 58.43% 35.15% 6.34% +/-3.63 1,121.91
Note: A “0%” finding means the candidate was not a part of the poll. The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email

Polls without margins of error

Note: The Field Poll/IGS Poll does not report a margin of error because “[polls] conducted online using an opt-in panel do not easily lend themselves to the calculation of sampling error estimates as are traditionally reported for random sample telephone surveys.”[81]
[hide]California Proposition 64 (2016)
Poll Support Oppose Undecided Sample Size
The Field Poll/IGS Poll
10/25/2016 – 10/31/2016
57.0% 40.0% 3.0% 1,498
The Field Poll/IGS Poll
9/7/2016 – 9/13/2016
60.0% 31.0% 9.0% 942
AVERAGES 58.5% 35.5% 6% 1,220
Note: A “0%” finding means the candidate was not a part of the poll. The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email

Descriptions of polls

  • In February 2016, Probolsky Research found 59.9 percent of respondents favoring marijuana legalization in California. Support was highest among voters aged 18 to 34 at 79.7 percent.[82]
  • Probolsky Research surveyed voters in early August 2016. Over 61 percent of respondents supported Proposition 64. Support was highest among Democratic men, at 81.2 percent, compared to Democratic women at 63.5 percent. Republican men supported it at 51.4 percent, compared to Republican women at 38.3 percent.[83]
  • California Counts found support for Proposition 64 at a high 71 percent in mid August 2016. At 81 percent, Latinos supported the measure at a higher rate than whites, at 62 percent, or blacks, at 68 percent.[84]
  • A USC Dorsife and Los Angeles Times joint poll found support for Proposition 64 to be around 58 percent in early September 2016.[85]
  • In September 2016, SurveyUSA revealed support at 52 percent. The firm found that as income increased, support for the initiative decreased. Support was at approximately 60 percent among individuals with incomes under $40 thousand, 56 percent among people earning between $40 and $80 thousand, and only 44 percent among those with incomes over $80 thousand.[86]
  • A Field Poll/IGS Poll found support around 60 percent. Of the regions surveyed, support for Proposition 64 was strongest in Los Angeles County.[81]
  • In mid September 2016, the Public Policy Institute of California found support for Proposition 64 to be around 60 percent.[87]
  • In mid October 2016, CALSPEAKS surveyed 622 likely voters on Proposition 64. Support among respondents was 60 percent.[88]
  • The Hoover Institution and YouGov surveyed 1,250 likely voters between October 4 and October 14, 2016. Support for the measure was 56 percent.[89]
  • SurveyUSA found 51 percent of likely voters in favor of Proposition 64 in mid October 2016.[90]
  • The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) surveyed 1,016 likely voters in mid- to late October 2016 and found support at 55 percent. PPIC broke respondents down into three ethnic categories, “White,” “Latino,” and “Other.” Latinos in the sample had the least favorable view, at 47 percent, of Proposition 64. Respondents classified as “Other” had supported the measure 65 to 29 percent. Whites favored the measure 55 to 39 percent.[91]
  • In late October 2016, USC Dorsife and the Los Angeles Times surveyed 1,500 registered voters on Proposition 64. The poll found support at 58 percent.[92]
  • The Field Poll/IGS Poll surveyed 1,498 likely voters between October 25 and October 31, 2016, and found support for the measure at 57 percent.[93]

Local responses to Proposition 64

See also: November 8, 2016 ballot measures in California and Local marijuana on the ballot

Some local governments in California referred measures to the ballot that addressed recreational marijuana regulations and taxes. Prior to the vote on Proposition 64, some municipalities approved policies banning recreational marijuana businesses. San Joseand Berkeley, for example, passed temporary bans on recreational marijuana businesses in order to acquire more time to develop policies regulating the marijuana industry or to decide whether to prohibit commercial sales.[94]

Voters across California voted on local ballot measures that would, assuming Proposition 64’s approval, tax recreational marijuana businesses and sales, including:

Other local measures were designed to regulate marijuana businesses and sales, including:


Marijuana in the United States

Voting on Marijuana
Marijuana Leaf-smaller.gif
Ballot Measures
By state
By year
Not on ballot
See also: Marijuana on the ballotHistory of marijuana on the ballot, and Marijuana laws in the United States

