CANNAINVESTOR Magazine September / October 2016 - Page 65

Marijuana Ballot Measures in the 2016 Federal Elections

In a series covering the upcoming Federal Elections, Marijuana Media (http://marijuanamedia.com/) will offer insight and highlights on significant developments.

A Look at Legalization in California: Why a “Yes” Vote to Prop 64 Matters

By Joel Andrew

The Federal election is ramping up to be decisive year for marijuana in the US, with ballot measures in 9 states either introducing medical marijuana (Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota) or expanding existing medical programs to allow recreational, “adult use” (Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada).

The medical initiatives are important in the ongoing battle to allow sick patients access, but California’s vote on Prop 64 has the potential to move marijuana beyond restrictive acceptance into a future where the industry can shift toward “normalization” – a future where marijuana will become as commonplace as alcohol, accessible to anyone over the age of 21.

California is where the industry began 20 years ago, in 1996, when voters accepted Prop 215, and led to Senate Bill 420, which put the onus on cities and counties to regulate the medical marijuana industry. The State was acting without guidelines: there were no models how to introduce medical marijuana legally. As monumental as the decision was, it created a mess. Twenty years later, California is now putting its house in order, which began with the passage of the Medical Cannabis Regulations and Safety Act (MCRSA) in September 2015.

These medical regulations have the potential to become a framework for the regulated recreational industry. The MCRSA rules are scheduled to be implemented, state-wide, by January 2018. Should voters decide Yes on Prop 64, recreational marijuana laws will not take as long to create and implement.

“Yes on 64” will send a message the way forward is clear: a Yes vote will turn the entire West coast of the US, stretching from California to Alaska, into an area with state-legal, recreational marijuana industries. It will take time for the Federal government to act, but the Federal Government won’t be able to ignore the industry as easily.

“Yes on 64” will be monumental for California. Despite fearmongering by opponents of Prop 64, legalization will not cause an explosion of marijuana across the state. Most estimates suggest that CA accounts for about 50% of the marijuana industry in the US, in both sales and production. Regulations aside, marijuana in California is already a “mature” industry.

In terms of economic impact, there is no solid data about how big CA’s industry is. Informed “guesstimates” put sales in a range anywhere from $4 to $10 Billion per year. California’s State Finance Bureau estimated the tax benefit for both state and local communities could be as large as $1 Billion annually. More important than the actual amount, the introduction of medical laws and a Yes vote on Prop 64 will allow California’s industry to be properly sized.

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