California was the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use. In 1996, Californians approved Proposition 215, which exempted patients and defined caregivers who possess or cultivate marijuana for medical treatment recommended by a physician from criminal laws that otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation of marijuana. Proposition 215’s victory was considered a critical turning point in the campaign to legalize marijuana.[95]

Before 2000, marijuana for recreational use had been on the ballot twice in California. Both attempts were defeated by voters. Before 1996’s Proposition 215, Proposition 19 was on the ballot in 1972. The proposition was defeated. If approved, it would have made California the first state in the nation to decriminalize marijuana.[96]

Almost 40 years later, a marijuana legalization initiative was proposed, appropriately titled Proposition 19. The initiative appeared on the ballot in 2010 and was defeated, with 53.5 percent of voters casting “no” votes.[97] U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder came out against Proposition 19, saying President Obama’s (D) administration would “vigorously enforce the (Controlled Substances Act) against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law.” Support for the proposition dropped drastically following Holder’s statement.[98] Mason Tvert, spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project, said the 2010 initiative was defeated because “it was done during a midterm election.” He continued, “If it had been done in a presidential election, things might have turned out very differently. We find that the more people who vote, the more who favor ending marijuana prohibition.”[99]

In 2012, legalized recreational marijuana advocates saw their first statewide victories in Colorado and Washington. Two years later, voters in Oregon and Alaska approved marijuana legalization, and President Obama revised his position on recreational marijuana, stating, “We’ve got bigger fish to fry. It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal.”[4]

Arizona, California, MaineMassachusetts, and Nevada all had marijuana legalization measures appearing on the 2016 ballot.

The following map depicts the legal status of recreational marijuana in different states as of 2016:

Current as of November 28, 2016.

Historical polling trends in California

The Field Poll, formerly known as The California Poll, has surveyed Californians on marijuana legalization since 1969. The polling firm first asked Californian adults about marijuana in 1969 and found that 84 percent of respondents opposed legalization. Nearly half of those opposing legalization wanted even tougher laws at the time. Support was found to have increased over the 13-year period between 1969 and 1983. In 1983, an estimated 30 percent of registered voters supported legalization. The 21-year gap between 1983 and 2004 saw a nine-point increase in support to 39 percent. Support for marijuana legalization started accelerating in the late 2000s, with supporters claiming half of the registered voters polled in 2010. In 2013, a majority of registered California voters supported legalization for the first time, with 55 percent supporting and 46 percent opposing it. Asking 942 likely voters about Proposition 64 in 2016, The Field Poll estimated support for the legalization initiative to be around 60 percent. The chart below illustrates polling data from The Field Poll:[81][100]

Was California the tipping point?


Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) was the highest-ranking state official to endorse Proposition 64.

Journalists, along with supporters and opponents of marijuana legalization, debated whether Proposition 64 was the tipping point for nationwide marijuana legalization. Some even expected the measure’s approval to impact the state’s southern neighbor, Mexico. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom(D), the state’s highest-ranking official to endorse the initiative, claimed, “A lot of eyes are on California. It’s very different than almost any other state because of the scale and the magnitude of the change and what it will represent across the country.”[101] Marijuana Majority’s Tom Angell said, “Passing legalization in California will greatly accelerate our ability to end the federal prohibition.”[102] A number of factors were identified as contributing to California’s potential tipping-point status.

First, California had 39,144,818 residents in mid-2015. The five jurisdictions where marijuana was legalized prior to 2016—Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Washington, D.C.—had a combined total population of 18,066,562, less than half of California’s. California accounted for over 12 percent of the nation’s population in 2015.[103] Second, the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $2.46 trillion in 2016, which was about 13.8 percent of the United State’s GDP.[104] The state’s economy was the sixth-largest in the world in mid-2016.[105] These two factors, according to some, made California influential in national and world politics.[106] Keith Stroup, the founder of the pro-legalization group NORML, said, “California is almost a nation-state. Once we get California, other than to water down future proposals, I don’t think [opponents] will be able to defeat them.”[102] The New York Times summarized the argument, stating, “The passage of recreational marijuana laws in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington over the last four years partly unlocked the door toward eventual federal legalization. But a yes vote in California, which has an economy the size of a large industrial country’s, could blow the door open, experts say.”[107]

Third, California had 53 representatives in the United States House of Representatives in 2016. Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of NORML, suspected that a significant number of them would support legalization following a Proposition 64 approval. He said, “[California] really is the state that wags the tail of the nation, so if California’s 55 senators and representatives in Congress were to be in favor of legalization, then it would be a total dynamic change.”[106]

Fourth, California set previous political trends, including the legalization of medical marijuana in 1996. Journalist Madison Margolin, contributing to the Rolling Stone, said, “The Golden State is also known as a trendsetter with the power to break down stereotypes. Having pioneered medical marijuana in 1996, California is a leading exporter of cannabis policy and culture. If California legalizes, the way it goes about doing so will set a standard going forward for other local and national governments to follow.”[106] Former New Mexico Governor and Libertarian candidate for president in 2016, Gary Johnson, said legalization in California would encourage other states to follow. He stated, “I do believe that California is going to vote to legalize marijuana recreationally, and I do see this as the absolute tipping point. I think when California does it in November, you will have 20 state legislatures, overnight, legislate it.”[108]

Fifth, the previous four factors would increase the tension between state laws and federal law. According to Professor Sam Kamin, marijuana initiatives “will create an irresolvable tension with the continuing federal prohibition and will, I believe, spur elected leaders into action.”[109] Likewise, Lynne Lyman, California director at the Drug Policy Alliance, said, “With California and some other, smaller states legalizing it in 2016, the federal government will be forced to reckon with this. We’re hoping that this leads to the end of marijuana prohibition nationally.”[101]

Some even contemplated that voter approval of Proposition 64 could be a “worldwide game changer,” as Troy Dayton, CEO of marijuana investment and research firm ArcView Group, stated.[101] John Kagia, executive vice president of industry analytics for research firm New Frontier, said the impact of California legalizing marijuana would expand to Latin America. He stated, “Legalization in California will only add fuel to the debate on cannabis law reform in Mexico and in other Latin American countries.”[110] Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto showed some interest in Proposition 64, raising the issue with California delegates who he was meeting with about trade. Rep. Ben Allen (D-26), one of the delegates, said, “[T]hey’re clearly paying close attention.”[111]

Kevin Sabet, co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana and opponent of Proposition 64, expressed skepticism that California would be the tipping point in marijuana legalization. He acknowledged, “A state with so much influence and size is very important.”[101] However, “This is a very long game. This is not going to be determined once and for all either this November or in November of 2018.”[102]

Sarah Trumble of the think tank Third Way suggested that California’s potential impact on the rest of the nation would be related to how large the marijuana industry grows and whether regulating it succeeds—not legalization in and of itself. She stated, “I’ve heard that saying, if California goes then this inevitable that all states will go, but that’s not necessarily true.”[112]

Reports and analyses

UC-San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education

The University of California, San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education conducted an analysis of the effects of Proposition 64. The study concluded that there are social and economic benefits to legalization, but that the negative effects on public health outweigh the benefits.[113][114]

Rachel A. Barry and Stanton A. Glantz, the center’s researchers, deemed marijuana legalization an “appropriate response” to “the social inequities and large public costs of a failed War on Drugs.” However, they said that without proper safeguards, a powerful marijuana industry similar to the tobacco industry would emerge. The center’s report recommended that a marijuana legalization measure include “a robust marijuana prevention and control program modeled on the evidence-based California Tobacco Control Program.” Furthermore,

… the goal would be to minimize use by treating marijuana like tobacco through social denormalization. The central idea would be to establish a vigorous marijuana prevention and control program simultaneously with creating the retail market, before the new industry accumulated the economic and political power to block effective public health education, legislation, and regulation.[10]

The full report is available here.

University of the Pacific Center for Business and Policy Research

The Center for Business and Policy Research at the University of the Pacific prepared an analysis for Truth Enterprises, an investment fund focusing on legal marijuana. The analysis estimated the economic impact of Proposition 64, and marijuana more generally, on the Sacramento, California, region.[115]

The researchers developed nine scenarios based on two variables—three models of how local government regulates legal marijuana and three models of consumer demand.

The three models of local government regulation were:[115]

  • Limited: tight local regulation.
  • Local: industry primarily serves the local area.
  • Cluster: Sacramento area exports a significant amount of marijuana to other parts of the state.

The three models of consumer demand were:[115]

  • Baseline: 640 metric tons for people 21-years of age and older.
  • Moderate: a 10 percent increase above the baseline.
  • High: a 20 percent increase above the baseline.

The following is a table presenting estimates of the nine scenarios:

The full report is available here.


Lawsuits overview
First lawsuit
Issue: The official opposition arguments found in the voter guide are misleading.
CourtSacramento Superior Court
Ruling: Some, but not all, language needs to be changed.
Plaintiff(s): Yes on 64 Defendant(s)Secretary of State Padilla and No on 64
Plaintiff argument:
There were at least four false statements about the initiative in the “arguments against” section of the voter guide.
Defendant argument:
The arguments are not misleading.

Second lawsuit
Issue: The official support arguments found in the voter guide are misleading.
CourtSacramento Superior Court
Ruling: Some, but not all, language needs to be changed.
Plaintiff(s): No on 64 Defendant(s)Secretary of State Padilla and Yes on 64
Plaintiff arguments:
There were at least two false statements about the initiative in the “arguments in favor” section of the voter guide.
Defendant arguments:
The arguments are not misleading.

Supporters and opponents of Proposition 64 sued each other and the California secretary of state in early August 2016, each declaring that the other’s official arguments in the California voter guide were misleading.

Judge Shelleyanne W. L. Chang of the Sacramento Superior Court found misleading statements on both sides. In total, she ordered 10 minor changes.[116] Many of the changes ordered by the judge replaced the word “will” with “could” in statements regarding potential impacts.[117] Judge Chang did not order a complete rewrite of opponents’ claim that children could be exposed to marijuana commercials, despite supporters’ claims to the contrary. However, she also upheld supporters’ arguments that Proposition 64 included strict regulations of advertisements.

Both sides claimed victory following the court’s decision. Jason Kinney, spokesperson for Yes on 64, stated, “Today, the opponents of Proposition 64 found out the hard way that the same old, tired anti-marijuana propaganda doesn’t fly in court any more than it does with voters.” Meanwhile, No on 64’s consultant Wayne Johnson said, “The ruling today was clear — marijuana ads could be on broadcast television if Prop. 64 passes — ads that could be seen by children.”[118]

Path to the ballot

See also: California signature requirements
  • Donald Lyman, Michael Sutton, and Lance H. Olson submitted a letter requesting a title and summary on December 7, 2015.[1]
  • title and summary were issued by the California attorney general‘s office on January 4, 2016.[9]
  • 365,880 valid signatures were required for qualification purposes.
  • On February 4, 2016, petitioners reached the 25 percent mark in their signature gathering effort, collecting more than 91,470 signatures.[119]
  • On May 4, 2016, supporters of the initiative announced 600,000 signatures had been collected and submitted.[120]
  • Supporters had until July 5, 2016, to collect the required signatures.
  • The measure was assigned its official title, Proposition 64, on July 2, 2016.[121]

Cost of signature collection:
Sponsors of the measure hired Kimball Petition Management, Inc. to collect signatures for the petition to qualify this measure for the ballot. A total of $2,093,616.10 was spent to collect the 365,880 valid signatures required to put this measure before voters, resulting in a total cost per required signature (CPRS) of $5.72.

Multiple, separate initiatives designed to legalize marijuana were filed in California for the 2016 ballot, but Proposition 64 was the only one that qualified.
Verbatim fact check: Does an increase in the number of propositions on the ballot in California lead to more of those propositions being rejected by voters?
We examined the election results for statewide propositions on the ballot between 1912 and 2014 to determine if there is a simple correlation between the number of propositions on the ballot and the proportion of propositions that are rejected by voters. In elections with more than 13 propositions, the average number of propositions on the ballot per election during the period, voters rejected 44 percent of propositions. In elections with 13 or fewer statewide propositions on the ballot, 42 percent were rejected.
Read Ballotpedia’s Verbatim fact check »

State profile

USA California location map.svg


This excerpt is reprinted here with the permission of the 2016 edition of the Almanac of American Politics and is up to date as of the publication date of that edition. All text is reproduced verbatim, though links have been added by Ballotpedia staff. To read the full chapter on California, click here.

Both sides of America’s political divide have taken the opportunity to emphasize how different California is from the rest of the country. After the 2016 presidential election, supporters of Donald Trump complained that were it not for Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory in California, Trump would have won the popular vote. For their part, California’s Democratic politicians have taken a leading role in opposing Trump’s vision for America; some Californians are even flirting with seceding from the union, though “Calexit” faces constitutional obstacles that make it highly improbable. Despite such antagonism, California and the United States need each other, even if it no longer seems like it.

Americans have long thought of California as the Golden State — a distant and dreamy land initially, then as a shaper of culture and as a promised land for millions of Americans and immigrants for many decades. America’s most populous state remains in many ways a great success story. But in …(read more)

Demographic data for California
  California U.S.
Total population: 38,993,940 316,515,021
Land area (sq mi): 155,779 3,531,905
Female: 50.3% 50.8%
Race and ethnicity**
White: 61.8% 73.6%
Black/African American: 5.9% 12.6%
Asian: 13.7% 5.1%
Native American: 0.7% 0.8%
Pacific Islander: 0.4% 0.2%
Two or more: 4.5% 3%
Hispanic/Latino: 38.4% 17.1%
High school graduation rate: 81.8% 86.7%
College graduation rate: 31.4% 29.8%
Median household income: $61,818 $53,889
Persons below poverty level: 18.2% 11.3%
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, “American Community Survey” (5-year estimates 2010-2015)

**Note: Percentages for race and ethnicity may add up to more than 100 percent because respondents may report more than one race and the Hispanic/Latino ethnicity may be selected in conjunction with any race. Read more about race and ethnicity in the Census here.

Presidential voting pattern

See also: Presidential voting trends in California

California voted Democrat in all five presidential elections between 2000 and 2016.

More California coverage on Ballotpedia

Related measures

See also: History of marijuana on the ballot and Marijuana on the ballot

The first attempt to legalize marijuana through the initiative process came in 1972, when California activists got an initiative certified for the ballot. The measure was defeated. Marijuana legalization advocates had their breakthrough election in 2012, when both Washington and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. Oregonians rejected a legalization measure that same year, but approved one two years later in 2014. As of the beginning of 2016, recreational marijuana had been legalized in four states and Washington, D.C. All legalizations came through the initiative process. As of the beginning of 2016, medical marijuana was legal in 25 states.[122]

More than 60 statewide marijuana-related initiatives were submitted for the 2016 ballot. The table below shows the marijuana-related measures that qualified for the 2016 election ballot:

Marijuana measures on the ballot in 2016
State Measures
Arizona Arizona Marijuana Legalization, Proposition 205 Defeated
Arkansas Arkansas Medical Marijuana, Issue 6 Approved
Florida Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization, Amendment 2 Approved
Maine Maine Marijuana Legalization, Question 1 Approved
Massachusetts Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization, Question 4 Approved
Montana Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative, I-182 Approved
Nevada Nevada Marijuana Legalization, Question 2 Approved
North Dakota North Dakota Medical Marijuana Legalization, Initiated Statutory Measure 5 Approved

The following table includes past initiative attempts in the United States to legalize marijuana:

State Year Measure Status
Arizona 2016 Proposition 205 Defeated
California 2016 Proposition 64 Approved
Maine 2016 Question 1 Approved
Massachusetts 2016 Question 4 Approved
Nevada 2016 Question 2 Approved
Ohio 2015 Legalization Initiative Defeated
Alaska 2014 Ballot Measure 2 Approved
Oregon 2014 Measure 91 Approved
Washington, D.C. 2014 Initiative 71 Approved
Colorado 2012 Amendment 64 Approved
Oregon 2012 Measure 80 Defeated
Washington 2012 Initiative 502 Approved
California 2010 Proposition 19 Defeated
Nevada 2006 Question 7 Defeated
Alaska 2004 Measure 2 Defeated
Nevada 2002 Question 9 Defeated
California 1972 Proposition 19 Defeated

Recent news

The link below is to the most recent stories in a Google news search for the terms California Proposition 64 marijuana legalization. These results are automatically generated from Google. Ballotpedia does not curate or endorse these articles.


Tags: Cannabis, Marijuana, Posts By Category, Recreational, Weed

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